It's a paradox for liberals. How can this be?
James Q. Wilson, the eminent sociologist and criminologist, examines the recent decline in crime, which contradicts liberal orthodoxy that unemployment creates desperation, that creates crime, in City Journal, the excellent publication of the Manhattan Institute. Wilson weighs several possible explanations for the recent declines, and find many of them are related to positive cultural changes -- a startling conclusion for many conservatives who bemoan the decline of cultural values.
At the deepest level, many of these shifts, taken together, suggest that crime in the United States is falling-even through the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression-because of a big improvement in the culture. The cultural argument may strike some as vague, but writers have relied on it in the past to explain both the Great Depression's fall in crime and the sixties' crime explosion. In the first period, on this view, people took self-control seriously; in the second, self-expression-at society's cost-became more prevalent. It is a plausible case.
But before you break out the champagne to celebrate a reversal of our cultural decline, read through Wilson's entire piece, which is well worth your time. One of his cultural changes is:
Drug use among blacks has changed even more dramatically than it has among the population as a whole. As Latzer points out-and his argument is confirmed by a study by Bruce D. Johnson, Andrew Golub, and Eloise Dunlap-among 13,000 people arrested in Manhattan between 1987 and 1997, a disproportionate number of whom were black, those born between 1948 and 1969 were heavily involved with crack cocaine, but those born after 1969 used little crack and instead smoked marijuana. The reason was simple: the younger African-Americans had known many people who used crack and other hard drugs and wound up in prisons, hospitals, and morgues. The risks of using marijuana were far less serious. This shift in drug use, if the New York City experience is borne out in other locations, can help explain the fall in black inner-city crime rates after the early 1990s.
I am happy that people have learned from experience, but a return to family values, this isn't.
Hat tip: Hot Air