Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Criminal record and credit score

Recently I read a news item on credit rating:
“7 Things You Didn't Know Affect Your Credit Score” (Feb. 14, 2012).
This gets me thinking out loud.

From the earliest of time, ones reputation in the community matters. If you are a “bad” girl you cannot get married (moral reputation). If you are a “lazy” person you cannot get a job (professional reputation). If you are “dishonest” you are good as dead (integrity reputation). If you mixed with the “wrong crowd” you are shunned (social reputation). The worse that can happen to you is when you have a “criminal record” (CR) (personal reputation). With a CR you cannot find a job, have friends, and start a family.

In 20th century and within a consumerist world, the only thing that matters is your “credit score” (CS). No (low) CS, no (low) life. Without a good credit, your life - financial, social and professional, is not going anywhere.

CS is now the CR of old, a total measure of who you are as a person.

If you are not paying your bills on time or not at all, your reputation is ruined, and in turn livelihood suffers. With a low CS rating, you are deemed not dependable as a worker (professional), trustworthy as a friend (integrity) and worthwhile as a human being (personal). Bad things follow: you cannot get a job, you cannot get a loan, you cannot buy a house, you cannot start a family and you are watched over at workplace, by friends and agencies. You are a pariah. You are not welcomed as a person in the society. For example, in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Police has a strict and stiff policy for disciplining and firing officers with a chronic indebtedness issue. So much so that police officers do everything to dire their indebtedness, and ever killed themselves over indebtedness, if known. (Kwan Tung-lo, “Indebtedness of Hong Kong police officers: gambling or overspending” HKU, 2000)?

In everyday life, CS is a good social control device. People are much, much more concerned with a low CS than a serious/lengthy CR. For one it is consider inappropriate to discriminate against a person with a prior CR, no matter how heinous “Oh! Give people a chance” or “He has pay his debt to society”. The US Constitution even offer up privacy protection for CR, e.g., concealment of juvenile records.

People would make allowance for bad crimes but not bad credit. If you have a poor CS, you are punished everyday through high prices on everything – from insurance to buying a house. As a result people would do everything and anything to keep their CS clean, good, low. This includes spending thousands to clean up their CS.

It is about time we pay more attention to the utility and limitations of CS as a social control device. If we do it right, may be it helps to predict, deter and reform undesirable conducts (crime) and persons (criminal).

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