Crime and morality
This chart comes from an Atlantic article. I don’t especially recommend reading the article which appears to be typical liberal whining about how society be racist against the black man.
But this chart tells a very significant story. Since 1960, there was a massive increase in the violent crime rate. Even after the decline which began around 1990, the crime rate today is still nearly four times as high as it was in 1960. That still fits my definition of a massive increase in crime.
My explanation for the chart is that starting around 1960 (maybe a few years earlier), there began a massive decrease in morality and good behavior. As a result of this decrease in morality, the crime rate soared. After the crime rate soared, the people demanded that politicians take action (or they voted for politicians that promised and delivered such action), and thus we saw more aggressive policing and a massive increase in the incarceration rate as more prisons were constructed (although the increase in the incarceration rate was no more massive than the increase in the crime rate that preceded it).
And thus the reason for the drop in the crime rate beginning around 1990 is that more aggressive policing (such as stop-and-frisk) and keeping more people in prison resulted in fewer criminals on the street: the criminal element can’t commit crimes if they are in prison.
However, the underlying decay in morality and good behavior has not changed. If anything, it has gotten worse. If we started letting people out of prison, I predict that we would see the crime rate increase back to the 1990 level and most likely exceed it (because even in 1990, the incarceration rate was much higher than in 1960, so the high 1990 crime rate is despite the fact that many more criminals were in prison).
The chart above is borrowed from a Pew Research article. We see that the percentage of children living without married parents increased from 13% in 1960 to 39% in 2013. I believe that this is strongly related to the decline in morality and good behavior, although it’s not the only factor involved. Children living with two married parents not only have the benefit of having a father around, but they also have parents who have demonstrated their commitment to traditional moral values by getting married in the first place.
The chart shows families of all races; currently, around 65% of black children are being raised in single-parent or no-parent households.
I believe that the main thing that began to change around 1960 is that society became more permissive, and at the same time we lost our commitment to using public education to teach children good moral values, or what I previously have called middle-class values. I believe that in schools where most of the children came from the bottom half of society, the school administration viewed its mission as not to get the kids ready for college or to get them to score higher on tests, but rather to make them good citizens with good values who would work at menial jobs. Basic literacy and some knowledge of history was considered part of being a good citizen, but academic excellence of the kind needed for college was not part of the mission.
In the 1950s, we also had segregated schools, and pretty much all of the black schools were not trying to prepare their students for college. This came to be considered as racist. Today, any imposition of middle-class values on ghetto students is considered to be racist. If too many children are expelled from school for bad behavior, that too is considered to be racist. The only acceptable instruction is drilling for reading and math tests.
This is sort of related to my recent posts about libertarian economics, because this is a problem that is not going to be solved with lower tax rates or fewer government regulations. It’s actually not going to be solved at all because government is full of liberals who are more concerned with racism and the gap in test scores than in teaching poor kids—especially poor black kids—to behave better.
In fact, I predict that the decline in crime since 1990 has reached its trough and will be on the upswing again because we have lost the political will to be tough on crime. This is seen in the end of stop-and-frisk (considered to be racist) and in articles like the one from the Atlantic arguing that too many people are in prison.