White Collar Crime

This article was found in the Heritage Foundation's collection, in case readers have been wondering how they've been thinking about crime lately.

Quotes from The Sociological Origins of "White-Collar Crime," by John S. Baker, Jr. Legal Memorandum #14. [Accessed: 10.21.06]

The author writes:

"Despite the rhetoric, the decision to prosecute is unavoidably discretionary. How do prosecutors determine whom to prosecute? All too often, the choice reflects contemporary politics--and today's criminal du jour is the "white-collar" crook. Yet when most people talk about vigorously prosecuting white-collar crime, they don't mean locking up those who purchase medicine from neighboring countries or pirate music over the Internet, despite the fact that such crimes defraud pharmaceutical and music corporations (and thus their shareholders) of billions of dollars.

"What accounts for the difference in treatment? The Justice Department's formal definition of white-collar crime disregards class or economic status. But the truth is that in white-collar cases, such distinctions do influence decisions about whether or not to prosecute. Government prosecutors are far more likely to indict the "upper-class" businessman who works for Tyco--or the faceless Arthur Andersen partnership--than a middle-class grandmother who buys medications in Canada. This reflects the socialist origin of the "white-collar crime" concept. The war against white-collar crime thus unwittingly stems from and embraces a class-based sociological concept of crime."

His conclusion:

"The origin of the "white-collar crime" concept derives from a socialist, anti-business viewpoint that defines the term by the class of those it stigmatizes. In coining the phrase, Sutherland initiated a political movement within the legal system. This meddling in the law perverts the justice system into a mere tool for achieving narrow political ends. As the movement expands today, those who champion it would be wise to recall its origins. For those origins reflect contemporary misuses made of criminal law--the criminalization of productive social and economic conduct, not because of its wrongful nature but, ultimately, because of fidelity to a long-discredited class-based view of society [emphasis supplied].

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by published on November 9, 2006 10:23 PM.

How to Spend $1.2 Billion for the War on Drugs: Little Positive, Mostly Negative Effects was the previous entry in this blog.

White Collar Crime Prosecutions Hit 5 Year Low is the next entry in this blog.

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