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November 29, 2006


Alex Gregory

Isn't it also plausible to suggest that the pleasure they get out of mugging people stems, in some manner, from their poverty?

Kids with parents with drug problems, or in families with domestic violence problems are likely to be poor, and also likely to have personal issues surrounding that, which could plausibly be expressed in violence.

Or, to take another example, poor people might enjoy feeling "dominant" from mugging someone because it's the only chance they get at such a feeling.

Pro-market types love to talk about how competitve we all are: isn't this just another expression of that? If you can't win in the rat race, you just might decide to win at another race instead.


Given how much it cost to keep someone in prison it may not be the low cost solution.


Interesting way of looking at it. I think I see it in a similar vein to Alex - whilst the people at the top have (or feel that they have) far more opportunity to express themselves, express their humanity, and choose their paths, poor people are generally denied these abilities. I see crime as both a manifestation of these suppressed desires, and a rebellion against a system which represses them.

james higham

...I’d lose a well-paid job and prison would entail a significant loss of utility...

But think of the street cred you'd gain. No one would mess with you in there.

Mark Holland

This isn’t because I’m a decent person.


chris strange

I thought that is was marginal effects that where most important. For you the result of you beating up a few Guardian journalists would only have a small marginal effect on your income, but for a poor person it could be the difference between being able to buy food and not. Am I missing something obvious here?


"I’d find it fun to beat up public schoolboys or Guardian writers in the street. But I don’t do it. This isn’t because I’m a decent person. It’s because the cost of getting caught would be high for me, as I’d lose a well-paid job and prison would entail a significant loss of utility."

Don't believe you for a minute. What you mean is Guardian journalists and public schoolboys annoy you so much you *feel* you would enjoy beating them up. But really you wouldn't, even if you had nothing to lose.

A good friend of mine used to retail - how to put it? - controlled substances. He still does but gave up years ago the idea of gaining 'promotion' in the profession. The reason he gave me was this: the higher you went, he said, the more you met people who weren't interested in the product, nor the money. What they got off on was inflicting pain on other human beings. They *wanted* people not to pay them so they could harm them. He said to me - which concurred with my own experience - that he had never met anyone who enjoyed extreme violence that wasn't completely *stupid*. This is a key variable you're missing here. Some people can crash other people's heads in because they have no imagination. There are *some* people who enjoy extreme violence *and* are intelligent. They are complete sociopaths because they *can* imagine how the other person feels but they don't care. Society's most dangerous members. You're really taking the self-deprecation thing way too far if you're asking us to believe you belong to this group in spirit.

Jeremy Jacobs

Time to bring back the birch?



shuggy seconded. I don't believe for a minute you'd enjoy smashing public school heads* in. although I don't believe you really meant you would either.

*otherwise I'd fear for my head


"There are *some* people who enjoy extreme violence *and* are intelligent": the Glasgow expression for them used to be "mental", didn't it, Shuggy? Descendants of berserkers, presumably.


Then again, didn't lots of Vikings settle in the East Midlands too?


"Glasgow expression for them used to be "mental", didn't it, Shuggy?"

Yep. Still is. Dunno about the Viking thing, though.

Devil's Kitchen

"The Devil’s Kitchen reads this as evidence that Polly is wrong to claim that poverty causes crime."

Oh, I don't think that it was as logical as that; I tend towards the argument that whatever Polly says is wrong on principle so if she says poverty causes crime then it almost certainly doesn't.

This was just a handy illustration of alternative factors...


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