A few months ago I wrote about how the fall in crime over the past couple of decades has no good explanation, even though huge amounts of analysis has been done on it. So how can we presume to explain why any historical trend occured?
Well, it continues. Recent numbers show that not only has the decline not slowed, as one would have expected by this time: it has accelerated.
What is going on here? Are we suddenly more virtuous? Nicer? Accepting of the social contract? No one seems to be claiming this. But if none of these is true, what is the cause?
What if a great moral movement had swept the nation in the past ten years? Imagine vast stadiums filled with citizens of all conditions and ethnicities raising their hands and swearing peace and brotherhood. Such movements have certainly come through in the past, and there is no reason to think that they won't again. Wouldn't we now be saying that the Empirical Brotherhood Movement was responsible for this dramatic drop in violence and property crime? And who could argue?
Those opposed to the EBM would, of course, be saying that they had nothing to do with it, and they would be right. But they would be saying it, not because they were right, but because those fraternal empiricists are so annoying and self-satisfied.
What if the things that erode our stern moral virtue, like video games, pornography, fast food, reality shows,drugs, and surfing the internet for movies of pets doing cute things are the same things that cause us not to go out and rob people at gunpoint? Is the sacrifice of our moral autonomy in favor of passive consumption of entertainment a price worth paying?
A few days ago, I argued that virtue has nothing to do with our refusal to own other humans as slaves. Maybe it has nothing to do with our refusal to assault and rob others either. We just have other, more fun things to do now.