Decades of Low Crime Show Society Is Resilient to Decay

This post is part of our forum on Don Peck's September story, "Can the Middle Class Be Saved?" A few points in response to the previous comments:

First, I'm not very worried about immigrants taking jobs away from Americans.  The cities which attract immigrants create more jobs for Americans than those that do not.  Economist Giovanni Peri, from UC Davis, has studied immigration and jobs from a variety of angles and he finds the case for current levels of immigration to be a positive one.  It's the cities without many immigrants that have the biggest problems, including a variety of places in the Midwest.  Peri also finds that immigration prevents a lot of jobs from being outsourced.

Second, too often it is assumed that American social cohesion is somehow at risk.  But the most important social trend is that we are growing older as a society, and rapidly.  That will make American life more conservative and more stable and that is probably the dominant trend.

Here's another way to look at it.  Crime rates have been falling for decades, even in light of rising inequality.  Our social fabric is pretty resilient.  I am fond of pointing out that a lot of envy is local, namely that people compare themselves to their colleagues, their in-laws, and the people they went to school with, not Bill Gates.

If you look at the states with relatively stagnant economies, they tend to show a lot of Tea Party support, not a desire for an aggressive redistribution of wealth.  Many modern liberals assume that at some point citizens will become as upset about America as they are.  I believe that expectation will be proven wrong again and again.  In some ways economic matters are becoming less secure.  I expect people to compensate by finding refuge in myths about how okay things are.  The social fabric will prove more stable than many of us are expecting.

Presented by

Tyler Cowen

Economics professor at George Mason University and author of The Great Stagnation. More

Tyler Cowen is Professor of Economics at George Mason University and Director of the Mercatus Cente and author of The Great Stagnation. He blogs at Marginal Revolution.

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