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Another Beautiful Theory Destroyed By A Mere Fact



Apparently, so we’re told, crime is soaring in the United States. But that’s OK, we know the reason why. We even know what to do about it. Just take all he money of the rich bastards and crime will fall again.

A friend is trying to sell his condo in downtown Portland but large parts of downtown have been turned into a giant homeless camp so there are few buyers even in this hot real estate market. The nearby streets are pockmarked with tents and the curbs frequently sport human waste.

It’s possible that this is something to do with the way that Portland is being governed but then hey, what do we know?

This isn’t to romanticize poverty; it’s tough, and crime is a problem in barrios and slums around the world. But crime isn’t sweeping the cities of Europe, Japan, South Korea or Taiwan the way it is American cities, because in those countries the very wealthy are appropriately taxed and therefore average people are still well within the parameters of the middle class.

Research published in the Oxford Economic Papers in 2014 found that not only does inequality cause increases in crime (including violent crime), but the main variable is people’s perception of inequality: When the morbidly rich are conspicuous in their consumption, crime explodes faster than when they’re discreet.

“Using variation within US states over time, we document a robust association between the distribution of conspicuous consumption and violent crime,” authors Daniel and Joan Hicks noted.

Well, it’s a nice theory. And of course our old friends Wilkinson and Pickett make an appearance. But as with any hypothesis we do need to refer to reality. As and when there’s a conflict between fact and theory then it’s the universe that wins.


Hmm, wealth inequality – which is what our Man Talking About Portland is talking about – has risen in recent decades at the same time as the crime rate has plummeted.

That is interesting, isn’t it? That the hypothesis has been tested and been found to be bollocks.



  1. Might be our old friends Correlation/Causation at work. The very rich tend to support Leftist policies, homelessness and crime increase and Bob’s your auntie!

  2. IIRC Brazil and Colombia are more inequal than Mexico but have less murders. Crime in Latin America has no relationship to poverty or inequality.

  3. Those rich people. You know, the very rich ones who are way richer than you and me. Who sees them? They don’t come where I am, eat where I eat, shop where I shop, holiday where I go, fly in the same plane as me. If they come into no contact with the poor, how can degrees of inequality make a difference?

    (And don’t poor people usually do crime in their own neighbourhoods, to each other?)


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in British English
expunct (ɪkˈspʌŋkt)
VERB (transitive)
1. to delete or erase; blot out; obliterate
2. to wipe out or destroy

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