Born criminals are not actually a thing.

Today, I am thinking about the vast numbers of people who cling to the belief that only bad people do bad things. Bad, irredeemable people who would do those things even if measures were put in place to stop them. Rapists are aggressive, violent monsters who stalk their prey carefully, and whom you can identify with a trained eye. Murderers are hardened professional criminals (or insane!) who can only be stopped by superior weaponry. It’s like the label precedes the event: rapists and murderers are that way at birth, apparently.

There’s a grain of truth in that theory of People, and it’s this: no, you can’t stop people determined to do wrong, not by any regulation or law and only occasionally by education (but then usually by the close personal encounter variety). You can’t stop somebody who truly believes information should be free from stealing your novel or your song. Somebody who really wants to murder somebody will find a way. Somebody intent on dominating and torturing somebody sexually will find a target.

But most crimes aren’t a matter of cold-blooded planning. They’re a response to a moment of strong emotion. I need that song it’s not fair I have to buy the whole CD. She led me on. Oh god, he saw my face. I thought he had a gun too. That fucking cheater. God, why do I have to pay Comcast AND HBO to watch GoT when they post it on their website? I could make a killing if I stopped compartmentalizing my financial knowledge for a moment.

And intelligent regulation and general education DOES help with crimes like that. Not all of them, of course. But many, many. Because labels don’t precede the actions that earned them. People make choices. If we help, they can make informed choices.

Remember: most people want to do what’s right as they understand it. But there’s a reason the Christian devil is associated with temptation.


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