Progressive criminal-justice ideas—de-policing, decarceration, district attorneys seeking social justice instead of pursuing violent crime—began to win adherents in American cities in the second half of the 2010s. With George Floyd’s death at police hands in Minneapolis in May 2020, and the subsequent race riots that ripped apart a pandemic-traumatized nation that summer, those gains became a rout. The disastrous results of progressive reform are evident in elevated crime and spreading disorder in cities from coast to coast.
Thomas Hobbes understood centuries ago that without security, social life and commerce collapse; crime and disorder are city killers. With 2024’s presidential race under way, this issue opens with our second symposium aimed at setting an agenda for a new administration, this one focused on getting crime under control again and putting law enforcement back in the business of criminal justice. Ten policy experts offer their best ideas on how to do it, ranging from improving data collection to fixing prisons to telling the truth about the disproportionate numbers of blacks among the perpetrators and the victims of serious crime.
New York has struggled to keep crime and disorder in check in recent years, but it’s now facing another crisis, largely of its own making: a massive influx of asylum-seeking migrants, drawn by the city’s “right to shelter” and other services, and waved on by the Biden administration’s abdication of border security. Totaling more than 100,000, with thousands more arriving weekly, the migrants have overwhelmed existing shelter facilities. The cost of providing for them boggles the mind, observes John Ketcham in “How to Fix Gotham’s Migrant Mess”—an estimated $12 billion over the next three years. It’s time to end or limit the right to shelter, Ketcham says, and his essay shows how. The migrant tsunami is overwhelming other parts of the country, too, explains Steven Malanga in “Illegal Immigration’s Terrifying Cost,” putting state and municipal budgets under crushing strain.
In “Minor, in a Major Key,” Heather Mac Donald reviews Chevalier, a recent film ostensibly telling the story of eighteenth-century violinist, composer, and swordsman Joseph Bologne, who spent time in the court of King Louis XVI. Bologne was a second-rate musician, with a moderately successful career, but his mother was a Caribbean slave, his father a French plantation owner—and therein, notes Mac Donald, lies Hollywood’s interest in him. The movie predictably turns Bologne into a victim of racial injustice, whose talent, burning brighter even than Mozart’s, was tragically ignored by history because of bigotry. Chevalier is a perfect example of the societal self-contempt that increasingly characterizes the West.
Luke Burgis has a more inspiring vision in “The Promise of Entrepreneurial Education,” a pedagogical model that seeks to bring together the “three cities” that represent our highest aspirations: Jerusalem (biblical faith), classical reason (Athens), and scientific and technological innovation (Silicon Valley). Corbin K. Barthold extols a new Golden Age for the space industry, propelled by the advances of Elon Musk’s SpaceX in rocketry, which could soon blast us to Mars.
Jonathan Clarke asks: “What’s Left of Psychoanalysis?” His nuanced essay reflects on a discipline that has seen many of its original premises undermined, yet that retains value as a way of reconciling us to life’s sorrows.
This issue also features two essays on remarkable, recently deceased public intellectuals. In “Tribune of the Middle-Class City,” Stephen Eide considers the life and thought of historian Fred Siegel, while in “The Visionary” Robert VerBruggen profiles Peter Huber, whose polymathic mind encompassed drug development, energy production, media regulations, and more. City Journal benefited enormously from its long association with both authors.
—Brian C. Anderson