The most consequential societal achievement of the last generation was the suppression of crime, in particular violent crime. It ushered in an era of domestic tranquility and economic prosperity unknown in history.
Sadly, though, we must say that crime reduction was an unparalleled triumph because crime is back again. No, it is not at 1970s levels, not yet. But it is patently trending in the wrong direction. That is because nothing matters like ideas matter, and our society is choosing to turn a blind eye to the ideas — conservative ideas about ordered liberty, about rights and obligations in a free, pluralistic society — that, for a long time, seemed to have won the battle against lawlessness and its attendant social dysfunctions.
Alas, there are no final victories. There are principles that separate right from wrong, and if we don’t tend to the former, the latter will seize the day. …
… The struggle for right to persevere has not been this urgent since those bad old high-crime days of the 1970s, when I was growing up in the Bronx. Back then, the radical Left was just rolling out a newfangled approach to justice and policing. It prioritized the interests of lawbreakers over the rights of the communities on which they preyed, to the point, notoriously, that the criminals were already back prowling the streets while the cops were still filling out paperwork about the last futile arrest. As a young federal prosecutor, I experienced those frustrating years up close, as well as the revolution in law-enforcement strategies that reversed them.
The difference between then and now is that, well, we have then. We have that experience, and we have learned what works — and what doesn’t.