The anti-social behavior of a few, and the imperfect behavior of many, are incredibly costly to society. It would pay society to give more attention to people of anti-social behavior.
There are many examples. If a few persons put needles and razor blades in Halloween candy, the joy of Halloween is lost to all of us. If a few, even one, put cyanide in medication, some die and all of us become wary. One mugger spoils a neighborhood park; and hiking trails are spoiled by a "trail side killer." If one person steals, all must put locks on their doors.
[quoteright'/>If one person starts a rape spree in a community, then women fear to go out at night, police effort is consumed and distracted, and eventually there are costly trials and imprisonments. When the public is deceived by political "dirty tricks," the electorate becomes more cynical, the honest candidates have a harder time, and the quality of government is reduced. Desirable ballot propositions have been lost by misleading political lies.
There is a remedy for these severe costs. The remedy requires wisdom by many people, hard work, and some money. The return will be many-fold. The remedy is to identify and aid those of anti-social behavior, and to correct the mental habits leading to undesirable behavior.
Individuals of poor social behavior display this undesirable behavior early in life. They acquire a record. Criminals have early behavior problems and neglected childhoods. There is much evidence. One body of evidence appears in the reports by the committee sponsored by Assemblyman John Vasconcellos, on "the Root of Crime." Other examples - the assassin who shot at President Reagan, and the assassin who shot President Kennedy - showed childhood symptoms of irrational and destructive behavior. Our world would have been better if these culprits had received more attention earlier.
It is time to be wise. Pay attention to the early symptoms of bad behavior, and encourage society to support budgetary allotments for giving ample care to those, especially children, who display signs of anti-social or destructive behavior. Ample care of the right kind steers the child onto a lifetime constructive path. Such attention and giving can be called "compassion," or it can be called being practical -- it amounts to the same thing. Money spent wisely on children is returned many times over.
Overall social costs will be reduced if we allow an increase in our budget for identifying and genuinely aiding children suffering from poor backgrounds. Among the costs to be reduced are our budgets for police and courts, for prisons, for security systems, and for welfare, to name just a portion.
Intangible costs to be reduced are the costs of loss of joy and enthusiasm and friendliness. There is tremendous cost when there is loss of a loved person or the loss of a treasured personal possession. Ill health, despair, apathy, tension, and cynicism result from these losses and are part of the cost of the unsocial behavior of a few.
Don't make the mistake of thinking that neglecting early symptoms of poor behavior will cause a disturbed individual to "shape up" voluntarily, totally on his own. Don't think that cutting the budget for social programs will save money (although social programs vary in effectiveness, and constant monitoring and improvement is needed (chronic gift giving is ineffective). Cutting programs is "Penny wise, pound foolish." Or, in yet other terms, (without an appeal to emotion, charity, ethics, or religion), it is practical to be compassionate, and to "Love Your Neighbor as Yourself."
CHARLES WALTON, another Silicon Valley denizen, operates a product development and consulting business in Los Gatos, CA.
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