Violence and the Economy

by Paula Apynys for The Economy

We’ve had another mass shooting. The immediate aftermath of these events automatically initiates a firestorm of accusations, counter-accusations, arguments about gun-control, terrorism, the media, political positioning, etc. More people buy guns, we call each other a new round of names as disagreements get heated and then we settle back into our lives and wait for the next shooting (at which point that whole cycle spins again). Mixed in with the blaming is always the analysis by various folks as to why these things happen and keep happening, and what we might do about it all.

It occurred to me today that, as with many things, we are focusing a bit too granularly on the individuals and their lives, when it might help to take a few steps back. It then occurred to me that we can spin our wheels and spend lots of time and money trying to solve the host of problems/issues of which violent outbreaks are the symptom, or we can get down to root causes.

The root causes always boil down to money and the lack thereof. We spend money on guns, but not on mental-health care. We arm the police but don’t provide jobs that pay a living wage to all our citizens.

In our society money equals power at the most basic level. If you don’t have enough money to meet reasonable expenses with some left over you stop being in control of your life. A feeling of powerlessness is at the root of most types of violence. We can factor in a bunch of other stuff on top of the powerlessness but all those things simply influence how the violence will manifest, not the fundamental cause of the violence.

Worldwide we see violence break out when groups are consistently abused—rendered powerless. 

What we really need to get a grip on in the U.S. is figuring out how to create an economy that pays a living wage from the bottom-up. We need to stop with the “it can’t be done” and start trying to figure out how it can be done. 

We had a period of some 30 years, post WWII to somewhere in the 70’s or so when most Americans really did enjoy a sense of financial security and the associated well-being. Conditions have changed and we’ve been stuck or back-sliding ever since. I don’t think we can recreate the economic past but I also don’t think we should assume there are no avenues available to us to create a positive future.

America is full of angry, insecure people right now. The roots are economic and the solutions are economic. The same applies to countries in the Middle East and everywhere else in the world where there is unrest, violence, etc. 

We can’t fix what’s wrong elsewhere unless we figure out how to fix things here first. Then we have something to offer. But as long as we flap around trying to solve fifty-separate-problems, all of which are manifestations of financial insecurity and feelings of powerlessness, we will stay stuck where we are.

Leave a Reply