One Finite Planet

One Finite Planet

Crime: A litmus test for inequality?

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Synopsis: A real solution to equality should focus on the reduction of crime.

A webpaper from back in 2015 established a well-recognised link between lead pollution in the environment and violent crime. The implications are that acts of crime are not only about free will. The hypothesis of this page, is based on the following:

  1. Higher crime rates of oppressed groups have a basis in reality and are not simply overreporting.
  2. There is no genetic racial difference that would logically result in an increased crime rate.
  3. Consider who commits crimes: Not only lead, but oppression, unhappiness and even past miliary service can play a role in crime rates, and logically suggests “damaged people” are a percentage of those committing crimes.
  4. The existence of any “damaged people”, logically means increased enforcement can at best be only partial solution for reducing crime rates.
  5. Considering “It takes a village to raise a child”, shouldn’t the village also change in response to crime?
  6. There is a degree to which elevates rates of crime can be seen as a “cry for help”, that perhaps should be heard. and where crime is most present is where most help is required. While adjusting penalties for crime risks simply making the cries louder, reading the signs and addressing core factors such as opportunity and education must help.

The end conclusion is:

  1. The existence of elevated crime rates for any one group indicates that group is suffering from the disadvantage.
  2. The solution to addressing disadvantage is not the adjusting the penalties for crimes but eliminating and addressing the disadvantages that have increased rates of crime as their inevitable result.

While there are crime rates are higher for specific groups, then there is still work to be done on equality.

The Hypothesis in detail, step by step.

Higher crime rates for some groups can be real, and not just over policing.

If you are not racist then it must seem wrong that people of one race, would be any more likely to commit crimes than those of another race. Surely, the reporting must be wrong, the people must be being wrongly accused, or conviction rates must be distorted by heavier policing of those with the higher reported crime rate.

However, if instead all being those braking laws being “bad people”, considering that those who commit crimes include “damaged people”, it becomes easier to accept that there may be some truth to the statistics, as it does not require a racist perspective to understand that there may be more “damaged people” of one race than of another race.

Yes, distortions of the data may also all be real, which may exaggerate statistics, but an increased number of “damaged people” is not only enough to explain a real increase in crime rates, it means that crime rates can be an indicator of the extent to which different racial groups are experiencing sufficient hardship to result in damaged people!

There is no genetic basis for crime rates for racial groups.

There is another paper that specifically focus on what race does and does not determine. While proving something does not exist can be problematic, it is possible refute false evidence something does exist:

If crimes rates reflect ‘crime genes’, or can indicate one groups have a genetic basis for a pre-disposition to crime, what does that say about Caucasians in the USA who exhibit a higher crime rate than those in Canada? Consider that “black people” in Canada have lower crime rates than all-population crime rates in the USA.

Race, Racism and Skin Colour: what do ‘race’ and racism mean?

Race does not emerge as a factor in studies as to who commits crimes in countries where race does not also predict wealth and education level.

Who commits crimes and what are the actual factors increasing risk of offending?

Looking at the factors that determine who will break a law, the conclusions is that if even if one of those factors is “bad people”, then, as there is no genetic basis for an increase in “bad people” on the basis of racial group, this “bad people” factor could play no role in why different groups would have different crime rates.

The real factors driving crime rates include rates of miliary service, education, economic prosperity experiences of discrimination and self-esteem/happiness.

The existence of “Damaged People” means “tough on crime” is at best a limited solution.

Given it is clear that the existence of “damaged people” rises with factors that lead to people feeling oppressed, which means trying to reduce crime simply be introducing tougher penalties may even increase the believe that the groups most oppressed may feel targeted by a stance of being “tough on crime“. With not all crime even deterred at all by penalties, and the impact of increased penalties increasing the oppression of the groups with the mot “damaged people”, adjusting penalties is at best a very limited solution.

Considering “It takes a village to raise a child”, shouldn’t the village also change in response to crime?

