Putting aside any morality and looking at crime solely as an economic product, I would like to justify from the perspective of economics, why it is extremely favorable to become a criminal, especially in Bihar. The aim of the discussion is not to promote criminals in my native state but to make them realize that more than anything else, the state policies bring down the cost of production of crime, as well as risks associated it with, in turn making criminalism an extremely lucrative profession. In other words, I would like to lay an economic foundation to the oft heard line in a plethora of hindi movies which goes like this: mujhe samaaj ne apraadhi bana diya (society made me a criminal).
There are various form of committing a crime. Let me take rape as a specific example to proceed with.
The net benefit, in words, of raping anyone is the satisfaction that one can arrive by forcefully penetrating a woman. Such a benefit, by its nature is extremely difficult to quantify. For lack of quantification, it is impossible to prove whether a criminal activity like raping is economically justified or not. In this sense, raping someone is like buying diamonds. You buy diamonds because you like them, just like you rape someone because you see some value in it. Now the maximum price that one might be willing to pay to either rape or buy diamonds in a way can be taken as a proxy for the monitory value of the benefit one sees in it.
There is one basic difference too, between buying diamonds and raping. You cannot go mine diamonds yourself, unlike the way you can rape someone. This brings into picture, the role of the producer/seller, and hence the concept of profit-margin. As a produce, if it costs me 1000 rupees to make available 1 gram of diamond, and if I am selling it off for 1500, I make a profit of 500 bucks which goes straight to my pocket. Thus though the value of the diamond (based on costs involved in making it available from under the earth) is less than the price the market is paying for it. And the market is paying more for it, because it sees more value in it, than just the cost involved in its extraction. Same applies to raping someone. Say, in money terms if the average total cost of committing a rape is equal to 10,000 bucks per female, and you still commit rape, you of course perceive more value in it, if at the end of it, you still think you had a net gain. They who think it was a stupid thing to do, or they acted on impulsion, basically see a net loss. So if you notice, your ex-ante valuation (i.e before raping) and post-ante valuation might not be the same. It’s almost like betting on a new product. You don’t assign value on it based on how much it cost the manufacturer, but based on the benefits you perceive from it. After having paid a hefty amount, you might soon realize that it wasn’t worth it.
In the absence of an open market for rape, one cannot find out the average value of the product. But the fact remains, that an average value will indeed exist (the average of ex-ante, post-ante, the average between a large group who value it differently etc.). Now if overall, the market is making a profit, i.e if more people think that it was a net gain for them than a net loss, then the value is of course more than the total cost. In the case of raping you cannot ‘see’ a profit because it is not tradeable good. But as along as overall, most feel they had a net gain, it is safe to assume that on an average, the value of rape is more than sum total of all costs. Like any, other sector, if overall there is a net gain, more and more people will start doing it. Thus a growth rate is an indicator of economic sustainability. Given that the growth rate of crime in general and rape in particular in Bihar has been steady, one can actually assume that most actually do feel, that there is net gain in raping a person.
The total cost of committing any crime could be split up into following main categories:
- capital cost (weapons, vehicles, fuel etc.)
- labour cost
- tax component (fraction of profit paid to the authorized agencies that includes the police bodies and state government employees)
- the costs associated with risk involved
All the above costs are directly controlled by the state policy. As long as a state can manage to keep these costs lower than the benefits perceived, committing crime becomes economically sensible. For criminal activities like say rape, the capital and labour cost components will be (almost) zero (assuming that you are man enough, and don’t hire others to help you). Also, the cost will depend on who you are raping (or to say, the risk involved is not solely dependent on state policy). Trying to rape the daughter of an MLA might be too costly for you to ever match whatever value you see in that.
For the sake of bringing down my discussion to a conclusion, let me freeze the kind of person who is being raped. Now the cost depends only on the tax component and costs of risks. So, it makes economic sense to commit the crime in a state where these two costs are low. This is precisely, why more rapes happen in Bihar than probably anywhere else. The same economic logic also supports other criminal activities like murdering, extortions etc. In the case of extortions, it becomes easy to quantify the net benefit because it happens in money terms mostly. But let me leave it, here.