Doc Bonn Explains White-Collar Crime and Elite Deviance.
Would you be surprised to know that white-collar crime is far more costly to U.S. society than so-called street crime? In fact, it is 100 times more costly. Yet so much attention is given to street crime by the media, law enforcement and politicians that many of us do not recognize the extent or terrible consequences of white-collar crime and elite deviance in the U.S.
Exactly what are white-collar crime and elite deviance? White-collar crime involves lying, cheating, and stealing by business and government professionals within the context of their employment. The term white-collar crime—reportedly coined in 1939—is now synonymous with the full range of frauds committed by business and government professionals.
Contrary to what many people believe, white-collar crime is not a victimless crime. A single scam can destroy a company, devastate families by wiping out their life savings, or cost investors billions of dollars (or even all three, as in the infamous Enron case). Today’s fraud schemes are more sophisticated than ever, and we are dedicated to using our skills to track down the culprits and stop scams before they start.
Listen to Doc Bonn’s analysis of white collar crime on a recent episode of
Unfortunately, the crimes of privileged individuals within the context of either legitimate corporations or government offices frequently go undetected and unprosecuted due to their power and influence in society. As far back as 1956, the late sociologist C. Wright Mills observed that a small group of wealthy and powerful individuals control America’s dominant institutions (i.e., politics, economy and the military) and they are insulated from public scrutiny. Mills called this group the power elite. Interestingly, Mills was echoed in 1961 by President Eisenhower in his farewell address when he warned of the self-serving and criminal acts of the “military-industrial complex”—that is, his term for the power elite.
A central contradiction of the power elite is that they frequently violate the very laws they are sworn to uphold. Mills argued that bound by mutual interests, the power elite periodically commit acts of elite wrongdoing (e.g., dumping toxic waste) and enact policies (e.g., declaration of an unprovoked war) that are designed to perpetuate their power and preserve their control over society. Mills stated that elite acts that cause either physical or social harm represent the higher immorality of the power elite.
Mills argued that not only crime per se, but also governmental deeds that cause social harm, regardless of their criminality in a legal sense, be included in the conceptual definition. Another U.S. sociologist named David Simon in 1995 expanded upon Mills’ concept of the higher immorality to include immoral or unethical acts in his concept of “elite deviance.” According to Simon, elite deviance is the deviant behavior of societal elites (the people who head governmental or corporate institutions) that makes them negative role models who encourage distrust, cynicism, and alienation among non-elites.
Acts of elite deviance take place in part because of the way corporate, political, and military intelligence institutions are structured: they are bureaucracies. Significantly, bureaucratic organizations are structured in ways that regularize crime and deviance. More specifically, bureaucracies are goal-oriented, amoral entities which exist to maximize profits and/or expand their own power. These goals encourage an ends over means mentality among the top commanders of bureaucracies. For example, the top executives of a public, for-profit corporation are well aware that the board of directors and shareholders are much more interested in meeting quarterly profit goals than they are in the actual decisions and actions required to meet those goals.
The higher immorality of the power elite is also possible because the elites do not have to win the moral consent of those over whom they hold power. Instead, a passive U.S. society simply trusts that the elites will act on behalf of the so-called public interest. C. Wright Mills argued that this condition is accompanied by a “fear of knowledge” and anti-intellectualism in modern society. Mills concluded that the higher immorality is a systematic feature of the American societal elite. Its general acceptance by the public without critique is an essential feature of modern U.S. society.
Dr. Scott Bonn is Professor of Criminology at Drew University and a media expert. He is the author of the critically acclaimed book “Mass Deception: Moral Panic and the U.S. War on Iraq.” Doc Bonn is currently researching and writing a book on the public’s fascination with serial homicide and psychopathic serial killers in fact and fiction. Follow him @DocBonn on Twitter and email him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Dr. Scott Bonn Appears in A&E Feature: The Long Island Serial Killer (imaginepublicity.com)
- Crime Wire: Crime Wears a White Collar! (dennisngriffin.com)
- The Roth Show: Dr. Scott Bonn Talks Criminology and Serial Killers (imaginepublicity.com)
- Crime Wire: Part II Dr. Scott Bonn Discusses the Long Island Serial Killer (crimewire.blogspot.com)
- The Susan Murphy Milano Show with Dr. Scott Bonn, Criminologist, Author and Professor (imaginepublicity.com)
Posted on August 9, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged Crime and Punishment for white collar crime, Doc Bonn, Dr. Scott Bonn, Elite Deviance, Political crime, white collar crime. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.