Crime and the Nanny State

Originally published at The American Spectator

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.

Jonathan Witt

Executive Editor, Discovery Institute Press and Senior Fellow, Center for Science and Culture
Jonathan Witt, PhD, is Executive Editor of Discovery Institute Press and a Senior Fellow with the Center for Science and Culture. His co-authored books include Intelligent Design Uncensored (IVP), A Meaningful World: How the Arts and Sciences Reveal the Genius of Nature (IVP), and The Hobbit Party: The Vision of Freedom That Tolkien Got, and the West Forgot (Ignatius Press). Witt is also the lead writer and associate producer for Poverty, Inc., winner of the $100,000 Templeton Freedom Award and recipient of over 50 international film festival honors. His latest book is a YA novel co-authored with astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez, The Farm at the Center of the Universe.