Motivated Criminals: Message from the Morning Man by Kojo Yankson



Not many people know more about the minds and motivations of criminals than William Julius Wilson. He has written several books on the subject, and done extensive research into the conditions factors that motivate people to do the wrong thing.

He has measured the influence of race, religion, gender, poverty, childhood trauma, even hair colour – on the likelihood of a person breaking the law.

In a lecture at Harvard, he said, “Every human is motivated to break the law, because crime pays physical and/or emotional dividends.

The difference between those who commit crimes and those who don’t, is opportunity. When a person sees the opportunity to get away with doing the wrong thing, it becomes irrational for them not to”. Wow.

What a scary, yet remarkable observation about human nature. The more you think about it, the more you realise how true this must be.

Most people do the right thing only because they are afraid of the consequences of getting caught doing wrong.

And for such people, if they ever found themselves in a situation where they could do the wrong thing with little or no chance of getting caught, then it would make no sense for them not to go ahead and break the law.

To prove his point, William Wilson once conducted an anonymous survey where he asked married people, if they were on holiday on a remote island and there was the chance to have an affair with an attractive stranger without anyone ever knowing, would they? Or would they not?

Guess which answer 79.8% of respondents chose. On the plus side, Wilson’s study clarified the fact that opportunities to get away with wrongdoing came along so rarely, that criminals will always be a fractional minority compared to law-abiding citizens.

Anyway, why are we talking about breaking the law? Well today is Day 4 of DIY Week. Since Monday, we have been giving you the tools to succeed as an entrepreneur, with the aim that by Friday, you should be able to walk out there and start your own business.

In today’s instalment, we’re looking at the paperwork. The admin processes you will need to conduct in order to bring your business to life, and all the legal requirements you must continually meet in order for your enterprise to flourish.

Now, this is Ghana. We have beautifully written laws. I once met a lawyer from the Sri Lankan finance and planning ministry, who had come here to study our procurement laws.

She told me the Ghanaian constitution is taught in many law schools across Asia! But she couldn’t hide her disappointment at what little use we seemed to have for them in our daily endeavours.

Her exact words were. “How can you write such brilliant laws and just allow everyone to live above them?” My friends, you are about to embark on an amazing adventure. You are about to take your idea which only exists in your mind, and turn it into something tangible.

A real enterprise that will produce goods, services, revenue, profit, jobs. Your business will be a legal entity. It will have its own identity. And it will be subject to the laws of this land.

You will toil and sweat to make it profitable. You will make sacrifices to build a reputation for yourself and a brand for your business. And once you take your place at the top of your industry, one silly mistake can undo everything you’ve toiled for in a matter of seconds and leave you with nothing.

Please don’t think that Ghana’s lax attitude towards the implementation of its laws presents you with an opportunity to cut corners and break the rules for the sake of a little extra money.

There are institutions in this country that work, and don’t forget that just as William Wilson observed, if you break the law, you join the minority of humanity.

And the majority make up the system, so you’re not very likely to get away with it, are you?

If you want your business to be a success, then follow the rules. Pay your tax. Declare your assets. Don’t over-invoice. Follow the recruitment laws.

These things are actually there to protect you, and even if you think you are, you are DEFINITELY not above the law.

My name is Kojo Yankson, and I love the law. How can I not? it was written for my benefit. GOOD MORNING,