The social health of a nation is reflected in part by the extent of its criminal behavior. If one were to judge the United States on this single item, the prognosis would be bleak indeed.
In 1970 the FBI reported that during the sixties serious crime increased by 148 per cent. Current statistics make it seem likely that the increase for the seventies will be more than 100 per cent. (To be sure, part of this reflects improved reporting procedures and the willingness of a larger percentage of victims to complain rather than suffer in silence.)
In cities large and small, citizens are afraid to be on the streets at night. However much we disapprove of handguns, it is easy to understand why certain indignant people want guns to protect themselves. And it is not difficult to suppose, deplorable as the prospect is, that if conditions continue to worsen people will be tempted to take the law into their own hands and execute summary justice by shooting on sight criminals or those thought to be criminals.
We wish to comment here on two aspects of the crime situation. The first is the long prevailing notion that crime springs from poor living conditions—from such states as poverty, unemployment, and racial discrimination. The United States and other Western countries have increasingly moved toward welfare statism. No one at all familiar with U. S. history can deny that during the past hundred years social evils have been attacked vigorously. Thousands of laws have been enacted to restrain injustice. Any comparison of the state of affairs in the United States in 1875 and 1975 would show that considerable progress has been made with regard to social, political, and economic rights. Compared to a hundred years ago, more people have an adequate ...1
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