[Reprinted from: The Georgist Journal, No.
69, Autumn 1990]
Crime in New York has come to the fore as one of the city's most
dreadful problems. Random or purposeful killing of taxi drivers, drug
rivals, passersby, children, keep us in horror. "Good Samaritans"
who try to help are among the victims.
One murder seemed to affect us particularly -- the killing of
Brian Watkins, a clean-cut visitor from the clean-cut West, while
trying to protect his family from subway muggers. Shock waves went
around the country, and blase Hew Yorkers were shaken more than usual.
It seemed to trigger a new determination to fight crime.
It could be that New York's "image" was
particularly bloodied. After all, this cosmopolis, this center of
international, financial and communication activities may be tough but
does not want to be given up as hopeless. The crime rate is actually
higher in some other cities, but all eyes are on New York.
And so we have talk of more police, tougher law enforcement,
and "let us take back the streets," with speeches,
demonstrations and parades. There now, the criminals had better watch
out! Trouble is, we've been through this before -- more than once.
Macaulay and Henry George warned us that the new Huns and
Vandals would cone from within our civilization. What we didn't know
is that they would be so young.
Kids barely in their teens roam in packs and commit
unspeakable acts of violence. They come from slums and housing
projects -- and many are on drugs. They don't know anything abut the
war on crime -- and they are continually being bred in the urban
wastelands. Some do not even speak English. (One adolescent murderer
knew only four words: "Give me a dollar.")
Nothing has worked so far. We keep talking about improving
our education system, our law enforcement system, our welfare system
-- all of which are strained to the limit. We'll just have to face the
fact that this disease is spawned by poverty. It cannot successfully
be swept out of sight or dealt with by palliatives.
The economic problem must be solved -- and at such time as
the city (and not only the city) is ready to face this, we Georgists
are ready to show how it can be done.