July 16, 2009


'Broken Windows' Works: Crime, disorder and punishment. (George L. Kelling, 07.16.09, Forbes)

[C]ritics of Broken Windows had one good point: New York provided, at most, anecdotal and correlational evidence of a relationship between disorder and crime. There were very few experimental studies--the most certain method of establishing causality--showing that the first caused the second.

But that changed last year, when University of Groningen researcher Kees Keizer and his colleagues published a paper in Science. In six experiments in the Netherlands, Keizer observed and compared the behavior of people under artificial conditions of order and disorder. Invariably, he found that disorderly conditions encouraged further and more serious levels of disorderly behavior. In one experiment, for example, Keizer placed an envelope conspicuously containing five euros in a mailbox. When the mailbox was clean, 13% of people who passed it stole the money; when it was covered with graffiti, 27% took it.

Also in 2008, Harvard University researcher Anthony A. Braga and his colleagues published the results of a complex set of field experiments in criminology. Researchers and police identified small neighborhoods in Lowell, Mass., and randomly assigned them to experimental and control conditions. In each of the experimental areas--where police were maintaining order, Broken Windows-style--crime dropped more sharply than in the control areas and, moreover, did not simply move to adjacent neighborhoods. The article also built on an earlier experiment, with the same results, that Braga had conducted in Jersey City a decade earlier.

The notion of a right to a 'good death' undermines society: If my life has no objective value, then why should anyone else care for it ( Vincent Nichols, 16 Jul 2009, Daily Telegraph)
We have seen a significant defeat in Parliament for proposals to legalise assisted suicides, and learnt of the joint suicides at the Dignitas apartment in Switzerland of the eminent conductor Sir Edward Downes, and his wife, Lady Downes. While there are many ethical, medical and legal issues surrounding assisted suicide, at its heart lies the notion that we have an absolute moral entitlement to have whatever kind of death we choose. This is surely the triumph of the philosophy that proclaims individual rights above all other considerations and the relativist insistence that what is good is a matter of personal judgment.

The consequences of this attitude lie at the root of the weakening of social structures, including the decline of the family as the core unit, the rise of anti-social behaviour, the pursuit of profit at all cost and the increasing intolerance of non-materialist, philosophical or ethical views. It can be summarised as the age of convenience; the pursuit of what we want despite its cost and impact on others.

Time for some serious tikkun.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 16, 2009 4:42 PM
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