America’s Neo-Victorian Future

Megan McArdle writes: Last week I considered our culture’s vanishing burden of proof when a prominent man is accused of any sexual impropriety. Certainly I wouldn’t want the bad old days of sexual harassment to continue. But there must be some way to find justice for women who have been abused without rushing to punish men who may not have abused anyone.

You can think of crimes as a sort of pyramid: At the top, there are a relatively small number of actions that we can all clearly agree merit the severest sanction, if proven. And then, as you slide down the walls of the pyramid, a growing number of cases that are less and less bad. At the base of the pyramid is a gray area where reasonable people can disagree about whether the evidence is strong, or the behavior alleged merits any sanction.

What happens if we try to apply the sanctions that are clearly merited for the guys at the top to the guys in the middle? What happens if we try to move the line down until it encompasses more and more of the guys at the bottom? Read the rest of this entry »


Are Today’s Millennials a New Victorian Generation?

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Michael BaroneBarone-3 writes: Public policymakers and political pundits tend to focus on problems — understandably, because if things are going right they aren’t thought to need attention. Yet positive developments can teach us things as well, when, for reasons not necessarily clear, great masses of people start to behave more constructively.

“What accounts for this virtuous cycle? …I think what we are seeing is a mass changing of minds.”

One such trend is the better behavior of the young Americans of today compared to those 25 years ago. Almost no one anticipated it, the exception being William Strauss and Neil Howe in their 1991 book Generations, who named Americans born after 1981 the Millennial generation and predicted that “the tiny boys and girls now playing with Lego blocks” — and those then still unborn — would become “the nation’s next great Civic generation.”

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The most obvious evidence of the Millennials’ virtuous behavior is the vast decline in violent crime in the last 25 years. The most crime-prone age and gender cohort — 15-to-25-year-old males — are committing far fewer crimes than that cohort did in 1990.

Statistics tell the dramatic story. In two decades the murder rate fell 49 percent, the forcible rape rate 33 percent, the robbery rate 48 percent, the aggravated assault rate 39 percent. Government agencies report that sexual assaults against 12-to-17-year-olds declined by more than half and violent victimization of teenagers at school declined 60 percent.

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Binge-drinking by high school seniors is lower than at any time since 1976, sexual intercourse among ninth graders and the percentage of high school seniors with more than three partners has declined. Read the rest of this entry »


Victorians: Why So Serious? 19th Century Photography’s 3-Second Exposure Revealed