18 Poverty and Crime: A Popular Myth

It has almost become an accepted truth in the Western world today that poverty is one of the fundamental causes of crimes against property – crimes that have victims. That this is both untrue and baseless becomes obvious with but a moment’s reflection on the situation. It is suggested that we insult the poor, who comprise most of the world’s population, with the assumption that their morals are inherently lower than those of rich affluent Westerners.

Jesse James, Jack the Ripper and Bonnie & Clyde went into legend because they were rare one-offs. Today we have shocking crimes of a similar order-taking place with depressing regularity and they primarily occur in affluent and developed nations.

How do we define poverty anyway? By some scorecards, a contented third world peasant in a supportive community with ample food and a clean environment could be seen as less poverty-stricken than a wealthy New York executive earning a hundred times as much, struggling to keep up with his lifestyle, child support and deteriorating health.