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Saturday, March 03, 2012


D.E. Bishop

Good article KB. Thanks.

I think the "Broken Windows" theory is pretty universal, rather than limited only to a particular group. My friends are mostly liberal, and none of us would disagree that physical decay of a neighborhood leads to a higher level of crime. But regardless of that, it is a good point.

I do say the same about empathy and delayed gratification.

What I'm really curious about, is why you seem to believe that those ideas are limited to a certain group of people who have conservative beliefs. Will you explain further please?

Ken Blanchard

D.E.: Thanks for the questions. Yes, I think that conservative ideas are largely limited to people who believe them.

The broken windows theory is generally accepted right now, but it was stoutly resisted when first proposed. If the left has believed anything over the last century, it is that the root causes of crime are social injustice and economic deprivation. People are poor because they haven't got any money, and they commit crimes because they are poor. Accordingly, the remedy for crime is social reform, including especially spending money to improve the lot of the poor. By contrast, the broken windows theory holds that the root causes of crime are moral and psychological rather than economic.

On the second point, the left has been deeply committed to cultural relativism. There can be no universal principles of good character because there are no universal moral principles of any kind. If someone on the left tried to pick out universal principles of character, they might eventually get around to delayed gratification; however, it would be way down on the list. Consider the recent controversy over contraceptives in insurance. Contrary to what the Democrats keep saying, Conservatives do not want to ban birth control. It is fair to say that they are less fond of the idea of birth control than are liberals, who are deeply attached to it. What is the function of contraception? It is precisely to escape having to delay gratification.

I wish to be clear about one thing. I am NOT saying that conservative are better people than liberals, or that conservatives are more likely to have character.

Donald Pay

The world is not so simple, KB. I was involved with a neighborhood group in Rapid City in the Roosevelt Park and East North Street area. Certainly the broken windows theory is important, but it involves a lot more than your elitist belief that some people don't have the moral and psychological underpinning to resist crime.

When we looked objectively at our area of Rapid City we found pretty strong neighborhoods with a mix of housing, most of which was pretty well kept up. This was before the City improved Roosevelt Park (which was a place where adult drunks hung out), so I assume the neighborhoods are a lot better now. The people living in single family homes and the better apartments were a mix of middle and lower middle class. There were a good share who would qualify as poor living in trailer parks, and some homeless living in motels on East North Street.

The home and apartment properties that were eyesores needed assistance to clean up. Some of the problem was economic. People just didn't have the funds to fix things, though they really wanted to. Sometimes older homeowners lacked the ability to get out an clean up like they used to. Sometimes it was just a couple pretty rambunctious, but not otherwise horrible kids who put rocks or balls through windows. The improved park facilities, I hope, have improved things.

In spite of the run down appearance of some of the properties, we made sure the police monitored any suspected drug houses. We politely confronted problem tenants, and let landlords know when problems persisted. Usually, bad behavior was curtailed. It takes more than good morals or fixed windows to turn around a neighborhood.

The biggest eyesores were one East North Street and consisted of some run down commercial properties. At first, the rush to put in casinos improved properties, but it led to more dicy activity on the edges of our neighborhood. This is not something the broken windows theory deals with. You can fix a window, but if what goes on in the building is worse than it was before, you degrade a neighborhood. These casinos were put in by the so-called elite of Rapid City, the successful business people who supposedly have "good morals," according to KB. I actually preferred the run down looking fast food ally to casino ally atmosphere we ended up with, but KB's "good morals" people didn't live in that neighborhood. They never put casinos in their neck of the woods. Who's got the "good morals?"

I'm not sure what impact closing the neighborhood school has had on the neighborhood, but it couldn't have made things any better. The school brought people of all classes and all races together.

There are a lot of decisions

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