Criminally rich: all the money in the world

I guess I’m taking a break from our macro-economy, today. Today’s International Herald Tribune has a story about rich criminals:

The rich should be a law-abiding lot if the theory that crime has its roots in poverty has any credence. And on the whole it appears they are–or at least can afford the lawyers to keep it looking that way. Of the more than 1,200 wealthy individuals that have appeared on Forbes’s annual list of the 400 richest Americans over the past quarter century at least 13 have been convicted of serious crimes or jailed.

They include some well-known names: Wall Street’s, Ivan Boesky and Michael Milkin from the Gordon Gecko junk bond era, the silver-speculating Hunt brothers, media diva Martha Stewart and the late Leona Hemsley, the hotelier.

Three other Forbes 400 listers were convicted but later pardoned – commodities financiers Pincus Green and Marc Rich and industrialist Armand Hammer. Two more were charged but acquitted – gangster Meyer Lansky and oil magnate T. Cullen Davis.

So that makes 16 of 1,200 convicted (pardons don’t count), a Rich People crime rate of 1.333%.

Wandering over to disastercenter.com, I can find comparable numbers for other crimes in the US, in 2005 – something the IHT didn’t do (because, after all, of what value is context, in statistics?):

Crime rates

We see our Rich folk are in fact committing crimes at lower rates than the broader population (Property and Larceny, I figure, are the closest).

This, by the by, has involved me using only 2005 data for comparison, but 25 years of data for Rich People – hardly fair, and drastically inflating the representation of Rich Crime among Rich People (simply discounted, their rate ought to be something like 0.053% (dividing by 25, to make it one year) to 0.444% (dividing by 3, to clear 400 from 1,200)).

Done.

I shouldn’t bother, really. The fact that this writer (Paul Maidment from Forbes.com) uses his half-statistic to criticise criminal (and welfare, and social) theory, and theorists, with lines like:

Criminologists today frame crime in terms of relative poverty. As Karl Marx said, “A house can be large or small; as long as the surrounding houses are equally small, it satisfies all social demands. But if a palace rises beside the little house, the little house shrinks into a hut.”

Should really disqualify the article from serious consideration of any kind (seriously, WTF? “As Karl Marx said”? That made no bloody sense).

The Rich should not, Mr. Maidment, “be a law-abiding lot”. They should commit crimes – or, more importantly, be convicted for crimes, at a lower rate than any group not as rich. Which is precisely what we observe.

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