Dalrymple has a short piece for City Journal on George Thompson, the man whose act of arson helped kickoff the 2011 London riots and who was just sentenced to over 11 years in prison as a result. Dalrymple notes that Thompson had already had an extensive criminal record long before the arson.
What, you might ask, was such a man doing at liberty? Well, most importantly, he was providing a living for the lawyers who defended him when he was caught: he was what one might call a criminal Keynesian. And he was providing ammunition for penological liberals who argue that prison doesn’t work. After all, he had been to prison and still he set fire to the furniture store, endangering the lives of so many people!
Hmmm “providing a living for the lawyers who defended him” I recall reading about how the American psychologist Robert Sternberg, when he was at college there was a lot of pressure to be a lawyer but he was adamant that he was going to do what he loved.
Many years later he went to a college reunion and sure enough, according to him, a high proportion had since become lawyers – what was most notable was that few of them seemed happy in their career but the money was good and a change in career was very unappealing.
In essence I believe he was saying that most of them compensated for a lack of intrinsic worth in their jobs by focusing on the extrinsic rewards that could be bought with money.
Not so much a keeping up with, but an outdoing the Jones’ a kind of arms race mentality manifest in nihilistic display of wealth and status that inturn probably sets the tone for much of society – creating greater tensions, the rich/poor divide and, you guessed it – more crime.