August 30, 2005
Good news! Your children are getting safer!
By Perry Willis
But you wouldn't know it from watching the nightly news, or listening to politicians. Yes, your children are getting safer, but to understand why that's true, and why you may not know about it, we have to take a little excursion through DC Downsizer philosophy. To wit . . . We wouldn't want to give people the wrong idea. The “wrong idea” would be that all parts of the voluntary sector do a superior job at all things all the time. A superficial reading of this blog might lead one to believe that we hold this view. Likewise, it would be easy to conclude that we believe the coercive-government sector does all things poorly all the time. But that isn't exactly correct either. Instead, our view is this . . .
  • The voluntary sector as a whole will almost always do a superior job at almost everything when compared with the coercive-government sector as a whole.

  • Where one company or institution in the voluntary sector does poorly, it is highly likely that some other company or institution in the voluntary sector will make-up for it by performing that task exceedingly well.

  • Where one part of the coercive-government sector does poorly it is very unlikely that another part will make-up for it by performing the same task well.

  • Companies or institutions that perform poorly in the voluntary sector strongly tend to make little money, and are very prone to going out of business.

  • Whereas parts of the coercive-government sector that perform poorly, not only do not go out of business, they have a strong tendency to receive increased funding.

  • Let's look at an example where one poorly performing part of the voluntary sector conspires with one part of the coercive-government sector to paint a false picture of things. The news media is part of the voluntary sector, but it does an abysmal job reporting about crime. Especially cable news. Cable news has provided an important service by alerting people to abducted children. It has helped to save many kids. But by obsessing on individual stories, hour after hour, and day after day, it has obscured the bigger picture. Your kids are getting safer. Sexual assaults against children aged 12 to 17 have dropped 79% in the past 10 years, and sex crimes against children of all ages have gone down 39%. But you wouldn't know it from watching the news media. While crime of all kinds has been plummeting news coverage of individual crimes has skyrocketed, as much as 500% by some estimates. Obsessive coverage of individual cases combined with a failure to present the overall story of declining crime rates, has left parents fearful for their children's safety to an unreasonable degree. And when the media obsesses about something politicians are always eager to jump in front of the cameras and propose hastily constructed new laws, many of which cost money or violate rights without producing results. The media is doing a good job by exposing specific cases and helping to solve them in many instances. But the media is doing a poor job by failing to report the larger truth about increasing safety, thus making everyone worry more than they should. Government, on the other hand, seems to be doing a better job with crime, which is good, because this is one of it's core functions. Notably, it is also a function that is Constitutionally reserved to the state and local level. And we would argue that it is at the local level where much of the improvement is happening, and not from un-Constitutional federal interventions in crime prevention. It is also important to recognize that government registries of convicted sex-predators were largely useless until the Internet community – the voluntary sector – stepped in and turned the data into something user-friendly and readily accessible. But the most important point is this: Things are getting better. You can find more analysis of this issue here.
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