According to the rational actor theory, individuals engage in rational behavior. They calculate and measure all their options before making decisions. People have different goals and preferences and they will choose to satisfy them. They make choices based on the information they have and the constraints determining their situation. From this perspective, it would appear that people have total control of their life circumstances. The theory assumes that people can act rationally even when they have to face irrational and impossible situations. This theory would assume that the urban poor are their worst enemies. It would blame them for all the situations that are happening in their lives, as it would assume that they were capable of making rational choices, which would give them the greatest satisfaction. They will weigh the costs and benefits of each action before settling on a specific one.
According to rational theories, people have to anticipate the results and consequences of all the possible actions and select the one that suits them best. The urban poor face many problems, which have forced them to live the way they do. In some cases, they are responsible for their fate in life. However, in most cases, different factors interplay and work against them. Even though they are rational, the presence of such factors prevents them from making rational decisions and taking rational actions. The men in Baltimore are facing such situations. They understand that they will be imprisoned by dealing drugs. They also understand the risks, since they encounter violence constantly in their line of work. Granted, dealing drugs, as well as buying and selling them does not constitute making rational decisions. Rational people would not choose to do something that would lead to their incarceration or death. The young men understand this but they continue doing so anyway, because they see it as the only way of getting an income.
The rational choice theory assumes that individuals are concerned with their own welfare and gain when they are making decisions. However, this is not always the case. Some of the actions that individuals decide to take actually lead to their suffering and downfall. For instance, the men who sell drugs on the streets to provide for their families are not as interested in their own personal welfare. They just want to ensure that their families do not lack. By doing this, they are essentially trading their freedom for the sake of their families’ satisfaction. Another assumption of the theory concerns the availability of information. The theory assumes that individuals will make decisions based on the information they have. It fails to recognize the fact that they may not have all the information they require and this leads to irrational decision making. Many people use the norms and habits to guide their decisions. They will act based on how other people are acting. Therefore, they will tend to take jobs that are already there, instead of seeking alternative work. The young men in Baltimore see drugs as the only way out of the problem. They have grown up knowing this kind of work and they do not seem to find other forms of income.
Socialization equips people with the skills they need to be active members of their societies. People develop habits from the societal norms they experience. They learn about their society’s ideologies and customs. The process can be coercive, and this forces the individuals to conform. This is especially the case with individuals with limited options, who are constrained by their situation. People will also choose to conform to the said standards because they want to avoid unnecessary risks and maintain the order within the society. This prevents them from venturing out and seeking alternative options. The young men in Baltimore feel coerced into accepting their fate. All their talk is aligned towards getting involved in drugs and violence. The police and the authorities in the city have come to accept drugs as unavoidable in the society. As such, there seems to be minimal effort to help the people abusing drugs and to stop drug activities.
The situations that the young black men face in Baltimore will continue since the main problems and the causes remain unsolved. The government is intending to spend money to build a new prison, in addition to spending more money housing the existing programs. On the other hand, the city has one of the lowest graduating rates in the country and poverty levels remain high. Many of the poor people do not get the chance to complete their basic education in high school and even fewer find their way to colleges. This means that there are few job opportunities for them. Many men are imprisoned today and this denies children the chance to grow up knowing their fathers. The high number of men in prison today indicates the family situation in the city. It means that more children lack positive role models in their lives. They will look up to anyone older than them, who can be a father figure for them. Consequently, most of them end up joining gangs.
Instead of spending more money to build prison, the government should come up with a way of lifting people out of their poverty and giving them a chance to excel in future. It should provide support to those who are already using drugs by giving them a chance to become clean through drug rehabilitation programs. Poor people cannot find the money for rehab and they opt to work for their basic needs. The government should also find ways of encouraging the children to remain in school and graduate by giving them the support they need. Many students do not see the point of spending so much time in school yet they will not have any prospects for the future. Providing job opportunities for those who have education will go a long way towards ending poverty. Moreover, the people will be busy and they will not have time for dealing drugs. Many young people in Baltimore know only one kind of life and the authorities have to take measures to change this.
Blaming the problem of the urban poor on the people will not go towards solving the existing problems. Instead, there is the need to consider the underlying factors that cause people to behave the way they do. Assuming that people will make rational decisions because they are rational will not help the current situation in Baltimore. There if a need to consider all the situations, including the limitations and constraints within the society, which compel people to act the way they do. People adopt cultural norms and behaviors. They are forced to conform as a way of fitting in and avoiding creating disorder. Unfortunately, this can be detrimental to individuals because it denies them the chance to consider alternative options. It is possible to change the situation in Baltimore. However, this will require a change in thinking and attitude. It will require the authorities to invest more and change the present situation.
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