Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Lofty Theories Fail to Prevent Crime

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Lofty Theories Fail to Prevent Crime

Article excerpt

W.C. Fields once said: "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again - and then give up. Don't be a damn fool about it."

For more than 30 years now, liberal theories about crime have been tried out all across this country, in institutions ranging from local social programs up to the Supreme Court of the United States. These theories - about rehabilitation, about "root causes" of crime and all the other buzzwords - not only have failed to reduce crime but have been followed by an almost unbelievable escalation of crime.

Yet all these cherished theories of the anointed are as alive and well today as if they had been roaring successes. The recently passed federal crime is full of programs based on the same assumptions with which liberals of the 1960s abandoned policies and practices that had seen crime rates declining for three decades. Policies based on the new liberal assumptions have been followed by three decades in which crime rates have been more than double what they were when these new theories and practices were introduced with such fanfare.

Recent proposals for midnight basketball are only another symbol of the mind set behind the Clinton administration's crime bill. What are kids doing out at midnight in the first place? Curfews make more sense.

Midnight basketball, like self-esteem programs, proceeds on the assumption that "prevention is better - and cheaper - than cure," as Washington Post columnist William Raspberry recently put it. Where has Raspberry been these past 30 years while similar "prevention" programs have proliferated across the land? Where have all the liberals been while billions - no, trillions - have been spent on all sorts of social programs that supposedly get at the "root causes" of crime?

With crime, as with so many other issues, people on the political left think they know how to change the dispositions of others - and that this is more effective than changing the incentives. At what point do we decide that we have already sacrificed enough money and enough lives to this lovely idea?

The public wants the hoodlums and career criminals put behind bars and kept behind bars. They don't want judges, parole boards or liberal legislators constantly finding excuses for putting dangerous people back on the streets. …

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