Too Few Limits?

When I was a young man, too many years ago, mass shootings were almost unknown, and never occurred at schools. Crude and lewd language was largely kept to back alleys or behind closed doors. Politicians – with a very few exceptions – shaded the truth rather than obliterated it.

Statistics show that crime spiked in the 1970-90 period and most crime rates, including murder, are at the same level as in 1950, although total numbers are up because the U.S. population has almost doubled since then.

The biggest differences I see involve the loss of societal and social limits on personal behavior. From what I can tell, most towns or cities over 50,000 people have problems with homeless people invading public spaces and even private commercial spaces, to the point that, in a growing number of cities, business owners have to clean up human filth and debris every morning before opening. With the outcries about past inhumane treatment of the mentally ill, governments have effectively abdicated most responsibility for either adequate treatment or lodging of those individuals, while dumping the problems these individuals create on the rest of society, as well as imposing additional costs on local governments.

We’re also seeing more drivers ignoring speed limits and running red lights, a significant increase in retail shoplifting, as well as increasingly violent disruptions at public meetings, and a growing lack of civility at all levels of society, even in Congress where shouting and heckling the President – something once considered unthinkable – has become common. College students organize protests and harass and heckle speakers for having differing beliefs. Racist demonstrations have become common.

One of my grandchildren attends a public middle school. In her class is a young male who repeatedly disrupts the class, who has attacked classmates violently, and upon one occasion, assaulted another smaller and weaker withdrawn student who’s never said or done anything offensive, and it took three teachers to remove him. Despite suspensions, the behavior has continued for the entire year. The administration appears helpless, and the parents won’t do anything, except insist that their son remain in school – no matter what the cost is to the other students and to their learning. This is hardly an isolated instance, but it’s the result of a society that refuses to say, “Some behavior is unacceptable, no matter what your background or problems are.”

All of these are the result of a societal failure to enforce socially, rather than legally, a norm of acceptable behavior.

While societies need rules, without also an accepted code of social behavior, laws are insufficient to maintain order – unless you want an iron-fisted autocracy.

And if there’s a continued growth in the lack of self-restraint, the U.S. will end up either in anarchy or under a right-wing autocracy, because neither the left nor the right appears willing to call out bad behavior and incivility on the part of its own partisans, and the right is perfectly willing to legislate controls over those who disagree with their perception of the ideal society. And neither seems able or willing to reach a consensus on acceptable social and public behavior.

6 thoughts on “Too Few Limits?”

  1. Bill says:

    There is an interesting discussion about this trend. The examples here are the extreme of violence. One of the ways this transition has been phrased is the move from the Front Porch to Back Porch or Deck ( The idea is that the communities have changed. In the early part of the 20th century your community was your neighborhood. Many organizations were based on neighborhood. But with automobiles, telephones, the internet, social media, etc. Your community is based on your interests. For example, people will drive by a dozen churches to attend the one they wish to. There is nothing wrong with that. However, it encourages people to group with like-minded people and to avoid others. This means there is less social pressure on a person to behave in certain ways.

  2. R. Hamilton says:

    “because neither the left nor the right appears willing to call out bad behavior and incivility on the part of its own partisans, and the right is perfectly willing to legislate controls over those who disagree with their perception of the ideal society”

    And because the left thinks (or at any rate, postures) that consistently enforcing laws as written discriminates against their constituency. If there’s something wrong with the law, revise or repeal it, but don’t simply ignore it.

    There’s more than enough blame and excuse making for both/all sides. There’s also enough wannabe authoritarians on both/all sides, even if their methods and focus vary.

    1. Wren Jackson says:

      Care to share what bad behavior and incivility the left is unwilling to call out?

      Don’t play “Both sides” nonsense here, Sir. The uniform response to any accusation against leadership on the left is “Alright, press charges, show us the proof and if they’re actually bad we’ll be right there with you to bring em down.”

      Only one side of the aisle sits back and plays hypocrite and protects their side, ignoring or pardoning their garbage.

      Al Frankin had something from his past come up that may very well have been blown out of proportion and the result was still his condemnation for it and his stepping down.

      Meanwhile Mike Moon is on record stating “Do you know any kids who have been married at age 12? I do. And guess what? They’re still married.” in defense of the idea that 12 year olds can be married off to adults with parental consent.

      Where’s the outrage? Where’s the removal of this horrible person? It doesn’t exist because he’s on the same side as the rest of them.

  3. Conrad says:

    Three words explain this: diversity, equity, inclusion

    1. Wren Jackson says:

      DEI does not explain any such thing, but please go into detail, I’m sure it’ll be fascinating.

  4. Tom says:

    This article may be of some help in the discussion of Human Behavior as we see it. I do not see the theories explaining why all human groups of any national size seem to have devolved into the “too few limits” or ” personal sovereign” types of behavior.

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