Economics Behind Popular Crime Series

This article is just meant to be an analysis of the free market solution to crime in general or in this case dramatized crime, that I would not have otherwise commented on. I am sorry if the following series have a certain age requirement, evidently as these popular series are known for their crime genres. For another article more for the family audience see my post in which I recommended some more economic orientated movies here Two Economics Movies About A Bank Run & A Billion Pound Note, or ACDC Leadership – Mr Clifford – Econ Movies.

Besides, I thought it would be different to begin reviewing the economics in movies and TV series in order to expand on the showcase of some economic principles and their solutions to crime (both legal and illegal) that I can comment on, all the series definitely concern money, laws and government intervention, which fit toward my aim for explaining the mainstream economic policies. The only other article that I have wrote on criminal activity and the free market solution is 3D Printed Ivory Substitute Thwarts Black-Market. In which we learned that banning or taxing things like The Sugar Tax does not always achieve the intended result, whether decreased crime or increased health, while people find alternatives around such policy or laws.

The first series is Mr. Robot which is an American drama–thriller television series. Following the life of Elliot Alderson, who is a cyber-security engineer and hacker. Alderson is later recruited by an anarchist known as Mr. Robot to join his group of hacktivists. Their goal is to cancel all debts by attacking the large corporation E Corp. OK you can begin to see where this is going, and yes it is another one of my talks on monetary policy. 

Now, the fact of wiping out everyone’s debt sounds like a good idea, why it would benefit almost everyone but the lenders, resulting in just a massive redistribution of wealth scheme. However, I like the idea of a possibility for any movement to allow for competing currencies to now form as part of their revolution. The problem is that by wiping out debt you also wipe out savings, as someones debt is someone else’s savings. While, causing massive disturbances and problems in the stock market, destroying funds including savings, however is it really as bad as what the government monopoly on money already does? Maybe, though for more on government issues see my article on Money Pumping – What Malinvestments?

Plus because E Corp is the lender for 70 percent of the economy, if they did succeed and hack their money, then E Corp would have no assets to loan out to new industries, or anyone with a present preference to borrow. The economy may ground to a halt, without their liquidity in the credit market or distort the time preference of individuals in the loanable funds market. Helping to provide for people who demand money now or money in the future. Causing a possible recession, and mass unemployment without savings, while transferring in the free market wealth between rich and poor. Governments would also be bailing out E Corp, only to tax citizen’s money that has been given back to E Corp. As the people who guarantee the government is the taxpayer or through monetary policy, the redistribution money is not coming out of the pockets of the rich, because they are now poor.

Also, records are not stored in one place, the idea that E Corp manages credit card transactions may be true, though most likely credit card records are stored elsewhere. As they would just process payments, while credit card issuers are financial firms that store and back up all your financial transactions, records, and data. The marketplace in real life is also very much different as there are many different companies that specialize in each type of loan, from mortgages to student loans. Not all debt is directly owed to banks, where it can be securitized, debt is bought by institutions, who can be insurers, pension funds, and bond portfolio managers. I know everyone hates debt but we need money in the bank to provide for future employments and consumption.

Secondly, Breaking Bad if you have not seen this it is an American crime drama television series set in a recession, in which it follows the life of Walter White who is a struggling high school chemistry teacher, whose chemistry passion is spent wasted in the high school classroom. When Mr. White has been diagnosed with cancer in order to fund his treatment and secure his families financial future, Mr. White together with his former student Jesse Pinkman turn to a life of crime, producing and selling in the drug business.

So your asking yourself what are the economic principles at work in this life of crime. Breaking Bad many times refers to business and entrepreneurial traits even though it is an illegal business it still has similar traits of a legal business, to the point that it requires more improvement in order to prevent serious acts against property and people who are impacted by its business. Consider the fact that any legal business has no turf wars and just peaceful competition, as such when you go to buy food or download an app there are no people getting hurt and just the marketplace coordinating through peaceful human cooperation. As trade creates wealth, whats the difference between the two? It could be the side of the law that the business lies. As if milk were illegal there would be many trying to supply it on the black-market to meet the higher demand, see this YouTube video that explains this Supply & Demand: A Thug Story. For one part, the fact that drugs are illegal drives up the prices, and in turn the risk and profits are both increased. “If cocaine and heroin were legal products like tobacco and alcohol, their producers’ revenue would still respond to changes in price as predicted by elasticity, and increases in revenue would still be devoted, in part, to innovation and capital investment aimed at expanding supply.” (Dolan, 2011)

Because people in the illegal business have to keep out of the limelight they cannot as a business could, set up channels for settling consumer or competitor disputes. Portrayed in the series as Mr. White develops and grows partnerships and alliances. ‘Criminal entrepreneurs’ you could call them, are restricted from creating more efficient ways to supply more safely to meet the high demand that is unlikely to change whether legal or illegal, as demand should be inelastic, for their addictive qualities verses their prices. However, demand could be elastic in the long-run, while inelastic in the short-run, like that for other commodities, for instance price increase (inelastic short-run demand), though lower price (elastic long-run demand). Additionally, producing goods for which there are no substitutes also create inelastic demand. “If the series “Breaking Bad” were about Silk Road, it would have been impossibly boring.” (Tucker, 2014) As there would be little crime if this were how criminal transactions took place, and it found a solution to violence.

