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Americans’ Weird Belief Their Country Is Becoming a Lawless Hellscape

One of the strangest phenomenons for me is how a clearly majority of the country still thinks crime is getting worse even though it has been on strong downward trajectory for the past two decades. From Gallup:

Perceptions of Crime in the U.S., 1989-2014

If crime is really worse than last year and last year was worse than the year before, and so on… by this point we would be living in hellscape where we for expired canned food in the ruins of old New York. Yet the fact that major cities are steadily become more popular places for people to live, work and go out hasn’t seemed to really change the public’s pessimism.

I’m left wondering what is causing this phenomenons. It is that human are naturally hardwired for certain forms of paranoia about safety? Has American media done a terrible job of highlight the drop in crime rates and a great job of turning the story of one missing white women into a month long news extravaganza? Is most of our near future Hollywood sci-fi dystopic?  Is the police-prison-military-asset forfeiture complex engaged in a very active campaign of scaring the public so more money continues to be thrown at them?

This is not just idle speculation, but a serious question with big policy implications. We wasted billions on some very misguided “tough on crime” approaches that have result in the word’s largest prison population, crippled the economic prospects of millions, and feed a a massive drug war that has killed thousands on the other side of our borders.

Undoing all these bad policies might depend on finding a way to convince the public about the very good news when it comes to crime rates in this country.

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Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at http://pendinghorizon.com

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