Yes, there is a collective moral insensitivity "among the most wealthy and powerful members of US corporate, political and military elite. The elite are responsible for a variety of unethical, corrupt and/or illegal practices, but these institutionalized and systematic features have been accepted by contemporary US society. Elite crime encompasses all of the following: interpersonal manipulation or false front, unethical practices relating to executive salaries and expense accounts, unfair executive and corporate tax advantages, deliberate creation of political and/or economic crises, manipulation of public opinion, violation of antitrust and other laws relating to political corruption and have established relationships with members of organized crime to further increase their wealth and power" (Simon, pg. 45, 2012). A small number of individuals control the majority of corporate interests. The US compared to other modern democracies has less equally distributed wealth according to international data. Directorships that represent less than 0.5% of the population interlock half of the nation's bank deposits. Two thirds of all business income is controlled by fifty financial institutions and five hundred of the largest manufacturing firms. Over one third of the nation's gross national product is under the direct authority of a very small corporate community. These same individuals also have a significant indirect influence over the remainder of the nation's goods and services (Simon, pg. 16, 2012). The total value of more than half of all publicly traded stocks in addition to thirty three percent of net wealth is in the hands of the top one percent (Simon, pg. 11, 2012). Two hundred thirty three out of two hundred and fifty of large US corporations have CEO's that sit on the board of another top ranking company according to one study. The Clayton Antitrust Act passed in 1914 made it illegal for CEO's to hold seats on the board of competing companies, but it was discovered that some of them still do (Simon, pg. 16, 2012). There are many negative societal consequences as a result of elite deviance such as dangerous products, increased motivation for the average person to commit deviance and high prices. "It is estimated that as many people die each year from illness and injuries contracted on the job 100,000-200,000 than are murdered by all street criminals. The monetary costs of elite deviance are thought to contribute substantially to inflation; estimates range from $17.7 to $231 billion a year in the prices added to goods and services. Estimates of the costs of corporate crime range from $174 and $200 billion annually, more than the cost of all other types of crime plus the cost of running the entire criminal justice system combined." Corporate leaders have too much power and direct influence over the majority of Americans. Our incomes are dependent on wages and salaries issued by corporate leaders who can determine whether or not to invest money in their offices and factories. Employees can be hired, fired or promoted with little or no notice according to how the wealthy and powerful determine who is worthy. A city, state or country's growth and stability can be jeopardized by a lack of business confidence in government. Our appointed and elected officials are also indirectly influenced by the corporate rich. The majority of government officials share similar cultural and educational affiliations and/or experiences and come from corporate backgrounds, so the political party in charge of running the white house has hardly any impact. The financial spread between governmental representatives and the average American continues to increase. These candidates only represent the wealthy who are a limited constituency. The US senate is composed of a total of 100 senators containing 40 millionaires as of 2003 of which eighteen were democrats and twenty two were republicans (Simon, pg. 18, 2012). Congressman can conceal millions of dollars in assets and income because of the vague reporting requirements (Simon, pg. 19, 2012). The majority rule principle can be violated by the lobbying done by special interest groups. Financial support of political candidates, deals and propaganda enable the political process to be deflected for the benefit of special interest groups. The existence of lobbyists do not allow for national interests to be served because only the concerns of the groups with the most money and power are heard. The interests of the most vulnerable populations such as: the cognitively impaired, migrant workers, minority groups, the poor, schoolchildren, the elderly and the mentally ill are often not considered. (Simon, pg. 24, 2012). Despite whether they win or lose a significant influence is exerted over economic interests by corporate lobbies. On the rare occasion that the concerns of all groups are heard it is no match for the financial resources of the elite that the lobbyists hold. Special interests employ their finances to create laws that are favored by big business which produce monopolistic and uncompetitive situations. The wealthy and powerful continue to receive loopholes and beneficial rulings from the government. Candidates and political parties cannot receive funds directly from corporations by law, but they continue to make illegal political campaign contributions. Employees may be provided with money from their corporation even though they appear to making contributions on an individual basis. As a condition of employment employees may be forced to make political contribution to a party or candidate. The Watergate scandal exposed that political expenditures are often covered up through the use of fraudulent bookkeeping practices (Simon, pg. 25, 2012). Corporate interests fund PAC which makes up the largest source of congressional campaign funds (Simon, pg. 26, 2012). Democracy is in danger because the institutional power structure has been altered by PAC money. The public confidence in the electoral process and government as a whole are threatened because PAC funds provide