How the Economy Works: the Necessity of Crime
“Money makes the world go around
A mark, a yen, a buck, or pound
Is all that makes the world go around.”—song from Cabaret
The economy is merely a sum of money, not practices that sustain the oikos, and the money that makes up the sum is equally valued whether it results from virtuous or vicious, good or bad, constructive or destructive, humane or inhumane, legal or illegal, beneficent or malevolent practices. Whether people benefit or are injured is never an economic concern. People, like everything else that is not monetary, are irrelevant.
Once upon a time, as all good morality legends begin, mankind lived in a natural habitat. People toiled, but none worked at anything like what is today called a job. They hunted, fished, trapped and gathered berries, fruits and edible roots. Later people learned to cultivate land and domesticate and herd animals. Yields were shared with all members of their clans—the young and the aged, the able and the disabled, the well and the ill. From each according to his ability; to each according to his needs was common practice, not an ideological precept. And the human race flourished. Villages around cultivated plots grew into towns and towns into cities. But somewhere in the progression, something went horribly wrong. People stopped sharing! People with a this began to trade with others for a that, and what is now known as commerce began.
Trouble is, having been removed from a natural habitat to an unnatural, artificial one, everyone didn’t have a this to trade for a that. The haves became distinguished from the have-nots. What were the have-nots to do? Well, they could beg or sell themselves or revert to being what they would have been in their natural habitat—hunters and gatherers! But now the prey were the haves and their property became gatherable. So what were the haves to do?
They could have gone back to sharing, but they didn’t! Instead, they developed ways of guarding what they had. They assigned some to enact rules and others to enforce them. Some people got jobs, rulegivers and guards. Whenever a rulebreaker was caught, s/he had to be tried. More jobs were created—lawyer and judge. When convicted, the rulebreaker had to be punished, and prisons came into being with their wardens and guards. When prisoners were released, they had to be monitored so now probation officers were needed. All of this costs the haves a lot. Wouldn’t sharing have been cheaper?
Perhaps, but people couldn’t revert to that now. For all of these guard-workers, as they are now often called in the literature, constitute an economic activity in itself. To go back to sharing would turn them all into have-nots. But these are now important and powerful people. Judges, lawyers, legislators! Have-nots? Heavens no! Although loath to think of themselves in this way, these people are nothing but ballyhooed security guards. Compared to fish, they are the aquarium’s bottom feeders. What would they be without crime?
The commercial enterprise of guard-working is like every other commercial enterprise. To profit, it must grow; but to grow, crime must increase. Without increasing crime, guard-working atrophies. What came into being in order to control crime now requires it. Crime has become a necessary part of the economy. It can’t be eliminated; it can’t even be reduced without affecting the economy adversely. Economists love it. So do lawyers, legislators, and judges. But they won’t admit it! The commercial activity of guarding the haves and their property has to be fed. Read more…