More Wisdom from Steven Pinker's Enlightenment
By David Henderson
As I mentioned last week, I’m reviewing Steven Pinker’s new book, Enlightenment Now, and loving it.
Here’s Pinker on one reason crime has fallen:
When cars are harder to steal, houses are harder to burgle, goods are harder to pilfer and fence, pedestrians carry more credit cards than cash, and dark alleys are lit and video-monitored, would-be criminals don’t seek another outlet for their larcenous urges. The temptation passes and a crime is not committed. Cheap consumer goods are another development that has turned weak-willed delinquents into law-abiding citizens despite themselves. Who nowadays would take the risk of breaking into an apartment just to steal a clock radio?
And on the decline of fires in buildings:
As a result [of things such as sprinklers and fire-retardant materials that he mentions in the previous sentence], fire departments are putting themselves out of business. About 96 percent of their calls are for cardiac arrests and other medical emergencies, and most of the remainder are for small fires.
I wish here that he had pointed out that precisely because of those facts, it’s probably pretty inefficient to send large wide fire trucks rather than smaller, quicker, more maneuverable vehicles carrying fewer people.
For more on this see “Smoke and Errors” by the late Fred S. McChesney.