candidates access to unlimited funds for their political campaigns (Simon, pg. 27, 2012). Enormous costs are involved in order for political campaigns to be successful which means the candidate has to have access to wealth or be wealthy him or herself. For example, the cost to elect a representative and/or senator in 1992 was up to $5.5 million. The necessary campaign finances can only be obtained when parties they constrain their candidate choice to those with views that match elite interests (Simon, pg. 28 2012). In the US virtually every small and large US business is impacted in some way by independent regulatory agencies (Simon, pg. 31, 2012). Personnel from independent regulatory agencies are subject to lobbying. For example, this person could be made an employment offer their industry with the corporation they are auditing. Another example would be an individual used to audit or inspect a company that came from the industry they oversee that was involved in the requested initial regulation. Elite deviance results in the unequal administration of laws. Corporate crime investigation and prosecution remains a low priority to the federal government (Simon, pg. 32, 2012). Local, state and federal law enforcement are biased because they focus all their efforts on crimes committed by average Americans (Simon, pg. 33, 2012). The enforcement of laws among the wealthy and powerful is rare and for those who have been caught breaking the law the penalties are minimal. Between 1890 and 1970 and from 1946 to 1953 only three business people were sent to jail for Sherman antitrust act violations. "The average fine levied in such cases was $2,600; with $5,000 being the maximum possible" (Simon, pg. 38, 2012). Yes, there is a collective moral insensitivity among the general population crossing all socioeconomic boundaries. I believe the widespread wrongdoing is the result of a highly competitive world of business and politics which has created an overwhelming pressure to win by whatever means necessary (Anonymous, pg. 180, n.d.). There is an innate thinking that achieving the American dream means that you cannot fail no matter what the cost which justifies lying, embezzlement, fraud and ethical violations. Many US corporate executives stole on a scale that is unimaginable to the average person and were guilty of fraud (Anonymous, pg. 180, n.d.). Wall Street leaders collapsed the US economy; accepted government bailouts provided by our tax dollars and still were allowed to pay themselves millions of dollars' worth of bonuses. "The Catholic church, which we hold up as a model of moral behavior, is still trying to recover from the charges that hundreds of priests have sexually abused parishioners (most of them under the age of consent) for decades while church officials covered up the crimes" (Anonymous, pg. 180, n.d.). Several members of Congress have been convicted of ethical violations. Blaise Pascal, a French thinker claimed that "cheating is the foundation of society." The average person feels that "wrongdoing has become a way of life for just about everybody" (Anonymous, pg. 180, n.d.). An estimated $345 billion dollars is failed to be paid each year according to the Internal Revenue Service because of the millions of US taxpayers that cheat on their taxes. A common practice among young people is the illegal piracy of recordings which has resulted in the loss of billions of dollars for the music industry. During the past year about half of all high school, college and graduate school students surveyed reported having cheated on a test at least once (Anonymous, pg. 180, n.d.).
2. How can people break the law all the time yet not be defined as deviant?
"Deviance involves breaking a norm and evoking a negative reaction from others. Societies establish some norms as laws. Crime is deviance that breaks a law, which is a norm stipulated and enforced by government bodies. Just as deviance is relative, so is crime. Crime is a special type of deviance because laws define certain deviant acts as criminal, but crime is just as relative as deviance." (Anonymous, n.d.,ThomsonNOW). People can break the law all the time and not be defined as deviant if the law the person breaks is not actually labeled as deviant. There is no deviant behavior without a deviant label. Howard Becker's Labeling theory states the rules are created by society who attempts to enforce them depending on the situation of the deviant behavior. Everyone breaks the rules (littering, speeding, parking illegally), but the term deviant will only be applied to certain people (Thio, Calhoun & Conyers, pg. 40, 2010). A person who gets a little too drunk at a party or commits a traffic violation has his infraction treated tolerantly because he or she is thought to be not very different from the rest of us. We punish thieves more severely because we regard them to be less like us. We view individuals as true outsiders that commit crimes like rape, murder or treason (Becker, pg. 3. 1997). "Deviance is created through a political process defined by certain groups that have the power to define others as deviant. These groups have the power to force rule breakers to play the role of deviant and to think of themselves as deviant" (Anonymous, n.d., PowerPoint presentation). The relativism concept states that deviance is "a mental construct an idea, thought or image expressed in the form of a label. A behavior gets defined as deviant relative to a given norm, standard of behavior or the way people react to it." (Anonymous n.d. Pearson Education, Inc.). A given behavior cannot be defined as deviant or conforming if it is not related to the reaction of other people and/or to the norm. Deviance is defined by each person on an individual basis is what constructionists emphasize strongly according to this relativistic view. "Deviants exist only in opposition to those whom they threaten and those who have enough power to control against such threats" (Thio, Calhoun & Conyers 2010). Labeled deviants may not include everyone who has broken a rule while at the same