How to Change the World for the Better: Why Does Theft Exist?

Photo Credit: Stavos
Photo Credit: Stavos

I must confess, I have a chip on my shoulder: I want to change the world for the better. Yeah, I’m an idealist. I see so much potential in this world being wasted on conflict at numerous levels and I want to do something about it. I write about various topics on my blog, I speak about it on my podcast, and I even write music about it.

I’m not a great intellectual or scholar.

I’m not a revolutionist.

I’m just a guy with ideas. Some of them aren’t even really that new.

So let’s start here: why do criminals exist? The obvious answer is criminals exist because laws exist. But we need laws, so let’s look a bit more deeply and separate crime into violent and non-violent categories.

There’s no excuse for violent crimes so let’s also put that aside for this post. There’s a simple solution for those in the form of prison, though I certainly feel we could do more to rehabilitate offenders on a wider scale than simply punishment alone. With that out of the way for now, what do we do about non-violent crimes? Why do they even exist?

Non-violent crimes usually involve some form of theft/fraud or something that can potentially threaten the safety of others or the violator (this includes drugs so let’s not go there right now). The former is fairly straightforward in terms of why it happens: poverty and greed. These are two things running rampant in our global society because of the way we treat distribution of wealth. If we all had enough, there’d be less crime.


But making that happen is just a pie-in-the-sky dream you say? Not so, naysayer! Let’s isolate the US for now, shall we? The federal minimum wage in America is $7.25. If a person with that salary works 40 hours a week for 52 weeks, they will GROSS $15080. That’s not much of a living to make, even before taxes. This is evidenced by the gross domestic product (GDP) per capita which is over $53K. If that should be a standard of living in the US, why aren’t more folks hitting it? Granted, there  are states with higher minimum wages, but there are some with less or none at all. Additionally, the US unemployment rate is at about 6 percent (though I think it’s higher considering it’s difficult to track all the homeless). This means that our ideal is not being met across the board, especially when richer people skew that number.

Okay, that’s enough of that for now. How do we make the situation better? If we over-tax the rich, they may move to countries with less taxes (my girlfriend says this happens with Sweden). How about a federal minimum salary of $40K? I mean, one that’s standardized across all states. That’s still less than the per capita GDP, but it will allow for a better quality of life for more folks. The tough part would be with companies who would need to open their pockets more to obviously pay their workers. Well, a portion of people’s salaries could be supplemented by the government. We’re already giving back more tax refunds/credits than ever before; I’d prefer a better salary than a refund that comes once a year. Also, I feel the 40 hour work week is an archaic standard that may not be needed anymore. What about a 30 hour work week? The extra time means more jobs.

We could also greatly reduce our military spending, but I think that’s a conversation for another day.

Lastly, we should be evaluating the lives of those incarcerated for theft.There’s a stark difference between someone who is stealing because they are homeless and someone who steals because they simply want more. We’re not doing much to put the former in a better place once they are out of prison. They’re back in the same situation (sometimes worse) when they go back into the real world. On the other end of the spectrum, if folks are meeting the per capita GDP and still get caught for theft related crimes, we should be punishing them accordingly and rehabilitating the behavior.

It’s the circle of (prison) life.

All of this is to say money is an issue. Comfort is a great sedative. Sure, greed will always be out there, but I truly believe we aren’t solving any issues by building more prisons. Though I’d prefer to flip the entire system on its head and start over, I know that isn’t realistic in this day and age. But can’t we make adjustments to this system that is clearly not working for everyone? Are we actually trying to solve problems or are we just discussing/arguing how to solve problems? You can say I’m wrong about any of this, but we’re also not giving any of it a shot. The US has bailed out huge companies and the country has moved forward without an issue; how are we not taking care of our citizens better? Maybe if we were, theft wouldn’t occur as much. I wonder how we could apply this thinking to a global level.


Peace out, party people.

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