Control Theory

  Control theory is a school of thought that has been used in the field of criminology for the better part of a century.  This theory is based on the idea that conformity cannot be taken for granted, thus crime and delinquency that occurs within an area or community, should be expected if social controls are not implemented.  A few important points are to be made here, especially when we are speaking of American society.  America was founded on individual responsibility, and we have God given rights that are recognized in our Constitution, as we have always looked to limit the power of the government when it comes to giving Americans the freedom to live their lives.  On the opposite side of this coin, you do have the need for the rule of law, and there must be order.  The founding fathers tried to create a government that operated in the realm of what they eventually referred to as people’s law. This falls right in the center between a totalitarian state and total anarchy.  It was an attempt to create a balance that encourages a sense of liberty but does not allow a free for all.  There is a case to be made regarding social controls in the form of criminal law.  Even today we are attempting to find that sweet spot when dealing with the power of the police state to deliver justice in the right circumstances.
        But, how far is too far and what behavior is to be deemed criminal in nature?  After all, criminal acts are not necessarily immoral from a universal perspective.  It is also true that just because an act is not illegal, it does not mean that it is not immoral at its core.  Conformity is another part of control theory that has profound meaning.  Communist regimes require and depend on conformity from the citizenry, and they promote this conformity under threat of physical violence or death toward an individual or their family members.  As we look to control the behavior of individuals through control, we must remember that legality is relative and arbitrarily labeling certain behavior as criminal chips away at liberty.  I believe that this theory does have a legitimate argument, as the existence of criminal activity over a period without proper enforcement can lead to increased confidence in the criminal ego and encourage more criminal acts due to the perception that there is more opportunity to commit such crimes.  Lawmakers must use caution regarding the creation of laws that are meant to promote social order.  Knee jerk responses to events must be avoided at all costs and media reports should play no role in policy decisions.  Order must be kept but we must remember where we came from and the principles on which this country was founded. Government control should be exercised only within constitutional parameters, as our founders knew the nature of government and what it is capable of if it is given too much unchecked power.  George Washington had a great quote referring to the inherent intent of government, “Government is not reason, it is not eloquence — it is force. Like fire it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master; never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action”.



For Further Reading


Avatar photo About Jason Brown

Jason A Brown currently works for a Department of Defense contractor at a clinic in Tampa Florida. He is currently in Pediatrics but has also worked Family Health. Aside from working full time Jason also possesses a Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice/Homeland Security. With a full time job, a wife and 13 year old daughter, Jason still finds time to educate people on America’s founding document, US history, and the US Constitution, through his writing, as it is one of his passions.