For as long as publishers have needed to sell papers and television networks have needed to attract viewers, the promotion of sensational, overblown claims about how terrible everything is has overwhelmed the simple truth that, in fact, things are getting better all the time. This year, the press has been particularly eager to prey on people’s fears by highlighting isolated instances of violent crime and claiming that this indicates a trend towards a more lawless society. Of course, as it turns out, this is sheer nonsense. A new analysis of 2015 crime data finds that rates have actually declined by about 5.5 percent since last year, with the murder rate remaining, from a statistical standpoint, flat.
Violent crime rate have been declining basically forever. Ever since the first caveman discovered he could hit his neighbor with a rock and make off with his pelts, mankind has been gradually learning how to live together in peace. As Steven Pinker demonstrated in his monumental work on the decline of violence, The Better Angles of Our Nature, homicide rates in Europe have declined by a factor of fifty or so since the middle ages. In the United States, a young and characteristically excitable nation, the homicide rate has been cut in half since the 1990s, a trend that has all the earmarks of continuing well into the future.
This is not unique to homicides. According to the FBI, the rate of all violent crime in the United States has plummeted in the last…