Examining the process of justice in response to criminal acts, what is missing is any consideration of the role of “the village” in the crime being committed. All guilt is assigned to the person convicted and any accomplices, and society is assumed to play no role, or at least is not prepared to be considered as having plyed any role.

The data that revealing crime rates are higher for disadvantaged or oppressed groups, should make it obvious that society does play a role.

Elevated rates of crime can be seen as a “cry for help”, that perhaps should be heard.

Communities where crime is most present is where most help is required. While adjusting penalties for crime risks simply making the cries louder, reading the signs and addressing core factors such as opportunity and education are known to reduce crime rates.

Even organised crime knows that those believing they are oppressed are the easiest to recruit. As long as people believe they are oppressed, the risk of crime increases. Increasing penalties only targets those groups, but the solution should not be inconsistent application of the law either.

Rather than use increased rates of crime to target groups or to deal with the problem through penalties, instead we can use the rates of crime to identify groups who are suffering inequality.

When there are no groups remaining with standout crime statistics, only then is there equality.

The factors that lead a person to break a law.

A person feels a law is morally wrong, or at least at time it’s morally ok for that law to be broken.

Laws can be perceived as unjust, inconsequential, unfair or otherwise flawed, and thus breaking the law, at least in some circumstances, is not morally wrong.

Consider the vigilante film genre, which portraits one group of people breaking the law as heroes.

There are quite a range of laws that a person may feel it is acceptable for them to break.

Examples would include: people in Russia who feel it is not only acceptable but morally correct for them to breaking laws against even questioning the war in Ukraine, people who feel laws such as not being permitted to ride an electric scooter can be ignored when there are no other people around, people who feel roads can be crossed against the signals when there are clearly no cars for miles, though to people who feel they have some personal circumstance which means they would have morality on their side to even steal from someone who they feel is less deserving than themselves.

There are laws widely agreed to be immoral or make little sense, and there are also examples when almost no one else but the lawbreaker would believe it was morally right to break the law. But these can all be cases where a person feels it is right for them to be able to break the law.

While Robin Hood is an example someone known to be breaking the law but widely considered as having morality on their side, this is not limited to fiction.

In the 18th century, the Industrial Revolution created a generation of urban poor — people who moved from farms to overcrowded cities with no work and money. Crime soared in these squalid Dickensian conditions, as many families were forced to steal to survive.

Why did Britain have so many crooks?

While perhaps even in almost all of such cases, people know what they are doing is legally wrong, there are cases where people do not feel what they are doing is morally wrong.

Oppressed or “damaged people” with altered or conflicted morals.

Several factors can change a persons view on what is morally wrong or right, and even compel them to break a law they would feel normally should not be broken, or even beak a law while feeling it is morally wrong to break that law.

The studies of lead levels and violent crime suggest this can even result from chemicals in the environment, but connections in the brain can result in people coming conclusions as to what is morally correct that are not only contrary to law, but also contrary to the moral values of wider society. When a person becomes so out of step with society that their perspective can be considered damaged is very subjective. Widely held views in previous centuries, for example with regard to races and slavery, if still held in the 20th century would lead to an individual, we would consider damaged who would feel morally justified in acting against 21st century law. Most terrorist consider their acts morally justified, but their actions are regarded as acts of terror because to the rest of us it requires a damaged view of the world to conduct mass terror unless there is a declared war.

People can be oppressed by circumstances including difficult economic times and racial prejudice, or “damaged” by experiences in military services, with all of these correlating with increased crime rates from otherwise identical groups.

The previous section cited an example of people forced to steal to survive during the industrial revolution. This is an example of both damaged people with varying degrees of seeing the laws as unjust and oppressed or “damaged” people. While some of the crimes committed to enable survival might be considered morally justified in retrospect, since there was no outcry to change the laws at the time it can be assumed that overwhelmingly almost all of such acts were considered immoral at the time. Society saw any of those people who felt their acts were justified as effectively “damaged people”, pushed into acting by circumstance.

