Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Decline in Crime Reflects Serious Mood

The FBI reported a drop in crime rates in 2009, and the decline surprised some economists. This is not just a continuation of a long-term trend that has held for about the last 20 years, but a significant step down, with a 5.5 percent decline in violent crime and a 4.9 percent decline in property crime, compared to the year before.

Ordinarily, crime correlates with economic pressure on consumers. Based on that, you would expect crime to go up with a broad decline in employment, as we saw in 2009. However, the context of events in 2009 was hardly an ordinary recession, and the crime report is consistent with other measures that suggest a new mood of seriousness took hold among U.S. consumers in 2008 and 2009. If we’re not messing around, that also means we’re not not making so many of the irrational, impulsive decisions that lead to committing crimes.

Declining beer consumption and unusually high voting rates are two other trends that seem to track with the serious mood of the economy. On the surface, it might seem that these trends may cause each other to a slight degree. For example, you can’t drink beer in a polling place, and beer consumption creates a state of mind that may lead to bad decisions, at least in country songs. Yet I believe these and other trends are mainly effects of a deeper spiritual change, perhaps having to do with people feeling determined to chart the course of their own lives.