Thursday, September 11, 2008

Thoughtcrime of the Day: Welfare Statism Makes Criminals of the Poor

In 1903, when people were much poorer than they are today, the homicide rate was about 1 per hundred thousand people. In 1990, when people were far better off economically, it was over 10 per hundred thousand. From 1933 to 1941, a period of high unemployment and low economic growth, crime rates declined, whereas during the 1960's and early '70's, a period of rising prosperity, crime rates rose. In 1961, with 22% of Americans below the current poverty line (as measured in constant dollars), the homicide rate was 4.7 per hundred thousand. By 1974, when the number of Americans below the poverty line had fallen to 12%, the homicide rate had more than doubled, to 10.2 per hundred thousand. Similarly, between 1960 and 1978, as poverty declined, reported robberies more than tripled, auto thefts more than doubled, and burglaries nearly tripled.

In 1950, only 9 percent of black families were headed by one parent. By 1965, the number was 28 percent, and by 1970 it was 33 percent. By 1989 fully half of all black families with children are headed by a single parent. In 1959, only 15 percent of black births were out of wedlock. By 1990, the figure was over 65 percent. The rate of out-of-wedlock births for whites also increased from 2% in 1960 to over 20 percent in 1990.

A tolerance for crime is also fed by the philosophy of welfare entitlements. If the idle poor are entitled to the expropriated earnings of working taxpayers, then what is wrong with stealing from those who are better off? Why shouldn't the poor grab what is "rightfully theirs" when they have the opportunity? If the government is justified in robbing Peter to pay Paul, then why isn't Paul justified in robbing Peter to pay Paul? Given the premise of welfare entitlements, there is no reason he is not.

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