Excellent article from a few years ago, about what causes poverty, addiction, poor education. It's probably not what you think.
It was in the prison that I first realized I should listen carefully, not only to what people said, but to the way that they said it. I noticed, for example, that murderers who had stabbed someone always said of the fatal moment that “the knife went in.” This was an interesting locution, because it implied that it was the knife that guided the hand rather than the hand that guided the knife. It is clear that this locution serves to absolve the culprit, at least in his own mind, from his responsibility for his act. It also seeks to persuade the listener that the culprit is not really guilty, that something other than his decisions led to the death of the victim. This was so even if the victim was a man against whom the perpetrator was known to have a serious grudge, and whom he sought out at the other side of the city having carried a knife with him.
The human mind is a subtle instrument, and something more than straightforward lying was going on here. The culprit both believed what he was saying and knew perfectly well at the same time that it was nonsense. No doubt this kind of bad faith is not unique to the type of people I encountered in the hospital and the prison.
Anthony Daniels, who also published under the name Theodore Dalrymple, worked as a doctor for many years in very poor regions of Africa, then in poor regions in England. He analyzes what he saw, what people declared was the reason for their condition.
This was so good, I looked up Dr. Daniels and bought one of his books.
You may also find his website, The Skeptical Doctor, interesting.