Or perhaps those offending were simply considered “bad people”.

“Bad people” who breaks laws knowing what they are doing is morally wrong.

In contrast to the vigilante film genre where those breaking the law are often considered heroes, there is also crime drama where almost invariably those committing crimes are “the bad guys”. There are counter examples such as the based on real life drama Ned Kelly where it is recognised that being oppressed played a major role in driving the offender to crime to the point where the criminal is not always considered a “bad guy”, but this is very rare.

The general view of politicians “fighting” crime is to describe all those who commit crimes as “bad people”, but this still leaves two possibilities:

  • People are either “born bad”, ending the concept of the “innocent child“, and thus are genuinely “bad people“.
    • or
  • Everyone is born as an “innocent child” with the potential to be “good” and any who become “bad”, do so through the influence of life’s experiences, and thus can be said to be “damaged people“.

The argument has been raised that perhaps people make “bad choices”, buy the only input to the choices people make during life are their life experiences and their genetic makeup. There is nothing else, so either people can be “damaged” by the environment, or there really are “bad genes” with some people destined to become “bad”.

Criminal process Punishment: Is there also negligence of “the village”?

Who is to blame?

Clearly, the person who commits a crime must accept blame for that crime. Yes, even factors such as lead in the environment can increase the chance a person will commit a crime, but not all with the exposure to the same factors commit crime. Even if full analysis revealed almost all crime results from the sum of all environmental factors, the existence of punishment is itself an environmental factor specifically designed to reduce crime. part of the environment one of the environmental factors, and thus even if that is true, then punishment for the offender still could not, and should not, be removed.

However, if the principle of “it takes a village to raise a child” is true, then every country could be considered a large scale “village” that sometimes raises children that become criminals. The “village” must also bear the blame.

Sentencing and retribution.

The society responds to crime with a “sentence” which proscribes the punishment for a crime. From Wikipedia:

The most common purposes of sentencing are:

Wikipedia: Sentence_(law)#Philosophies

For me, it is worrying that number #1 on the list is retribution. A very natural human response, this #1 on the list is the one that really needs to be questioned. The nature of retribution is very much about the “othering” those who commit crimes, similar to the way many people in the wake of WWII “othered” Germans and Japanese people. Many vilified the Germans or Japanese rather than pondering “how could people who are just normal people every support the policies of their country?” Perhaps also when individuals commit crimes, we also need to give more thought to “what would make a person do such things?” rather than effectively labelling the guilty person as the enemy.


Seeing others punished can arguably really help highlight that “crime does not pay”. However, for those who have offended, experiencing punishment could only strengthen the deterrent effect for those who considered the impact of punishment when deciding to commit their crime. Perhaps some offenders consider punishment, but for others the crime is not really premeditated in any balanced way, may be seen as the only path for them at the time, or even be seen as what they must do regardless of the punishment. Those who do actually plan and consider the punishment, most likely feel they can plan to not get caught. Overall statistics suggest that punishment is rarely effective in preventing future reoffending.

Generally, when a crime does occur, it is proof that the threat of punishment is not an effective deterrent in that situation. That does not mean the deterrent is of no value, as it is hard to know if the deterrent is stopping those who do not commit a crime.

Rudy Giuliani’s claim “tough on crime” worked may be misplaced.

In the 1990s, “tough on crime” policies introduced by Rudolph Guliani in New York were credited with playing a major role in the fall in crime and violent crime rates in New York.

However, in parallel with the fall in crime rates, the effect of removing lead from gasoline in the US clearly played a significant role in the fall in crime rates at that time, as did the economic boom of the 1990s.

Whilst not everyone agrees on whether Giuliani was a genius for his policy or not, the statistics since his time do not bear out the claims that the “tough on crime” was a major factor. The work of B.F. Skinner clearly proved that it is natural behaviour to assign causality even when there is none.

