Crime is crime, regardless

In a world in which people are divided into neat little categories like liberal and conservative, upper and lower class, criminal and law-abiding, it can be difficult for people to not allow personal sympathies to force them to take sides.

Many conditions contribute to people’s moral biases, but one of the most obvious is political ideology. A dangerous example of this is how the left can condone the greed and exploitation committed by criminal members of the lower classes, in the context of petty crime.

On the other hand, the right can condone the criminal actions of companies and business people, treating white-collar crime as if it is not a crime at all, under the false guise of free enterprise.

A crack dealer on the street corner who sells drugs to school children and the CEO of a pharmaceutical company who peddles dangerous drugs with falsified test results, deceiving millions of consumers, are morally equivalent.

For example, the World Health Organization reports that 650 million smokers will die from smoking, yet the tobacco industry is still allowed to operate because it contributes significantly to the gross domestic product.

The idea that petty criminals are impoverished by nature is often untrue. Canada has a fairly generous welfare system, and safety nets exist to prevent people from falling into dire poverty.

Nevertheless, I understand that in spite of all the social programs our government provides, some people still fall through the cracks sometimes due to no fault of their own. I sympathise with those who may steal as a last resort to feed themselves or their families after they’ve exhausted every other option.

But I do not believe that the majority of career criminals fall under this category. The fact that some people commit crimes out of necessity does not mean all petty criminals do, some on the left believe that we should excuse their actions.

Perhaps they may feel guilty because we do not have enough resources to help the poor, so they overcompensate for their inaction by excusing criminals who tout themselves as impoverished and disadvantaged, whether they actually are or not.

Many see petty criminals as weak and desperate victims of society. In reality, these criminals are often the ones in power themselves. In many impoverished communities, petty criminals contribute to the cycle of poverty and violence of the populace.

While impoverished communities are victimised by society at large, often they are more directly victimised by their own criminal elements. Viewing such criminals as powerless victims rather than selfishly driven people who use violence and intimidation to attain minor criminal goals will only prolong the problem.

Another group of powerful people, the wealthy heads of corporations, also exploit the public, and are part of the reason that an environment exists in which petty crime is seen as justifiable – because on a macro scale petty crime is not comparable to the huge injustices of corporate crime.

Even in a country with a capitalist economic system, corporations should not be allowed to break the law. There needs to be more laws restricting the acts of corporations.

However, even within the framework of existing laws, many corporations, and the powerful people that run them, get away with unethically exploiting people and breaking the law to their heart’s content.

Such actions are apparently justified by market economics, even though it is obvious that in a free economic system, the government still should control the corporations rather than the other way around.

Personal biases must be put aside to recognise exploitation and greed wherever it exists, regardless of the socioeconomic class of whoever is perpetuating it.

We do not need to condone petty crime to further social equality, nor do we need to condone white collar crime to advance economic progress.

Greedy exploitation is wrong, regardless of which side of the socioeconomic or political spectrum it comes from.

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