Larry Elder

"Why no video of looters in Japan?"

Japan's prime minister calls the 9.0 earthquake and the following tsunami the greatest crisis in Japan since World War II. Ten thousand people are feared dead. Millions are without power, and millions sleep outdoors in cold weather. But we haven't seen looting. So I posted this question on Facebook and Twitter.

"Race is not an issue," Mike replied. "Third World countries like Haiti loot due to poverty. Japan is like America, an economic superpower. Plain and simple."

"Poverty equals crime" is the standard "plain and simple" explanation, especially to the left. The analysis contains holes big enough to drive a Hummer through.

In the "economic superpower" called America, we see widespread looting following natural disasters, as well as during power blackouts, "civil unrest" and basketball team victory celebrations. If we attribute this to American poverty, what about Japanese poverty?

"Japan Tries to Face Up to Growing Poverty Problem," read the headline of a 2010 New York Times article. Here are excerpts:

"After years of economic stagnation and widening income disparities, this once proudly egalitarian nation is belatedly waking up to the fact that it has a large and growing number of poor people. The Labor Ministry's disclosure in October that almost one in six Japanese, or 20 million people, lived in poverty in 2007 stunned the nation and ignited a debate over possible remedies that has raged ever since.

"Many Japanese, who cling to the popular myth that their nation is uniformly middle class, were further shocked to see that Japan's poverty rate, at 15.7 percent, was close to the ... 17.1 percent in the United States, whose glaring social inequalities have long been viewed with scorn and pity here. ...

"Following an internationally recognized formula, the (Labor Ministry) set the poverty line at about $22,000 a year for a family of four, half of Japan's median household income. Researchers estimate that Japan's poverty rate has doubled since the nation's real estate and stock markets collapsed in the early 1990s, ushering in two decades of income stagnation and even decline."

If Japan's percentage of people living below the poverty line is about the same as ours, and if poverty causes crime as Mike suggests, why isn't the crime rate in Japan about the same as ours?


Larry Elder

Larry Elder is a best-selling author and radio talk-show host. To find out more about Larry Elder, or become an "Elderado," visit www.LarryElder.com.