Download (direct link):
5. Consistent with their view that these criminal acts are simple or easy, Gottfredson and Hirschi argue that these acts also require little skill or planning. Again, this is consistent with their view that those with low self-control are unlikely to acquire substantial academic or vocation skills, since these pursuits run counter to their inherent nature. Accordingly, even in criminal acts they are unlikely to choose to commit those that require cognitive or manual skills they have not taken the time, literally, to develop.
6. The general theory holds that while crimes often involve pain, loss, or discomfort to the victim(s), this fact is of little consequence to the perpetrator(s) driven by the confluence of opportunity for immediate gratification and low self-control. These perpetrators, in Gottfredson and Hirschi’s view, are far too self-centered and indifferent to attend to the needs of others or, probably, to even recognize that they exist. But, they caution, this does not mean that those motivated by low levels of self-control are necessarily sadists or pathological in their dealings with others. They postulate that some percentage of these offenders may exhibit traits of generosity and social adeptness, primarily because they have learned or intuited that these traits may be easy mechanisms for them to gain what they want with minimal effort.
One who is even somewhat familiar with the workings of the criminal justice system and with the denizens of its nether chambers would be inclined, I believe, to say “Yes!” to the elements that Gottfredson and Hirschi have described as typical attributes of crimes committed by those with low self-control. We need not think too long nor too deeply to recall any number of perpetrators who meet these characteristics to a tee. Depending on the era and venue, these persons are usually referred to as mopes, punks, losers, dregs, or any number of even more colorful terms. They are well known to law enforcement at all levels and in all locales; they are much of its clientele. They are usually the petty, self-centered idiots who do stupid things on the spur of the moment, often get caught, never learn from their mistakes, and blame everybody and everything but themselves. We would do well to recall Kelly’s interviews with inmates and their self-serving explanations as to why they are really not bad people, or why some central element of
THEORIES OF OCCUPATIONAL FRAUD
their offense was really someone else’s fault (see Chapter 2, note 28). The issue, however, is that Gottfredson and Hirschi are not seeking to describe a given subset of criminals or deviants, they are positing a general theory to describe them all.
While it would be interesting to examine, and speculate on, the rationale Gottfredson and Hirschi use while applying their general theory to street gangs, serial killers, and La Cosa Nostra, we must look within their theory to see what they have to say about occupational fraud. They devote one chapter of their book to a more generic version of the topic, white-collar crime, which shall suffice for our purposes. The particular value of the general theory in our consideration of workplace fraud is that it is considered by scholars and researchers in the larger field of criminology to be one of the more significant general formulations to be put forth in recent years.
They first note that it has been common in the literature to place white-collar crime into a special category. Part of the basis for this approach has to do with definitions formulated decades earlier, such as those by Sutherland and his theoretical descendents. White-collar crime has, in their view, been segregated from the general body of offenses because of early and continuing definitions that had it be a crime committed by corporate executives of high organizational and social standing and involving an inherent breach of social and fiduciary trust.28 While Sutherland, like to some degree Bologna, was interested in crimes committed ostensibly on behalf of the organization, later formulations of the term white-collar crime came to the usage that it also meant crimes committed by persons in such positions for their personal benefit. Currently, as we have seen from examination of FBI Uniform Crime Report and National Incident-Based Reporting data, white collar crimes now include offenses as pedestrian as ATM and credit card fraud—offenses certainly not committed by persons of high social standing in most occurrences.
In thinking about white-collar crime from the perspective of their general theory, Gottfredson and Hirschi contend that persons of high social standing are not immune from committing a gamut of crimes of varying hues. While, they note, doctors can also commit murder, they—and others in positions of organizational, vocational, or professional power—can certainly use the access and opportunities such positions afford them to commit an impressive range of nonviolent crimes. These, however, they believe, fall well within the confines of their general theory.29