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What Works to Reduce Bad Behavior?


Not all that long ago, drunk driving was regarded as something anyone could be caught doing.  Drunk drivers were not thought of as criminals in the normal sense, and going to jail for a first or even a second offense was unusual.

It's true that drunk drivers are not criminals in the same way that the fellow who knocks over the liquor store is a criminal, or the guy who spends two or three years embezzling $50,000 from the bank.  But people generally understand when they've had one too many, and can adjust their behavior accordingly if they want to.

MADD wanted some adjusting as well from the courts' response to drunk driving, and largely succeeded.  In recent years, the prospect of going to jail for that offense, even if for only a short time, has considerably increased.

Today, we found out the amazing result.

Is tougher enforcement the only reason for so many more saved lives?  No, obviously.  Is it part of the reason?  You bet.

Moral of story:  Society gets the bad behavior it tolerates.  When it tolerates less, it gets less.  There's a message in their somewhere for the let-them-out-of-jail crowd.  Whether they get the message is a different question.


Bill raises an important point regarding one of the progressive's favorite issues--the promotion of tolerance.

As we have seen in the evolution of the broken windows theory of law enforcement, small, seemingly insignificant transgressions of the social order build until law abiding citizens no longer feel comfortable strolling big city promenades.

Even progressive cities like San Francisco have recently recognized the need to regain control of the city streets from aggressive panhandlers and the incorrigable homeless population.

Tolerance -- taken in usual sense of having an open mind about things that might be unfamiliar or even alien -- is a good thing. But as ever with "progressives," you need to watch for subtle but important shifts in the meaning of words.

In particular, when the subject turns to crime and punishment, you always need to ask what, specifically, is it that we should "tolerate." Usually it does not turn out to be something merely unfamiliar. Indeed, most often, it's quite familiar indeed.

What we are supposed to "tolerate" is not a new idea, but some very old ones like greed, bullying and a me-first attitude -- in other words, the building blocks of crime. And for that, the correct stance is not tolerance but the opposite of tolerance.

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