Monday, November 23, 2009

Crime and the Economic Crisis, A Global Perspective

This Al Jazeera story, shown in a 2-part video series, is a bit dated (aired on Feb. 24, 2009). However, it is useful in illustrating how the economic crisis, which started in high-income countries, disproportionately influences low-income countries in the global south, particularly in terms of crime.

As the discussants state, poverty and social instability are the primary causes of crime, including terrorism. Thus, when we have low-income countries' unemployment rates rise further, other social phenomena subsequently rise that have direct impacts on rich countries. Such phenomena include mass migration (both legal and illegal), crime (e.g., pirating, information technology hacking, robberies, burglaries), terrorism, etc.

In short, different levels and types of crime are symptoms of larger societal problems, namely huge economic disparities. We hear about this all the time in the criminology literature on local and national scales, but rarely is this basic theoretical stance applied globally despite the fact that it is widely accepted we live in an internationally inter-dependent economy.

Some other interesting points the discussants mention:

  • Immediately following the economic crisis, the U.S. government saved the banks. Virtually nothing in comparison has been done to assist family and community concerns in the global south.
  • Poorer countries will be further hurt by decreased remittences, export products going down in volume and price, and a decrease in investment capital.
  • Investments should shift to building infrastructure in sustainable energy since the global south is being doubly hit by the economic crisis and climate change.
  • Investments are also necessary in occupational training for the poor (i.e., capacity building).
  • There needs to be a cultural shift away from over-consumption.
The videos are a good teaching tool to play devil's advocate when students say we need to focus on domestic problems before assisting the rest of the world since the rest of the world's problems (often created by rich countries) influence rich countries. Videos, below:

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