The macro-level logic of the affluenza defense claims that if something outside of the defendant stunted their moral development, something they didn’t choose, something beyond their control, then they are not longer responsible for the poor moral choices they make. Heck, they’re practically a victim.
While many of us roll our eyes in disgust at this argument, when it was employed for a rich teen, the fact of the matter is it worked.
Yet, take a poor person, like a teen raised by a single, always-working, mom because dad was caught in the cross hairs of gang violence. For lack of money, lack of opportunity, and lack of hope, they follow the path that every adult around them is also on. Their circumstances (and I mean that in the most complex sense of the word) stunt their moral development. Our culture would never, not ever, accept that they might be a victim.
But really, since none of us choose to be born into our situation, to at least a small degree, isn’t there such a thing as a victim of poverty?
Somebody please tell me why we think a child or teen in a materially impoverished environment should (and can) learn to navigate their way out by using ‘personal responsibility’, bootstrapping, and rugged individualism but a child or teen in a materially wealthy environment is basically told that they are allowed to be morally impoverished.
Tell me why we accept that the rich don’t have to be good if they don’t want to and the poor have to be extra good just to merit our compassion.
Tell me why we only want to help the materially poor that we believe are morally worthy.