Enlightened Capitalism

Essays about how to harness people's natural desire to create wealth and improve their quality of life to solve global problems such as war and poverty.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Crime and Employment

Viktor Frankl points out (in "Man's Search for Meaning") that when builders want to stabilise and strengthen a decrepit arch, they increase the load on it. For him this is analgous to how the human spirit is refined and strengthened through stress and ordeal.

One of the best predictors of neighborhood crime is unemployment.
And most violent crimes are committed by 18-24 year old males.

The most obvious way to reduce crime is to put the 18-24 year old males to work doing something useful.

One problem with this is that the typical at-risk youth is undereducated, unskilled, and often exhibits an uncooperative attitude, slovenly appearence, and open disrespect for authority. So (short of performing an extreme life makeover on them) they aren't ideal candidates for most paying positions.

Another problem is that most employers don't want to have operations in high crime neighborhoods. Insurance rates are higher, and there are all sorts of difficulties with doing business in run down areas. With the notable exception of pawn shops, liquor stores, check cashing places, and certain unlawful operations, the vast majority of businesses do better financially in more affluent areas. So high crime neighborhoods lack a wide variety of local entry level jobs for 18-24 year old males. Commuting to jobs is an option, but owning a car is more difficult and dangerous in these areas (in 2004 Compton had 3 car thefts reported per day, and dozens of car arsons) and public transit, where available, tends to be dangerous, and is often the target of vandalism.

So the question remains, how could we put all the 18-24 year old males to work doing something useful? It could be local, or we could provide transportation to a remote location. The army is an obvious possibility. But I don't think training people to identify enemies and commit acts of violence is a good way to reduce violence. A large percentage of homeless people are veterans, which indicates that the military as an employer doesn't have a very good track record for improving people's lives.

On the one hand there are the things I want done in the neighborhood: cleaning, landscaping, beautifying, networking, commerce, looking out for each other, personal education, and community recreation.

On the other hand, there are the things that the residents of these neighborhoods are spending lots of money on right now: security, small luxuries, peace & quiet, fun, food, sports, entertainment, banking services, automotive services, transportation, childcare, furniture, insurance, utilities, clothes, music, excitement, parties.

First we should consider whether we could profitably employ members of this group in providing any of the above things. Next we should look for additional ways this group could create value and who their customers would be. More later...


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