Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Rich and Social Problems

People from all social classes produce social problems.

Still, most of the social problems - crime, addiction, delinquency, family disorder - are caused by the poorer half of the population.

I think it is true that people in the poorer half of the population are more disordered and problem causing. One big reason for this is that leading a disordered and problem-causing life tends to leave you poor, no matter how you started out.

There is another reason that the rich create fewer social problems. The rich can use money to treat their personal problems and to compensate for the consequences of their personal problems. The rich can use money to keep their personal problems from becoming social problems.


Tami Martin said...

Being poor is stressful.

Stress hormones interfere with optimal brain development.

Less optimal brain development means fewer resources to deal with life's problems, including money.

Having fewer resources often leads to poverty.

Poverty leads to...

Clay Allard said...

In my experience growing up inside a rich prep school, it is your last paragraph which is the truth.
In fact, drug use is much more open and extravagant in the rich-- they have the money to cultivate the habit. Rich people can cover up their antisocial tendencies by buying silence.

Rachel S said...

I think this is very true in the larger population, but what implications does this have on a place like Centre? I think that the majority of vandalism, drug problems, and citations here probably go to those who have more money.

I have no evidence to back this up except my own observations, but it seems that in this setting, those who are on need-based aid are overall more conscientious because they/their parents may not have the money to pay for citations let alone attourneys' fees.

Maybe this is because the students with lower ses's are more motivated in general than most with the same ses. Just a thought.

Gruntled said...

Clay, I agree - though I think prep schools promote foolish actions more that middle class life in general does. I think we are in agreement that if the personal bad actions of one group become social problems, whereas the personal bad actions of another group do not become social problems, society benefits from the latter.

Rachel, that sounds like a great study. Want to try even a small version - a halfway survey, perhaps?

Susan said...

I find "social problems are caused by the poor" to be a tremendous simplification of the larger societal forces generally created by the powerful (aka wealthy class) that are the cause of the poverty. Here in Durham NC, for example, we had a huge minority middle class that was pretty much systematically destroyed by the powerful majority through Urban renewal. Hundreds of small businesses were bulldozed and not rebuilt as promised. I argue the root cause of the social problems here is the societal oppression that destroyed the fabric of the community. Sorry - just got stuck on your use of the word cause. I do agree poor people statistically tend to commit more crime, I think this is a cognitive break down that occurs in living in crisis over generations such that planning is impossible, so if you never learn how to plan, you don't understand consequences. Plus a bunch of other stuff. I could go on and on. I won't. Hi Beau, this is what happens when you send out an alumni survey.
Susan Scherffius Jakes '92

Gruntled said...

Hi, Susan. I was hoping the survey would have collateral benefits.

Yes, I wrestled with whether to distinguish individual level social problems from collective ones. Even at that level, though, I think the point holds. The rich, including the state, can keep their individualish problems - bulldozing this business - from becoming social problems by rebuilding the business. That they did not in this case does not settle the question of whether the state does or does not compensate individuals most of the time.