”Why Middle England is the new criminal class,” read the headline in The Times above a report of Law Abiding Majority?, a study by two Keele University academics. Having questioned 1,807 25 to 65-year-olds in England and Wales, the report’s authors, Dr Stephen Farrall and Professor Suzanne Karstedt, concluded that there is no such thing. Sixty-one percent of their sample admitted committing at least one of a number of “crimes and unfair practices” against business, government or their employers. The misdemeanours included paying cleaners or tradesmen in cash, pilfering office stationery, padding insurance claims, asking friends in bureaucratic jobs to bend the rules, not paying the TV licence, keeping quiet about faults when selling secondhand goods and not protesting when given the wrong change in shops.
“Contempt for the law,” concluded Professor Karstedt, “is as widespread in the centre of society as it is assumed to be rampant at the margins. Antisocial behaviour by the few is mirrored by anticivil behaviour by the many. Neither greed nor need can explain why respectable citizens cheat . . . and do not hesitate to discuss their exploits in pubs.”
Of course, it is melancholy to discover that so many of us are allowing our lower nature to get the upper hand….