Middle Class Low Economic Morality
The "law-abiding majority of citizens" often cited by politicians does not seem to exist. Rather, there is a widespread propensity for everyday crimes in mainstream society, warn two UK criminologists.
Susanne Karstedt and Stephen Farrall from the University of Keele interviewed about 4,500 people aged between 25 and 65 in England and Wales as well as in West and East Germany about their economic experiences and inclinations. The respondents all had a high level of education and a good income - they belonged to the economically active, upper middle class, which suffers from a relatively low risk of unemployment.
The survey revealed that so-called everyday crimes are widespread in this social class. These include, for example, cash payments to embezzle VAT, false information given to insurance companies, concealed defects in second-hand sales or the demand for unauthorized reimbursements.
Three quarters of all respondents have fallen victim to such "minor crimes" at least once. 64 percent showed no inhibitions about using these practices against others themselves. The proportion of law-breaking citizens in West Germany was particularly high: 68 percent of West Germans could imagine paying bills "black". In East Germany, the proportion of VAT cheaters was 58 percent, in England and Wales 46 percent.
The researchers suspect that many consumers feel cheated by neoliberal economic reforms. The widespread hunt for profit of unrestrained market activity undermines moral concepts and promotes selfish behavior. The law-abiding majority of "honorable citizens" is therefore only a chimera.