Bandit Heroes: Social, Mythical or Rational?
The American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Forthcoming
34 Pages Posted: 5 Apr 2010 Last revised: 16 Nov 2010
Date Written: July 19, 2010
Bandits steal from their fellow men. Yet they are regularly subjects of folksongs, novels and movies. In these outlets they are presented as folk heroes despite their crimes. Sociological explanations for this phenomenon based upon Eric Hobsbawm’s concept of the ‘social bandit’ and psychological explanations based upon myth building have been brought forth to explain the seeming contradiction. We propose an alternative explanation for the bandit hero phenomenon. We argue that bandits, acting solely in their own self-interest, unintentionally provide valuable services to societies under the rule of a predatory government. We identify three separate mechanisms by which bandits benefit society that do not necessarily hinge upon class struggles or historical dialectics. The social benefits that bandits generate form the foundation for their positive reception.
Keywords: Bandits, Economics of Crime, Dispersed Benefits and Concentrated Costs, Predatory Theory of Government
JEL Classification: K42, P59
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation