From packages taken from the doorstep to luxury stores hit by gangs, crime is taking on a life of its own. Even the Fox Christmas tree burnt down. Our greatest cities suffering from lawlessness and filth no longer are tourist draws—many experiencing out-migration. The situation only seems to be getting worse.
How did we get to this point? We have to ask how we have departed from civilized norms. To understand the problem, we must revisit what we expect from our elected governments—at a minimum, going about our business without fear for our person or property. Walking down the street or opening for business shouldn’t be an act of foolhardy courage. We pay taxes to enforce the laws allowing civilized society.
In my series “The Long Journey to More,” I observed the only way to get an increase from present circumstances was to take it from someone else, trade for it, or innovate. As we innovate and trade our way to “More,” the idea of taking it from others should become unacceptable. Our military and law enforcement must keep predators from taking what we value.
Limited food, clothing, and shelter meant getting from others before they got from you for most of human history. The strong subjugated those weaker and left most at subsistence. The powerful got “more” and fought to preserve what they had and to extend their sway over others.
The Vikings used their versatile ships to both raid and trade. In an earlier time, they were an example of how things worked. In our era where more people live well above subsistence every day, the tolerance for those preying on others should be diminishing. Instead, we appear heading in the opposite direction.
When we have all sorts of programs to feed, clothe and shelter those in need, what if anything justifies anyone taking from someone else? If government programs weren’t enough, we have a multitude of charities providing aid. One would have to work hard to starve to death. Only exceptional circumstances result in malnourishment. Never in history have we had more support for the unfortunate, yet we find the news now dominated by lawlessness.
Without the excuse of existential need, criminals should be treated as anti-social and punished accordingly. Removing them from society will go a long way to achieving the safe communities we all desire.
Many areas have the opposite experience. In San Francisco, stealing less than $1000 is just a misdemeanor. Due to new bail rules, even when criminals are apprehended, they’re right back on the street in many cases.
More communities are suffering from what is known as “the Ferguson Effect.” Named for the town in Missouri where a perp attacked a policeman. With no other choice, the officer shot and killed the criminal. Instead of standing firmly for law and order, the man in blue lost his career, and the town was looted and burned. Law enforcement hamstrung rather than making quick arrests followed by prosecutions.
The result was a ruined town that may never recover. Where the police feel similarly unsupported, retirements are up, recruiting down, and remaining officers are anything but aggressive towards crime. Why bother with about theft? It’s only property.
Where the idea property doesn’t need much protection originated is murky. We know respect for the property of individuals isn’t great among socialists. Historically, those entities that protect and foster commerce became wealthier. Fearsome as they were, the Mongols safeguarded trade along the Silk Road from Asia to Europe. Trade made them more prosperous than just taking from others.
On the other hand, failing to protect property and commerce leads to a downward spiral. Looted and burned businesses don’t reopen. Others suffering heavy theft loses leave. Without essential services, those that can go. This action is especially true if they don’t feel safe. Real estate values decline, eroding the tax base already harmed by lost sales tax revenue. If you set out to destroy a place, stop protecting it.
You might say this is common sense, but that trait isn’t typical among those running declining areas. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot told looted Miricle Mile merchants, “Some of the retailers downtown in Michigan Avenue, I will tell you, I’m disappointed that they are not doing more to take safety and make it a priority. For example, we still have retailers that won’t institute plans like having security officers in their stores.” One of the highest-taxed Cities in the country, and you’re not doing enough to protect yourself. What are these businesses getting for the levies?
Is Lightfoot campaigning for vigilantes? More Kyle Rittenhouse to deter crime Chicago law enforcement is failing to stem?
In a nation that enshrined property rights in its Constitution, barring even the Government from depriving people of their property without just compensation, are we letting someone with a sledgehammer walk?
How does any of this benefit the inhabitants of these entities? Maybe it’s time for everyone to ask themselves, what is my job?