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The Number One "Root Cause"

The hand-wringing crowd loves to talk about the "root causes" of crime, spinning off into discussions about how society, not the criminal, is actually to blame.  It's all our fault for not having enough welfare programs.

But a genuine "root cause" of crime is bad parenting, specifically the failure of some parents to teach their children the values of respect for the law and for the rights of others.  Eugene Volokh and VC commenter Debrah point us to this video of a prime example of rotten-to-the-core parenting, a mother actively encouraging her teenage son to beat another kid.  The video was posted on You Tube, and authorities tracked down Jennifer Zuniga, 33, and charged her with child endangerment and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

We have previously noted the importance of culture in determining crime rates.  But culture is the sum total of individual choices, and the choices people make are influenced by culture.  That is the cycle we need to break.


An excellent post to which I would add only one thing. The most important "root cause" of crime is less rotten parenting than non-parenting. The best single predictor of a crime-committing life is the absence of the father in the home when a child, particularly a boy, is growing up. This is something one of our most astute commenters, mjs, has often noted, here and on Sentencing Law and Policy.

It is also, incidentally, one of the principal answers to the charge of racism in criminal law. The percentage of fatherless families in black households vastly exceeds the percentage in white ones. I am not enough of a statistician to know, but my guess is that if the rate of illegitimacy were the same for blacks and whites, the crime rate would be the same or nearly so.

Up until the 1940's, approximately 80% of black children lived in two-parent homes. Today, 75% of black children are born to single women, often under the age of 20.

The venerable black economist Walter Williams had this to say "The welfare state has done to black Americans what slavery couldn't do....that is to destroy the black family.

Other races and ethnic groups, aided and abetted by the left, have been just as destructive in undermining family structure. The non-marital birth rate for Hispanics is 61% while the current overall rate in America is 41%.

Over and above the crime rate, the social pathology emanating from these numbers will burden the already shrinking(less than 50% of citizens) tax-paying public.

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