John Stuart Mill, the British liberal philosopher made it clear that the state has no right to interfere to prevent individuals from pursuing an action that did them harm, as long as no harm is done to others. Even still you could not stop them through private or public regulation standards as they also could not about for an illegal item. Now, lets get this clear it is a morally wrong trade as the drug industry causes increased crime that is threats to property and people. However, if you think of it like the medical drug companies, wouldn’t it save more lives if there were better quality resolutions or products to available drugs on the market. This is portrayed in the series where Mr. White has an eye for his product quality, in producing a purity that is blue, and would rather destroy an entire batch than let an inferior product be traded under his brand. “To favor this solution does not mean favoring drugs, any more than my own willingness to tolerate legalized boxing makes me want to practice it or watch it.” (Tucker, 2014) It has been said that if drugs were legal then the market would do its work “[…] so that normal institutions of quality control, competition, rating systems, and dispute resolution can emerge as within every market.” (Tucker, 2014) To conclude, markets can resolve problems that would have had otherwise little lowering in related crimes under regulatory solutions, and we would still have the legal system to continue to prevent crimes against private property or people. “Short of that, a demand-related approach that treated drug addiction as a public health problem, not a law-enforcement problem, would produce less violence abroad and fewer unintended consequences at home than present US policy.” (Dolan, 2011)

The last series is Better Call Saul, yes created again by Vince Gilligan like that of Breaking Bad, and by Peter Gould. It is an American crime drama and is a spin-off prequel of Breaking Bad. Following the life of a small-time lawyer Jimmy McGill, six years before his appearance on Breaking Bad as Saul Goodman. “While Breaking Bad offered a Shakespearian tragedy about grand ambition and the nature of evil, Saul provides a humble fable about people clumsily groping for a better life.” (Kornhaber, 2016) Gilligan continues to be the champion of the little guy against the big establishments, capturing the frustration, humiliation and wrong-place-wrong-time ability to his existence in the modern state. “Jimmy McGill is a bottom feeder in the swamp of government regulation that now covers the American landscape.” (Cantor, 2015)

As the series opens he begins working as a public defender with no degree apart from his online studies, while others and his competition are highly credentialed, he has a huge disadvantage, however it does not hinder his intelligence surrounding the legal system. Jimmy finds his specialty in elder law, helping to protect the rights of elders, amid the corruption in bureaucrat documents. “With all its complex rules, the state makes it impossible for a little guy like Jimmy to do business on his own.” (Cantor, 2015) After having to beg for clients as a rookie lawyer he is made to hand over his case to the big law firm that he despises. “While struggling with the court system, he is also constantly interacting — and fighting — with a large, high-powered law firm that epitomizes the impersonality and coldness of modern office life.” (Cantor, 2015) You almost feel sorry for him having to deal with the myriad of government rules and regulations, however it is very much like society today, particularly law and dealing with modern bureaucracy at every corner of his job.

The economic side is that Libertarians tend to view this film from is the classic form of government intervention. As such, through taxation, the monetary system, and economic regulations the government tyranny is more harmful and pervasive. “The courts, the law firms, the police, the corporations, the hospitals, the assisted living facilities — they all work together to constrain our freedom — and they all operate within the state’s regulatory apparatus.” (Cantor, 2015) However, if it were not for these rules he would be out of work, relying on the number of misfits who violate them and in need of a cheap lawyer. Again Jimmy’s con-artist business acumen builds upon the questions of moral motivation and risk-taking, action takes place after a cost-benefit analysis, therefore the series builds upon the fact that when people do good or bad, they either do so for intrinsic or extrinsic reasons.

To conclude, outside of the imaginary world of television and movie economies, it is important to understand the connections of real economic principals. In order to prevent speaking about wrong policy fixes to simple economic problems surrounding crime.

Reference List

Cantor, A. P. (2015). Soft tyranny in albuquerque: the politics of better call saul!. Alabama; The Mises Institute. Retrieved [27/05/16] from <>.

Dolan, E. (2011). Why it’s obvious we are losing the war on drugs. Business Insider Australia. Retrieved [27/05/16] from <>.

Tucker, J. (2014). In defense of silk road. Retrieved [26/05/16] from <>.

Kornhaber, S. (2016). Better call saul: the fable continues. The Atlantic. Retrieved [27/05/16] from <>.

Featured image supplied from Pixabay.

Copyright © 2016 Zoë-Marie Beesley

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