A little learning may stop a dangerous thing

That Jamaica is a country with a serious crime problem is not something I want to contest. Better minds than mine have tried to come up with proposals for dealing with it, especially its most violent aspects. But, crime has crept into the society in a way that may be hard to ease out, without some cataclysmic changes.

One thing that seems to characterise criminals is lower than average intelligence. I am not going to contest those findings. It’s something for Jamaicans to ponder. We get all prickly when we read how well some of our schools and students have done–such as in yesterday’s papers, which reported Ardenne High School to have been the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) School of the Year for 2013 in the region, and also for producing the top Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) CAPE student this year — Dea Thomas (see picture from Jamaica Observer).Screen Shot 2013-10-26 at 2.29.50 PM However, we have goosebumps for other reasons when some of the failures of the educational system are caught brandishing arms or committing some horrible deed of villainy. But, they are two sides of the came coin.

I read something interesting about why criminals have lower intelligence, and it may be worth reading to ponder for yourself. Part of its argument is that much brutal behaviour reflects what was once the norm for competing for scarce resources (theft rather than full-time employment) and obtaining mating opportunities (physical domination). The ‘criminal’, in some sense, has not understood fully the consequences of criminal behavior that is imposed by modern forms of law enforcement. In a simplistic construction, they really don’t understand that they will be caught doing deeds that society now says are bad, and that being caught is much simpler than it used to be because technology can help.

I understand this argument in part, and I see it played out in many crimes that seem to beg out for someone to just say to the perpetrator: “Hello, silly, can’t you see that you are doing something wrong, in broad day light and in front of a bunch of people?” Clearly, that does not seem to register with some criminals. Look at attempted robberies in crowded places in broad day light.

I read a few of the crime cases in today’s paper and can only conclude that people who had a hard time reasoning and also could not put together an image that they were easy to observe have gone ahead with an activity and, lo and behold, they get caught and are now looking at jail time. How else can you explain people who tried to operate a ‘secret’ sand mine? (See picture from Jamaica Observer.) It’s like the story of people in Greece, who declared their properties to be lower in value to avoid tax obligations. The persons could not fathom that now it would not be hard to use aerial surveillance to see what was on the ground, clearly visible from the sky.Screen Shot 2013-10-26 at 2.16.25 PM Murders and rapes are not necessarily easy to detect, in a similar way, and often become difficult to solve because there is some intimate relation going on that is often not easy to see or detect. But, let’s not get into the forensics.

The real solution to Jamaica’s crime problem may well be something that has only a long-term chance of success, because it depends on developing much more intelligent citizens. From what I can see, little research has been undertaken into the social returns of education, and also its link to criminal activity. That may be something for our institutions to begin to redress.

Author: Dennis G Jones (aka 'The Grasshopper')

Retired International Monetary Fund economist. My blog is for organizing my ideas and thoughts about a range of topics. I was born in Jamaica, but spent 30 years being educated, living, and working in the UK. I lived in the USA for two decades, and worked and travelled abroad, extensively, throughout my careers and for pleasure. My views have a wide international perspective. Father of 3 girls. Also, married to an economist. :)