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Legal Lawbreakers: When Should A Person Be Considered A Criminal?

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American society can be oddly hypocritical.  For instance, career criminals get a bad rap because they not only break the laws that everyone is supposed to follow, laws that theoretically are in placed to better society, but that they also figure out ways to exploits loopholes in existing laws to their own benefit.  The reason why it can seem hypocritical is because when bank executives and other high-powered white collar workers do it, they get bailed out despite the fact that their errors can lead to monumentally larger negative ripples for the public than those caused by blue collar criminals.

There are many terms for this phenomenon: double standard, unfair exceptions, so for, but I think the most accurate term for it is legal law-breaking or legal violations of the law.  Like it?  Good, because I coined it (trademark pending).

Legal law-breaking isn’t just limited to white collar industries either.  Take the police, for example.  Ever since cops were required to read arrested individuals their Miranda rights, which was a protocol designed to protect people’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, the number of guilty pleas have actually gone up since its enactment.  Odd don’t you think?   One would think that if people knew their constitutional rights, those people would be less likely to plead guilty and confess.  The reason is because police learned to adapt to the new legal requirement and adjust their tactics accordingly in order to trick suspects into waiving their rights.  They were able to accomplish this feat through a combination of coercion and downplaying the importance of those constitutionally protected rights.  Don’t believe me?  Well good sir, listen to the gospel that is The Wire.

The latest legal law breaker comes courtesy of the credit card industry, which after the passage of the Credit CARD Act of 2009, has found new ways to violate the law designed to protect consumers without actually violating it.

We’ve discussed the CARD Act ad nauseam in this blog before.  The Act provides a number of consumer protections in the form of fuller disclosures and capped interest rates; but more importantly it also puts some preventive measures in place to protect the future credit of young consumers.  Specifically the Act disallowed credit card companies from setting up booths on college campuses and giving promotional gifts away in exchange for signing up, as well as requiring anyone under 21 years old to secure an adult co-signer before they can be given a credit card.  Essentially, the Act made it so that those in the most susceptible position and at the most risk, young people, could no longer be exploited.

However, the clever credit card companies recently changed their advertising tactics and have started to release credit cards with cartoon and video game characters, as well as tween celebrity idols like Kim Kardashian and Robert Pattinson printed on them.  To be fair, the Kim Kardashian credit card was pulled soon after it was released due to legal action from Kardashian herself, but in essence, now instead of targeting college students, credit card companies are now going after adolescents.

Some may think this is a pretty extreme statement.  I mean, just because something has a popular youth associated icon on it doesn’t mean that people from that demographic will actually want it, right?  To those who think this, I ask: Does Joe Camel ring any bells?

Anyway, hopefully this post conveys that our society’s traditional view of lawbreakers isn’t as accurate as we think it is, and that perhaps the definition of criminal, as well as the taint that comes with such a label, should be expanded to include those beyond the masked robber.  Because really, who’s hurt you more lately, the marijuana dealer on your corner or Washington Mutual?

As always, we love to hear what you think.  Please share your thoughts below.


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