Answering Ben Stein’s Question

Ben Stein published a pretty awful editorial defending Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the IMF head arrested for sexual assault. Now, I don’t disagree with him about the presumption of innocence, but the rest of the article effectively argues that smart, rich people simply don’t commit crimes. In particular, he says this:

In life, events tend to follow patterns. People who commit crimes tend to be criminals, for example. Can anyone tell me any economists who have been convicted of violent sex crimes?

On a whim, I just did a little research, and couldn’t believe what I found.  Guess who holds an economics degree?

Paul Bernardo.

For those not familiar with the case, Bernardo is one of the nastiest serial killers in history. He and his wife drugged, raped, and tortured to death a number of schoolgirls in the late 80′s and early 90′s. The story is the stuff of nightmares.

I’ll leave the debate over the rest of Mr. Stein’s article to others. But as for his suggestion that studying economics precludes becoming a violent sex criminal, it seems history provides one hell of a counterexample.

Edit: James Urbaniak has a list of some other economists involved in sex crimes.

300 thoughts on “Answering Ben Stein’s Question

  1. I was surprised to find out that Ben Stein was a conservative, I heard him speak in 2004. Not saying that’s a bad thing.

  2. Ben was talking in general. If you took all of the people in jail. The majority of them would be poorer people. Kinda like your serial killer mention where as the majority of them are white 30 to 40 years old

  3. The disproportionate number of poor people in jail has little to do with who commits crime. It’s mostly a product of competent representation at multiple levels (political and legal). Of course, there are some crimes much more likely to be committed by the poor, but it isn’t a divide of violent versus non-violent. Also, I would guess that better educated and wealthier people are less likely to get caught.

  4. another to add
    Burger, 37, a former Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. employee who graduated from Princeton University with a degree in economics, avoided a jury trial by taking the plea deal offered by the state and pleading guilty to a lesser felony charge.

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  6. For those not familiar with the case, Bernardo is one of the nastiest serial killers in history. He and his wife drugged, raped, and tortured to death a number of schoolgirls in the late 80′s and early 90′s. The story is the stuff of nightmares.

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