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Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Bad Behavior Is Not Necessarily Criminal Behavior

     There is no real answer to the question, what is crime? There are popular ideas about crime: crime is bad behavior, antisocial behavior, blameworthy acts, and the like. But in a very basic sense, crime is a legal concept: what makes some conduct criminal, and other conduct not, is the fact that some, but not others, are "against the law."

     All sorts of nasty acts and evil deeds are not against the law, and thus not crimes. These include most of the daily events that anger or irritate us, even those we might consider totally outrageous. Ordinary lying is not a crime; cheating on a wife or husband is not a crime; charging a huge markup at a restaurant or store is not, in general, a crime; psychological abuse is (mostly) not a crime.

Lawrence M. Friedman, Crime and Punishment in American History, 1993

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