Where Have all the Criminals Gone?

I’ve always liked “Where Have all the Flowers Gone?”  Most people think it cheesy.  It began as Pete Seeger folk song in 1955 with three verses.  In 1960 Joe Hickerson added the rest turning the song into a circular hit song against war in 1961 (http://en.wikipedia.org).  Seeger and Hickerson wrote it, but The Kingston Trio sings it best.  The basic point of the song is that flowers go to girls; girls go to young men; young men go to soldiers; soldiers go to graveyards, and graveyards go to flowers.  So what’s the answer to where have all the criminals gone?  “Gone to graveyards every one.”

Crime rates have plunged since the 1990s.  Bill Clinton predicted during his presidency if we didn’t do something about the crime rate the successors to his office would be able to do little else then address crime. “’We know we’ve got about six years to turn this juvenile crime thing around,…or our country is going to be living with chaos.  And my successors will not be giving speeches about the wonderful opportunities of the global economy; they’ll be trying to keep body and soul together for people on the streets of these cities’” (2).  In 1995 the crime rate was projected to at best increase by 15% and at worst double.

But that’s not what happened.  Instead of increasing the teenage murder rate fell more than 50% in five years.  By 2000 the overall murder rate in the US was the lowest it had been in 35 years (Ibid.).  Where have all the criminals gone?

Yes, they’ve “Gone to grave yards every one.” Least that’s what the authors of Freakonomics say.  The drastic drop in crime is all because Roe v. Wade.  Statistically, according to them, those who are most likely to commit crime are born to single mothers in poor circumstances (5).  The numbers of children in that group had been dropping by almost 1.5 million each year since the 70s.  The mid-90s is when that group would have come of age crime-wise.

The authors point out that no one is willing to attribute this staggering drop in crime to abortion.  They will cite stricter gun control laws, better policing, and a better economy but not abortion (5).  It’s good that they won’t.  O the judgment we would call down on ourselves if we admitted that we intended to prevent crime by committing crime.  We would be saying let us do evil that good may come.  We would be saying let us kill soldiers that we may cover their graves with flowers.

If Freakonomics is right, instead of asking where have all the criminals gone the better question might be where have all the singer-songwriters gone?  Why hasn’t a single one risen in popular culture to protest the war against the unborn?  After we withdrew from Vietnam the protest songs didn’t stop.  They turned into songs for oppressed peoples, starving people, people with AIDS, even for farmers who were losing their farms, but not a note, not a bar, not a measure, not a lick for the unborn.

As Pete might ask,  “When will they ever learn?”  Not from those who are content to speak no more about abortion than to rattle it off in a long list of other sins.  Not from us who have made preventing malaria in African children a major goal for the church.  Plenty in the world will write and sing protest songs about that.  Who writes and sings for unborn children?


About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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