Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Steyn on "The Desperation-Deprivation Myth"

Mark Steyn, who tops my list of favorite political/cultural commentators, once again hits it out of the park with a column that blasts the lame excuse-making for the recent British riots. In part:
In fact, these feral youth live better than 90 percent of the population of the planet. They certainly live better than their fellow youths halfway around the world who go to work each day in factories across China and India to make the cool electronic toys young Westerners expect to enjoy as their birthright. In Britain, as in America and Europe, the young take it for granted that this agreeable division of responsibilities is as permanent a feature of life as the earth and sky: Rajiv and Suresh in Bangalore make the state-of-the-art gizmo, Kevin and Ron in Birmingham get to play with it. That’s just the way it is. And, because that’s the way it is, Kevin and Ron and the welfare state that attends their every need assume ’twill always be so.

To justify their looting, the looters appealed to the conventional desperation-of-deprivation narrative: They’d “do anything to get more money.” Anything, that is, except get up in the morning, put on a clean shirt, and go off to do a day’s work. That concept is all but unknown to the homes in which these guys were raised....

The problem for the Western world is that it has incentivized non-productivity on an industrial scale. For large numbers at the lower end of the spectrum (still quaintly referred to by British reporters as “working class”), the ritual of work — of lifetime employment as a normal feature of life — has been all but bred out by multigenerational dependency. At the upper end of the spectrum, too many of us seem to regard an advanced Western society as the geopolitical version of a lavishly endowed charitable foundation that funds somnolent programming on NPR.
As is always mandatory when it comes to a Mark Steyn piece, read it all.

UPDATE: Related: Eminent criminologist and scholar James Q. Wilson demolishes the notion that unemployment and bad economic times lead to an increase in crime:
But the notion that unemployment causes crime runs into some obvious difficulties. For one thing, the 1960s, a period of rising crime, had essentially the same unemployment rate as the late 1990s and early 2000s, a period when crime fell. Further, during the Great Depression, when unemployment hit 25 percent, the crime rate in many cities went down....

[And] when the recent recession struck...[and] as the national unemployment rate doubled from around 5 percent to nearly 10 percent, the property-crime rate, far from spiking, fell significantly. For 2009, the FBI reported an 8 percent drop in the nationwide robbery rate and a 17 percent reduction in the auto-theft rate from the previous year. Big-city reports show the same thing. Between 2008 and 2010, New York City experienced a 4 percent decline in the robbery rate and a 10 percent fall in the burglary rate. Boston, Chicago, and Los Angeles witnessed similar declines. The FBI’s latest numbers, for 2010, show that the national crime rate fell again....

Some scholars argue that the unemployment rate is too crude a measure of economic frustration to prove the connection between unemployment and crime, since it estimates only the percentage of the labor force that is looking for work and hasn’t found it. But other economic indicators tell much the same story.... So we have little reason to ascribe the recent crime decline to jobs, the labor market, or consumer sentiment.