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October 20, 2011



"It’s because something else is going on. The decision to commit crime (or not) is not merely one taken by a rational maximizing isolated individual. It has a social dimension. People are more likely to commit crime if others in their social networks do, and less likely to do so if their peers are law-abiding. If your friends are robbers, there’s a high chance you will be too."

Isn't that what you'd expect from rational maximizers? It becomes rational to do something if the evidence suggests that doing so is profitable, and seeing other people do it (and get away with it, one presumes) is such evidence. If anything, the peer effect response is a perfect example of rationality in a way that, say, an emotional/moral response would not be.

I can see why you pointed out that an "isolated" individual would not follow others into crime, for the fairly obvious reason that they wouldn't be aware of there being anything to follow. But if we relax the condition of isolation, then the more rational they are, the more likely they are to follow evidence gleaned from observing others.


*If your friends are robbers, there’s a high chance you will be too.*

That's plausible. But it doesn't necessarily work for rarer crimes - it sounds much less plausible to say people murder because they hang out with murderers.

& for some kinds of crime it may be plausible that hanging out with people who routinely take part in legal-but-judged-(by some at least)-to-be-unethical behaviour may increase your propensity to commit crime. I'm thinking of the sort of white collar crime one finds in the City.


I can see this as correct with property crime both need and resentment could raise economic crimes. With violent crime that is rarer and I am not sure unemployment is relevant except as social stress. The issue I would highlight is gender roles. Unemployment might produce more violence against women if men cannot be primary earners and thus also harm to children would arise which might increase future crime by disrupting the social development of children. Unemployed men who lose or cannot get a partner as an effect of unemployment might be more prone to violence as also to suicide, self harm and self destructive action like excessive drinking. Alcohol and drugs and depression are all going to disrupt social integration and those effects of unemployment may show up only slowly as a rise in crime. white collar crime I guess has an element of status seeking about it. The "need" fed by crime here is not the desire to spend money on children but the need to keep up in the rat race of status. Money as value marker.


In the 80s house crime paid well. You could sell stolen video recorders, tellies, computers and games consoles for good money down the pub. If someone robbed my house today they'd be lucky to make £200. So why bother? This change in the market value of stolen goods, caused by a long-term decline in the cost of consumer items, has to be taken into account when analysing long term trends, don't you think?

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