When increasingly generous government support became widely available to women in the 1960s, illegitimacy and divorce grew dramatically. As Gilder writes, “Female jobs and welfare payments usurped the man’s role as provider, leaving fatherless families.” Welfare destroys the incipient families of the poor by making the struggling male breadwinner superfluous and thereby emasculating him emotionally. His response is predictable. He turns to the supermasculine world of the street: drinking, drugs, male companionship, and crime.
Welfare, a social program designed to combat poverty, has been a controversial issue for many years and has been reformed under the Clinton and Bush administrations.
Through the study of psychology, specifically free will, determinism and social identity, we may find that situational crime prevention is a better means to deter crime in our nation....
We see in Franklin’s diagnosis a striking anticipation of today’s welfare state, in which, as we will see, poverty has remained stagnant as the welfare system has swelled since the 1960s. Franklin’s understanding of the welfare paradox—that aid to the poor must be managed carefully lest it promote indolence and therefore poverty—was shared by most Americans who wrote about and administered poverty programs until the end of the 19th century.
When Benjamin Franklin lived in England in the 1760s, he observed that the poverty problem was much worse in that country than in America. Britain did not limit its support of the poor to a safety net provided under conditions that prevented abuse. There, the poor were given enough that they could live in idleness. The result was to increase poverty by giving the poor a powerful incentive not to become self-supporting. Franklin wrote:
Throughout American history, it has been a common perception that the poor have a higher propensity toward crime than the middle class. Although there is some basis to this belief—because the poor have less lawful options to obtain material goods and, if unemployed, have less constructive pursuits with which to occupy their time—the poor are not by nature more inclined to crime than are the more affluent classes. Nevertheless, the poor—especially minorities—are more likely to be in prison. Whether this is a result of increased crime levels or a sign of greater police presence in poor and minority areas is a point of contention among scholars. Most mainstream and conservative scholars argue that the higher proportion of minorities and the poor is caused by the higher incidence of crime in poor areas; however, liberal historian Howard Zinn argues that the authorities are to blame for the unequal prison system, which he sees as an example of America’s bias against minorities and the poor.
It’s also crucial to take into account how many ethnic groups live within a single neighborhood to understand local dynamics. Some are more likely to clash against others, depending on where they live. When inequalities are great, crime goes over the roof both within and between different ethnic populations. The more heterogeneous, the more jealousy, the more misunderstandings and the more crime there can be in a given place.
Another study across 20 cities in the US analyses how local inequalities and heterogeneous populations can influence crime rates. As ever more countries face problems related to immigration, policymakers should be aware that inequality, even within one ethnic group, is a major cause of crime.
In his 1890 book, How the Other Half Lives, Jacob Riis clearly demonstrated the perceived connection between the poor and crime. In his introduction he wrote of the tenements:
Due to the overall success and the median income of those in America comparatively to the globe, only a very small portion is defined as living in absolute poverty (not meeting very basics).
Many today fail to note that antipoverty programs can easily have a corrupting effect if they are not set up in a way that promotes rather than breaks down the morality of self-restraint and self-assertion that is a necessary foundation of what Jefferson called “temperate liberty.” Both Jefferson and Franklin supported laws that encourage responsibility toward family and community, self-sufficiency, and industriousness. They understood that political liberty rests on the moral character of a people.
There are huge consequences of this kind of research for public policy and the positive impact of keeping children in school and reducing poverty. But for that we would need governments to actually read the research their universities produce! It shouldn’t seem like too much of a stretch to argue that having kids actually graduate from school will in itself contribute to reduce poverty, no?
Riis identified crime as a condition of the poor, but he also laid blame on the city’s middle class and elites for not taking steps to ix the problem. Specifically, Riis identified the tenements as the “boundary line” between the peaceful middle-class neighborhoods and the crime-filled poor neighborhoods, arguing that in
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