Saturday, January 8, 2011

Information Superhighway Robbery

Pinning the decline in street crime on the decline in cash usage is an interesting and plausible idea, but this article only hints at the larger implications:

There's no question, though, that shifting away from a cash economy would increase the burden on street criminals. At the same time, it would shift the opportunities for malfeasance toward more sophisticated electronic crime, like hacking and e-mail scams. Some high-tech muggers can already steal your money with an ATM keypad that detects your PIN number, a card skimmer, or an entire fake ATM. And the folks designing these high-tech scams won't be former street dealers. They'll be people with more education and higher income. Indeed, as street crime has dropped over the last two decades, white collar and online crime has gone way up, according to the National White Collar Crime Center. In a cashless world, the crime gap will be even wider. "Essentially, the rich will have stolen crime from the poor," says Wright.

This is to say nothing of corporate malfeasance. Enron made millions by engineering an energy crisis and falsifying information. The financial crisis and Great Recession were caused by arcane housing market trading schemes (that were perfectly legal) which grew completely out of control, an economic meth lab that blew up the servants' quarters and charred the rest of the house. The greed and negligence at work in these puts muggers, hustlers, drug dealers, and petty thieves to shame, but since no one's getting robbed at gunpoint we don't think of the grand larcenists as thieves. We should.

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