Following recent tragedies involving the New York Police Department—most controversially, the death by heart attack of Eric Garner on Staten Island last summer after his forcible arrest for selling illegal cigarettes—anti-cop activists have launched a protest against the department’s practice of keeping neighborhood order. Usually called Broken Windows or quality-of-life policing, that practice is based on a key insight into social philosophy. If the police or other authorities ignore a neighborhood’s “broken windows”—open-air drug dealing, aggressive panhandling, street-corner prostitution, and other low-level crimes—disorder metastasizes. Public space is lost. Bad guys begin to think that no one’s in charge. Scarier crimes—robbery, rape, and murder—follow. Conversely, if the cops do sweat the “small stuff,” serious crime falls, and public spaces return to life. It was by introducing Broken Windows and other key policing reforms in the mid-1990s that Mayor Rudy Giuliani and his first police commissioner, William J. Bratton, began the unprecedented crime turnaround that rescued New York City from a violent downward spiral. Giuliani’s successor, Michael Bloomberg, along with his top cop, Ray Kelly, stuck with the approach, driving crime to new lows. New York’s resurgence wouldn’t have happened without Broken Windows policing.
The activists, together with their allies in the media and the universities, want to explode all this. They contend that quality-of-life policing has had zero to do with the crime drop and that it stokes police abuse of minorities, overcrowds jails and prisons with nonviolent black and Hispanic offenders, and imposes bourgeois norms on urban populations. In our lead story, “Why We Need Broken Windows Policing,” William J. Bratton—back for round two as commissioner, now under a liberal boss, Bill de Blasio—and criminologist George L. Kelling, the original guru of the Broken Windows theory, rebut each of these charges. Their impassioned defense of the greatest public policy success story of the last quarter-century should be required reading in cities across America.
Peter W. Huber returns to the front lines of medical invention in “Patient, Heal Thyself,” the latest in his cutting-edge City Journal essays on the intersection of technology, health, and law. His subject: “personal medicine,” the treatments devised primarily from a patient’s own cells. These therapies, “created from scratch, one patient at a time,” as Huber puts it, carry breathtaking potential to cure diseases and restore damaged organs and tissues to health. Unfortunately, an antiquated and overly bureaucratic regulatory system threatens to impede their development. Sick patients would be the immediate losers. But the broader risk, Huber warns, is that the United States will surrender its leadership role in building a healthier future, as innovation shifts elsewhere.
The Obama era is limping to a close, with the president’s approval rating in the tank and Democrats reeling from mid-term losses. In a three-essay package that illumines “The Political Condition,” Harvey Mansfield explores the history of the Democratic Party’s confused commitment to progress; John O. McGinnis shows how today’s liberalism lacks majority support and thus must increasingly resort to deception, as the rollout of the Affordable Care Act clearly showed; and Myron Magnet offers some foundational truths about how to think about politics, with the help of Thomas Hobbes, Adam Smith, and Sigmund Freud.
California was one state where liberal Democrats did well in November’s races, with the reelection (yet again) of Jerry Brown as governor and a near-lock on statewide political offices. Beleaguered farmers can’t be happy, though, because California has been turning into a dust bowl. A long dry spell has parched the earth and killed crops, but as Victor Davis Hanson’s “The Scorching of California” explains, Cali’s Greens—a major power in the state’s Democratic Party—have made things worse by cutting off water supplies to farms and blocking new water infrastructure, all in the utopian hopes of restoring an antediluvian prehuman environment. December’s torrential rains won’t fix a problem that has been years in the making. Hanson, himself a farmer, presents a damning indictment of environmentalism run amok.
—Brian C. Anderson