Podcast: The 3WHH, Thinking About Crime in 2021

Back in the sixties Ronald Reagan liked to quip, “A liberal’s idea of being tough on crime is giving longer suspended sentences.” Today’s liberals don’t even bother with lenient sentences; instead, in our current “defund the police, empty the prisons” mania, they don’t even bother charging many crimes or applying significant bail, as we saw in Wisconsin a few days ago, where an SUV committed murder.

This week Lucretia and I decided to go back to the classics on this issue: James Q. Wilson, Edward Banfield, Heather Mac Donald, and . . . Aristotle (because of course everything needs to go back to Aristotle whenever you can), though Lucretia offers a zesty side dish of modern social contract theory. (Short version: When it comes to crime, “Government—you had one job!”)

The main theme is that we’re repeating all of the mistakes of the 1960s that led to soaring crime, and which was—eventually—corrected with great difficulty. The core of the problem is the left’s sentimental progressive belief, derived from Rousseau and other sources, in the perfectibility of human nature and social institutions, along with its patronizing race-consciousness. Conservatives know better: the root cause of crime is criminals. Increase the incentives for crime (the result of leniency) and you will get more of it. Like everything else in life, incentives matter.

Will the cycle of self-correction repeat itself? Here Churchill’s observation comes into play: “America will always do the right thing—after exhausting every other possibility.” We’re still in the “exhaust every other possibility” phrase of the matter, but there are early signs the tide is slowly turning. Refund the police!

In the spirit of the holiday, I give thanks for no supply-chain interruptions of Laphroaig imports, and Lucretia gives thanks for her new puppy (left).

You know what to do now: listen here, or dodge the muggers on your way over to our hosts at Ricochet.

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