July 15, 2014

WHAT WILL CROOKS DO WHEN CRIME DOESN’T PAY?

Obviously, the bright e-future is not going to make crime impossible. Some late-model cars do still get stolen. And of course, the Internet has created new ways to commit crimes like credit card theft.

The teenagers who used to boost cars, however, won’t simply segue into new forms of crime. Hacking a credit card network is a different skillset from hot-wiring a car; the person who does one can’t necessarily transition easily to the other. The low-skilled young men who choose crime as an alternative to low-wage work may simply find themselves with fewer viable ways to make money through criminal activity. So what happens to them? . . .

As I say, I’m all for it.

I still wonder, though: Are the criminals better or worse off?

I can tell the story either way. Crime doesn’t pay very well, but for teenagers who don’t see much in the way of life prospects, it may seem more enticing (and attractive to the opposite sex) than popping chicken tenders into the deep fry at Popeyes, even if the earnings are the same. Over the long run, of course, working steadily at a low-skilled job probably offers a better payoff than stealing cars until you get sent to jail. But since when have teenagers been good at considering the long run?

Reducing the monetary rewards of crime might force more teenagers to focus on jobs that deliver a steady, legal paycheck. That ultimately means fewer people struggling to find steady employment while dragging a felony conviction behind them.

Of course, that assumes that those at-risk teenagers will choose the fast-food job. They might just turn to another form of crime.

I’m planning to organize a Fight-Club-like cult that will absorb many and direct their energies toward productive tasks like destroying my enemies and ensuring world domination.