In Prospect

Autumn 2007

Los Angeles’s Skid Row had long been America’s most squalid urban turf, dominated by mentally ill vagrants, drug dealers, and a host of low-lifes—a place where the rules of civilized life no longer applied, crime went unpunished, and merchants had to barricade their property against nightly invasion with barbed wire, as if inhabiting the post-apocalyptic landscape of Dawn of the Dead. Homeless advocates had fought every effort to restore order with ceaseless lawsuits and antipolice propaganda.

But as Heather Mac Donald reports in our cover story, “The Reclamation of Skid Row,” the William Bratton–led LAPD’s year-old Safer City Initiative has turned the neighborhood around by relentlessly applying the principles of Broken Windows, or order-maintenance, policing—at least where the lawsuits still allow it. Major felonies on Skid Row have fallen 42 percent over the first half of 2007, with murder down 75 percent and other indicators, such as drug overdoses, improving as well. (Similar results have flowed from Denver’s turn to order-maintenance policing, observes Alec Magnet.)

You’d think Skid Row’s crime drop would be cause for celebration. But not for the homeless industry, which is launching a new wave of spurious litigation that threatens to return the neighborhood to anarchy. It would be a tragedy if they succeeded. On the subject of misguided activism, the new Religious Left has become a powerful force over the last half-decade. Steven Malanga profiles the union-allied movement.

Across the Pacific, it may be time to ask: Will Carrie Bradshaw destroy Japan? In the fascinating “The New Girl Order,” Kay S. Hymowitz looks at the sudden globalization of the single young female. From Tokyo to Mumbai to Warsaw, more women than ever are going to college, moving to the city, and starting careers—and, as a result, delaying marriage and having fewer kids. The Sex and the City lifestyle of consumption and aspiration is exciting, and injects energy into economies across the planet, Hymowitz writes. But low fertility also means shrinking societies and, over time, weaker economies.

Peter Huber explores a different revolution—one of science and markets—in “Cherry Garcia and the End of Socialized Medicine.” Huber’s theme is the new molecular medicine and its audacious mission to “tune” everything that makes us sick—or makes us tick. In affluent countries, most diseases originate in human chemistry. The new medicine is making that chemistry predictable and tractable in ways that will give us unprecedented personal control over our health—so much control that no one-price health-care system will ever be able to cope. What will follow the end of the era of big government in health care? Predicts Huber: “Science will discover, competition will supply, patients will choose, and freedom will deliver better medicine and far better health, at lower cost, to many more people.”

That England and Australia have been the U.S.’s staunchest allies in Iraq has led some to talk about the virtues of the “Anglosphere” in the fight against Islamic terror. In “An Anglosphere Future,” Christopher Hitchens weighs in. His argument: properly understood, as a source of ideas of liberty and democracy, the Anglosphere may indeed have a future. But Hitchens rejects imperial nostalgia and warns against confusing language with ethnicity. India is today’s biggest English-speaking country, after all, and it has been fighting Islamists longer than we have. The war against jihadism can’t be won on the terrain of Rudyard Kipling.

André Glucksmann would agree. One of Europe’s leading political thinkers, Glucksmann has waged a 30-year battle for human rights, famously supporting Eastern European dissidents against Marxist totalitarianism and emerging in recent years as a fierce critic of Islamism and a rare French supporter of the Iraq War. In the mesmeric “From the H-Bomb to the Human Bomb,” he meditates on the radical evil of modern terrorism, which seeks to combine the annihilating power of Hiroshima with the “nihilist gospel” of Auschwitz. Facing such evil, defenders of freedom can’t be complacent.

—Brian C. Anderson