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Crime and the Nanny State

Original Article

Crime has been in decline — but current government policies are bound to reverse this trend.

Against the backdrop of sluggish growth and high unemployment, one bright spot has been declining crime rates, with levels in the United States now about half what they were 20 years ago. This gradual decline holds true even in the perennially high-risk demographic of young men, suggesting it isn’t merely a knock-on effect of an aging population. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that current government policies may reverse this downward trend.

To understand how this might happen, consider the crime surge of the ’60s and ’70s, which came on the heels of a long period of declining crime. The zeitgeist of the ‘60s undoubtedly played a role, with its easy drugs and sex (increasing illegitimacy rates) and its move toward lax prison sentences. But the Great Society programs from this period surely played a part as well, by disrupting the family.

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Jonathan Witt is a Research Fellow at the Acton Institute, and a senior fellow at Discovery Institute.