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You say that high-trust societies tend to empower people to enforce social norms independently. My wife and I have experienced as homeschoolers. Homeschool groups are the last places on earth that any parent can correct any kid and know they will be backed up by that kid's mom. Try doing that at a public park and see what happens.

I wonder if you've read Why Liberalism Failed by Patrick Deneen? He believes that Enlightenment liberalism seeded its own destruction. Locke (and especially Mill later) placed maximal individual autonomy as his highest good. which makes any other "common good" standard (like a shared moral order) impossible, since any collective restrictions on my behavior violate my maximal individual autonomy and therefore must fall. Mill intended this; for Locke I think it was accidental.

"Personally, I’ll take the stronger culture over higher trust."

I agree and it was Patrick Deneen that showed me why it matters. Fixing trust levels is impossible. Fixing culture is only really hard. If you haven't read the book, you definitely should.

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Nov 3, 2023·edited Nov 3, 2023Liked by Max Remington

I stumbled across your page via Rod Dreher’s substack and have pored over at least a dozen of your articles. I want to commend you for your persuasive writing about crime and human nature, it’s really got me thinking…

I feel pretty comfortable assuming that the family stealing candy isn’t from the neighborhood. In my experience, it’s common knowledge that the ritziest neighborhoods have the best Halloween treats, so lots of teens and/or working class families make trips into the “nice” side of town in order to indulge in some fantastic candy. (At least, that’s what happens in my folks’ neighborhood in suburban Orlando, but I doubt anyone has been so brazen as to steal an entire bowl from someone’s porch.) It’s just part of the culture, not too different from driving through the fanciest neighborhoods to see the coolest lights come Christmas.

But then I get to thinking… these people’s faces are being recorded. Presumably they know this. Our generation is aware that cameras are everywhere nowadays: on our doorbells, in our phones, on our dashboards, in our businesses, on our traffic lights, our ATMs, our stairwells, and so on. People rightfully assume they’re being recorded virtually everywhere they go, yet the threat of their identity being revealed seems to not to deter these profoundly antisocial acts. One would think that being more surveilled would result in more law-abiding behavior, yet the opposite seems to be happening among the youngest and most internet-savvy people.

I can think of a few reasons why. Maybe too many of our peers got away with blatant criminality in the recent past. If your cousin stole a TV back in 2020 and never got caught, wouldn’t you be tempted to do something criminal yourself someday? Maybe people have discovered that the authorities have either lost the will to enforce the law or else can be completely overrun when places get mobbed en masse. Or maybe we’ve digested the reality that for many of us, our first instinct is to turn the other cheek and submit to humiliation rather than court a class- or race-based controversy. It’s probably less destructive for someone in a lucrative field (or a nice neighborhood) to be deprived of Halloween candy or be harassed by strangers than it is to be accused of racism.

Sorry if my comment doesn’t explicitly have to do with trust, I just felt like chiming in. It seems to me that we have more tools than ever to deter criminality, but the authorities and/or our neighbors lack the willpower to do anything about it. Obviously stealing candy isn’t that big a deal in the scheme of things, but it’s an indicator that the culture is changing—this behavior is likely to be passed on to that woman’s kids!

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