Contemporary Social Problems
University of Alabama
Professional Awareness Statement
CONTEMPORARY SOCIAL PROBLEMS 2
The causes of social problems exist on many levels. When we ask why social problems such as poverty, unemployment, crime, and war exist, each time we determine a cause, we can ask "why" again, as children often do until they are hushed. Poverty exists because some people can't find jobs or the jobs the have pay poorly. But then why is the wage level so low? Because of the tax and land-tenure systems. Why do we have those systems? Because special interests pay to legislate it. Why do special interests get away with it? The voting structure lets them. Why does that structure exist? The voters don't demand to change it. Why not? When we dig down through all the layers to the roots of the causes, we find three fundamental causes of social problems: ignorance, apathy, and greed. The ultimate remedy for social problems therefore must confront all three root causes. As an example of the interplay between ignorance, apathy, and greed, consider the problem of pollution. Suppose the most efficient preventative is a pollution charge based on the damage caused by each pollutant. However, the government regulates pollution instead, a policy failure that needlessly reduces employment and economic growth. One possible cause is ignorance. But suppose the best policy is known. The owners of the polluting industries seek to influence legislation to prevent the best policy. Because of their campaign contributions and other favors, the government adopts the poorer policy. The cause in this case is greed, both by the influence seeker and by corrupted politicians. The mere desire for wealth is avarice, rather than greed. By itself, avarice does no harm, and may even do social good as a motivator to...