Murderous Economics: Nations That Skimp on Social Welfare May Pay the Price in Higher Crime

Article excerpt

Rates of violent crime go up when public investment in social systems goes down, according to Northumbria University lecturers Steve Hall and Craig McLean.

"Any abrupt move to the neo-liberal form of political economy will result in almost immediate increases in property crime, violence and homicide in the regions and locales most badly hit by unemployment and the breakdown of family, community, and collective civil and political organizations," says Hall.


He cites the United States as one example. The U.S. government sharply reduced its expenditures on education, health, housing, and other programs after 1970. Its prison population subsequently exploded from about 200,000 in 1970 to more than 2 million in 2008.

"It is costing the USA a fortune just to keep the lid on things," says Hall, "which of course means that in relative terms there is far less to spend on constructive stabilizing programs and to invest in education, industry, and so on."

Western Europe, by contrast, has kept its crime rates relatively stable--with the exception of the United Kingdom, Hall notes. Its economy is "neo-liberal," like the United States, and its crime rate is alarmingly high.

South Africa, New Zealand, Russia, and eastern European nations also have "neo-liberal" economic policies and, not coincidentally according to Hall, much more crime.

The difference is that the western European nations address social problems with expansive programs and thus avoid the costly problems of poverty-related crime.

"Western Europe has relatively more in the pot to spend on stabilization programs," he says.

More important than any program, however, is the societal values that the western European nations cultivate. …