[Warning: Spoilers for a 2004 movie].

At the end of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village, we discover a bizarre conspiracy: In the 1970s, a group of people whose loved ones were murdered move to the middle of nowhere in order to recreate a simpler, safer time.  Under the guidance of a history professor/billionaire, they pretend they’re in the 19th-century, and raise a new generation with the Big Lie that they are in the 19th-century.

The irony is that the historian’s history was way off.  Here’s Alex Tabarrok on U.S. homicide since 1650.  Murder rates used to be much higher than they are today.  Take a look: The 1870s actually look worse than the 1970s:


The lesson: As usual, the good old days ain’t what they used to be, and never was.  In long-term perspective, the “huge crime spike” after the 1950s was merely a blip in the march of progress.  Take a close look at the graph.  Despite near-linear progress, myopic newspaper readers could have easily convinced themselves for decades at a time that progress was zero or negative.