Crime is here to stay, but some societies have more crime and some less. It seems that even criminals would prefer societies with less crime.
I don't believe there is a universally accepted definition of crime, and many crimes are never made public. So when you study crime, you are trying to understand a phenomenon you can't define, and one that many people would prefer not to discuss, especially if it involves crimes in which they have been personally involved. The fog of crime is similar to the fog of war, but perhaps not quite as dense--at least for minor crimes.
Crime may also be a little like pornography. We can't define it, but we know it when we see it.
Yet we are faced with an urgent need to minimize crime. Societies with high crime rates are inefficient, uncomfortable, dangerous, and poor.
Some crimes are morally defensible. Victims of crime often feel justified in committing criminal acts to restore balance. For the purpose of measuring the levels of crime in a society, it is not necessary to distinguish between justified and unjustified criminal acts. In terms of the negative effects of criminal acts, it doesn't matter “Who started it?” The destructive effects of crime are the same whether the crime can be “morally justified” or not. If person A vandalizes the property of person B, and then person B vandalizes the property of person A, then balance may have been restored, but both A and B are poorer as the result of the vandalism.
If the government puts someone in jail to restore balance for the crimes they have committed, then both the original crimes and the government crime of kidnapping ( the jail sentence) have the effect of decreasing the total wealth and comfort of the society.
The economic costs of crime are the same, no matter how “noble” the motive for committing the crime.
But if person A vandalizes the property of person B, and then person A can be persuaded to repair person B's property, the balance is restored, the economic cost is only half as much as if person B exacted vengeance, and, most importantly, the process will more likely lead to a lasting settlement of the feud between person A and person B. Negotiation, reconciliation, and atonement are economically and socially more efficient than attempting to achieve balance by committing more crimes.
If some people have a conflict that they can't resolve themselves, it makes sense for others to help them through their difficulties. But is it better to bring in a bunch of total strangers who don't know the people or the history involved, or could friends and family who know the people and this history more efficiently perform an intervention? People close to the situation have more knowledge about the problem and more incentive to solve it.
Our society has gone in the opposite direction. As our society has tended to make more and more crimes federal cases, the crime rate has soared and we now have prison guard unions, cops of all kinds, lawyers, and politicians who believe they will make more money and have more power if the crime rate increases. This is a very dangerous situation, which is making our society more and more chaotic. More and more relatively harmless activities are being defined as criminal, and law enforcement has become arbitrary and cruel.
The government that was formed to protect us has become a far worse threat than barbarians at the borders. But most U.S. citizens will resist any change in their society until things get so bad that it becomes obvious that there must be changes. The Evil Empire will fall, and then there will be an opportunity for a new beginning. Moving now to educate those who are willing to listen to a better morality might be able to actually make things better when that tipping point occurs.
It should be obvious that when there is social conflict, those who know most about the people and issues involved are best equipped to solve the conflict. The fewer people involved in the fight the less it will cost society. If people in a community have no objection to the behavior of their neighbors, people from other communities have no business stirring up trouble by objecting to behavior that has little or no effect on their well being.
All these things should be obvious, but they are ignored by our so-called “legal system”. It is a system run by “criminal lawyers” with the accent on the criminal. It is a system that maximizes legal fees for lawyers, graft for politicians, and slave labor for the prison-industrial complex. It is a system that attempts to make honest and industrious people afraid to criticize. It is a system run by people who fail to realize that their own wealth and comfort depends on the comfort and efficiency of all the members of society. Despite all the praises of freedom and independence, our system is creating ever-increasing numbers of serfs and slaves. A society with a large number of serfs and slaves cannot compete with societies of free people. People who don't own their homes and the tools to make their living are not free.
Crime is best minimized by non-coercive means. Education, persuasion and truth are more effective than violence and deceit. Every crime is really a fight, and the key to having a stable and prosperous society is to minimize fights. Every person should have a right to self-defense, but we should also realize that violence just begets more violence. Torturing criminals just makes them more bitter and violent.
We need a system that encourages negotiation and reconciliation between competing elements of society. What we have now is a system that is pouring oil on the flames.