For two years, anti-cop activists and the elite media have waged an incessant campaign charging American policing with racist aggression against blacks. That claim is fraudulent—as Heather Mac Donald has shown in City Journal and in her important new book The War on Cops—but it has proved influential, having the disastrous effect of getting many officers to back away from the proactive policing methods that reduced crime in American cities over the past two decades, producing an urban renaissance. With law enforcement in retreat, violence has erupted, with particular lethality in the Windy City, as Mac Donald reports in her cover story, “Chicago on the Brink.”
The numbers chill the blood. Over the first five months of 2016 alone, 1,400 Chicagoans were shot and 240 killed, and the epidemic shows no sign of easing. The victims thus far have mostly been minorities in gang-plagued inner-city neighborhoods, casualties of black-on-black violence. But the mayhem is reaching Chicago’s prosperous downtown, too. As Mac Donald shows, Chicago leaders, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel, have failed the city in the aftermath of the gruesome police killing of Laquan McDonald and a foolish Chicago Police Department agreement with the American Civil Liberties Union that has turned routine stops of suspects into bureaucratic exercises. Without a return to proactive policing, Chicago’s very future could be at stake.
Progressives love big infrastructure—and love the idea of Washington paying for it even more. Pouring taxpayer dollars into bridges, roads, airports, and other building projects stimulates economic growth, they say, and it’s a great way to fight unemployment during downturns. In “If You Build It . . . ,” Harvard economist Edward L. Glaeser explains why everything progressives believe about infrastructure is wrong. While investment in, say, new roads or bridges or subways is often a good idea when a city or an area is already growing, Glaeser points out, the funds too often go to struggling, shrinking places that have plenty of infrastructure already. When the feds are dispensing the cash, moreover, the waste is almost guaranteed. The notoriously slow pace of modern infrastructure projects also makes this kind of spending a lousy weapon to combat recessions, Glaeser argues. A better approach to give us twenty-first-century infrastructure: get the federal government out of the way, and have people pay for what they use. Glaeser’s visionary essay offers a blueprint for policymakers.
Myron Magnet’s “Why Are Voters So Angry?” gets to the bottom of this strange, volatile election year, in which populist forces have risen on the right and the left. As Magnet describes, many Americans believe that their government no longer belongs to them. And their alienation is understandable, he says, as the small government of limited powers forged by the Founding Fathers is increasingly eclipsed by the Administrative State, run by connected elites for their benefit—and not the public’s.
Such cronyism is unbridled at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the bistate entity that progressives created nearly a century ago, under the assumption that experts could guide transportation and infrastructure policy more efficiently than voters and local politicians. That assumption proved utterly wrong, as waste, corruption, and lack of accountability came to characterize the authority as it grew and grew. In “Let’s Break Up the Port Authority”—the latest in our series on the dysfunctional agency—Stephen Eide lays out a reform plan that comes to terms with hard fiscal reality.
Music critic Ted Gioia’s “Jazz Central” narrates how, from the 1920s on, New York became the place to be for jazz, as legends like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington made the city their base of operations and clubs like the Savoy Ballroom and the Apollo Theater pulsed with nightly shows. Gioia thinks that the city will continue to be home to the music’s top artists, as a new generation of jazz innovators makes its mark.
Apoplectic voters and arrogant elites notwithstanding, America remains a remarkable nation, as French intellectual and new citizen Guy Sorman writes in his moving “On Becoming an American.” That’s something to remember in a time of conflict and disaffection.
—Brian C. Anderson