The rehabilitation challenges.

The catch-22 of punishment is that a lack of happiness is a factor in crimes being committed, and punishment is only going to increase the level of unhappiness, thus logically increasing the compulsion to reoffend.

If fear of punishment was insufficient before the first offence, how can fear of punishment be sufficient after punishment which will almost inevitably further decrease happiness? One possibility is that having experienced punishment, then the thought of punishment will become a more effective determent, or the punishment for repeated offences may be even greater punishment.

Rehabilitation is highly problematic, but it may make sense to look at the overall environment, not just the offender.

Identifying and reducing “Village” Contribution: A missing step?

The process beings with a reported or identified crime, moves on to an investigation to assign blame to offender and then punish that offender, but there is no step to look at any wider blame of the overall “village that raised the child”. In fact, the allocation of blame to the individual and not “the village” is so strong is the most extreme examples, that people convicted of crime can be deported from the country where they grew up, to a country of their “genetic origin”, even if they had never even visited that country of “genetic origin” since before they began school.

In the most extreme examples, even dual citizens can be stripped of citizenship of the only country they have ever lived and deported.

Instead of doing all possible to deny any possible contribution by society or “the village” the ideal would be if every criminal case also looked at the possible role of society in producing damage that may have played a role a person resorting to crime, with a view of considering how changes to society could improve outcomes.

There are some serious challenges to looks at things from this perspective, as firstly society may not be ready for such a mirror on itself revealing the degree to which the treatment of minorities plays, plus without very careful construction of laws for such a system there could be many cases where findings would be used in legal cases by those convicted of crime against the state for negligence. Without great significant caution the legal system itself could create the biggest barrier to best addressing crime.

Influence: Even the illusion of oppression can provoke criminal acts.

Lessons of war.

There was some previously mention of the “othering” of entire nationalities during and following WWII. In the USA, UK and other allies, it was common for many years to not trust either Germans or Japanese people, with many holding the belief that these groups had to be undesirable people to have acted the way they did during the war. It took many years to accept that in times of war, people ordinary people are capable of acting in the manner demonstrated by the Milgram experiment.

In reality, the “othering” of the other side is necessary for troops to be able fire on the enemy. Many countries looking back on war find examples of their own soldiers committing war crimes, and it is likely the “othering” of the enemy that was necessary for soldiers to be able to fire at the enemy whilst in combat resulted in some soldiers on occasions failing to treat as required outside of combat.

To fight wars, soldiers need to “other” the enemy. To initiate WWII, the German government had to convince its citizens they were boing oppressed by those who they attacked. You can’t really convince a nation to act immorally, and instead must convince the nation that war is required. Every time a country attacks another, or joins in a war on a side, that country is overwhelmingly convinced that they are the ones who are on the side of morality, or the citizens will not support the war.

It is frightening how often whole nations of people can be convinced they are morally correct, or as the US civil war demonstrated, whole groups within a country can be convinced they are on “the right side”, and on that basis, commit what would be, under other circumstances, serious crimes.

Influence beyond the bounds of war.

It now seems unbelievable the German people could be convinced they were being so oppressed by the Jews. But then, clearly, we are now seeing just as remarkable example of members of online groups convinced, they are being oppressed others. People who even believe they are oppressed do commit crimes.

The result is both crimes directed at minority groups as well as by those in minority groups.

How much wider would we expect the effects of real oppression to be? Fortunately, “Black Lives Matter” sees not one racial group protesting, which reduces any risk of those being oppressed committing crimes against people on the basis of race alone, but it is hard to imagine that it does not cause some to strike back against the system, or to feel they are so oppressed by the system that crime is either their only option or crime against the system is acceptable.

In the end, only a minority commit crimes, so it does not take a very significant percentage of people to be pushed over the precipice to have an impact on statistics.

The only good news is that means those statistics can become a clear indicator of the oppression and highlight where attention is required.


  • 2023 April 5 : Initial version

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