time include those that have not broken any rules. The deviant population may fail to include offenders who have escaped apprehension and have not been included in the studied population. The nature of the act, who commits the act, what other people do about it, whether or not it violates some rule and who that individual feels has been harmed by it will determine the degree to which an act will be treated as deviant. Society may determine whether or not they will recognize a deviant act and pursue legal action based on the social class of the individual. For example, a person from a lower socioeconomic status will be more likely to be charged and seen as deviant than a person from a more influential family who has committed a deviant act. The response of other people to the behavior determines the product of the process referred to as deviance. Some people tend to have rules applied to them more than others. Categorization of an act as deviant requires knowledge of how others will respond to it. A person's self-image or public identity and their further social participation can be negatively impacted when they are caught and branded as deviant. The definition of deviance also varies over time which means that criminal behavior may have been considered normal at one point in time or something that was once normal is now considered criminal. One example is Susan B Anthony who was arrested and fined in 1872 because she intentionally voted for a United States Congressional representative. The jury at her trial was instructed to come back with a guilty verdict because Justice Ward said there was no question about what she had done (Anonymous, n.d.,ThomsonNOW). Martin Luther King Jr. was repeatedly arrested for marching in the streets of Birmingham, Alabama and other cities in the south advocating for the civil rights of African Americans, including the right to vote in the late 1950's and early 1960's. In the lifetimes of both Susan B. Anthony and Martin Luther King, Jr. they were considered to be criminals. Anthony committed a crime because she acted on her deviant belief as a result of her disagreement with the law (Anonymous, n.d.,ThomsonNOW). White superiority in the 1950's was the belief of the majority of people who lived in the American south. Jim crow laws prevented most African Americans from being able to cast a vote and was just one of the ways they expressed their beliefs. Individuals that were civil rights movement participants, including Martin Luther King, Jr. were arrested because they challenged existing laws. (Anonymous, n.d.,ThomsonNOW). As a result of the dramatic change in our norms and laws most people would consider the society of the past to have been racist or sexist rather than Anthony and King as deviant or criminal. In 1920 the 19th Amendment guaranteed women suffrage. African Americans were guaranteed voting rights in 1965 with the passage of The Voting Rights Act. In modern society an individual would be considered deviant if he or she expressed beliefs that either African Americans or women should not be allowed to vote and it would be considered a crime if anyone attempted to prevent them from voting (Anonymous, n.d.,ThomsonNOW). One person may commit an act that is considered to be an infraction, but when the same action is taken by another person it may not be considered a violation. The same behavior may be an infraction of the rules at one time and not at another. Some rules are broken with impunity while others are not. "Deviance is not a quality that lies in behavior itself, but in the interaction between the person who commits an act and those who respond to it" (Thio, Calhoun & Conyers, pg. 40, 2010). A certain behavior becomes defined as crime by the audience and not the actor. There are two types of deviance primary and secondary. Primary deviance is the type of rule breaking engaged in by all people at one time or another that may be intentional or unintentional. Some examples of acts that could be considered primary deviance are: skipping school, underage drinking, dating someone your parents do not approve of, or vandalism. An individual may serious rule violations that could lead to their incarceration, but this does not mean that they will be labeled deviant (Anonymous, n.d., PowerPoint presentation). The person may be officially labeled as deviant if their acts are discovered and made public. Once an individual labeled as deviant accepts their new identity and continues their deviant behavior they have been engaged in the process of secondary deviance (Anonymous, n.d., PowerPoint presentation). Some examples of secondary deviance may include: assaulting another person, breaking into houses and taking valuables, drug addiction, sexual promiscuity, robbing a bank, tax evasion, murder and rape. A person is forced to identify him or herself as deviant and to associate with other deviants when they are labeled as deviant. This individual is lead down a deviant career path once his or her deviance has been reinforced. "For example, say that people have begun describing a young man as an "alcohol abuser," which establishes primary deviance. These people may then exclude him from their friendship network. His response may be to become bitter toward them, start drinking even more, and seek the company of others who approve of his drinking. These actions mark the beginning of secondary deviance, a deeper deviant identity" (Anonymous n.d. Pearson Education, Inc.). Differential association occurs once the rule breaker has moved into the deviant subculture finalized the path of the career delinquent. Individuals are forced into criminal roles when public stereotypes (inability to find work, fear of recidivism, and deprivation of basic rights) are created by institutions of social control such as: courts, corrections or police. These social control institutions differentially apply law on the basis of wealth, status, power and race. For examples, minorities are over represented in both number of arrests and prosecutions (Anonymous, n.d., PowerPoint presentation).