Tuesday, August 09, 2011

"Bang ‘em up" but don’t throw away the key of income equality

 I’ve always thought that this New Labour slogan “tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime" makes perfect sense. So first things first.  The relatively tiny number of ignorant, selfish, no marks, who have been thieving, threatening and burning, deserve everything that is coming to them.

500 have been nicked in London alone and rest assured that in the coming weeks and months many more will find their front doors being smashed in at dawn by Police armed with arrest warrants. They will also find that the Courts (e.g. Bradford riots) consider such crimes have a “substantial aggravating feature" and they will face exemplary sentences. I’m also sure social landlords will be serving eviction notices on those found guilty of trashing their own communities (or their parents who are responsible for their behaviour). Despite the ample evidence to the contrary, these criminals have free will and are responsible for their own behaviour and must face its consequences. They also know they have done wrong.  

Now the more difficult stuff. “Tough on the causes of crime”. Why have these British citizens, overwhelmingly brought up and educated in this land, decided to act in such a way? Why are they so disconnected with mainstream society? Why the materialistic greed and lust for tacky Primark clothing and cheap Argus electronics? Why don’t other European countries very similar to us in so many other ways, have these such problems? Why the degree of violence and wanton destruction?

I am not going to play the Party political game. While I don’t for a moment think that the Bankers recession and the unnecessary Government cuts haven’t contributed to all this, I think the problem is deeper and wider.  Why us? Is there something wrong with our society?

Maybe this helps explain - why is it that societies that are more unequal statistically have more crime, more violence, more people in prison, more murders, more drug addiction problems, more mental heath illness, more teenage births, less social mobility, less trust and less community spirit.  Is income inequality, the gap between the rich and the poor a major reason for our riots? Please note that I do not simply equate poverty with crime. The vast majority of all people in London who happen to live in deprived neighbourhoods are deeply ashamed of the behaviour of the criminal few. But could income equality  help explain the last few days?  I'm not that interested in blame, I'm more interested in exploring solutions.

Is it only a coincidence that in the UK (and especially London) we have suffered such disturbstances while at the same time we experience such a huge (and growing) disparity in income inequality?  

Check out “The Spirit Level: Why Equality is better for everyone” for some possible answers.

To change things and be really tough on crime and for a possible better quality of life for all, I think we need to look at the evidence of what happens if you have such a gulf between rich and the poor - then act.  
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