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September 19, 2023

Chicago Mayor Defines Deviancy Down

By suggesting a government workaround to the city’s shoplifting epidemic, Mayor Brandon Johnson shows he’s not up to the job.

Thirty years ago, every conservative’s favorite liberal, New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, published a piece in the American Scholar — stay with us — titled “Defining Deviancy Down.” Sadly, but predictably, that essay has withstood the test of time.

Moynihan began by lamenting what sociologist Emile Durkheim posited nearly a century earlier: that crime and criminal behavior are a normal part of society and thus shouldn’t be seen as deviant. Consequently, as Moynihan wrote, we’ve developed a coping mechanism — a painkiller, as it were — by which we downplay the deviancy, we trivialize it — whether it’s crime or mental illness or homelessness or transgenderism or the breakdown of the American family. As the late Charles Krauthammer put it, we’ve learned to cope with societal deviancy through “a singular form of denial: We deal with the epidemic simply by defining away most of the disease.”

Perhaps nowhere is this leveling of the moral landscape more apparent than it is in Chicago, where the black-on-black genocide proceeds apace on the city’s South Side, and where the lesser criminality of shoplifting has eroded the profitability of area shops and stores, and has caused even hardy retailers such as Walmart to pack it in.

Our intent isn’t to kick Chicago while it’s down. Indeed, we could just as easily be kicking San Francisco, whose soft-on-crime policies have scared away more than two-dozen retailers, many of them long-established — from Nordstrom to Whole Foods to Walgreens.

What drew us to Chicago, though, was the shoplifting solution recently proposed by hard-left Democrat Mayor Brandon Johnson.

Did he propose a crackdown, perhaps? A cop on every street corner and a commitment to stiffer sentencing for the perpetrators? Maybe some Philadelphia-style freedom, in which retailers post armed guards outside their stores? A relaxing of the city’s Second Amendment ban for retail store employees, and a Good Samaritan law for store clerks who choose to defend themselves and their livelihoods and their merchandise instead of cowering?

Get real.

Johnson is proposing to open city-owned grocery stores to serve neighborhoods that have become “food deserts” — which is to say, neighborhoods that no longer have nearby grocery stores due to the recent closure of four Walmart stores and a Whole Foods. As the New York Post reports, “Johnson announced last week that his administration would partner with the nonprofit advocacy group Economic Security Project to put stores in underserved areas of the city — a proposal Republicans called something out of ‘Soviet-style central planning.’”

Today, Mayor Brandon Johnson announced a partnership with the Economic Security Project to start on a pathway towards the opening of a municipally owned grocery store in Chicago. The Economic Security Project, a national non-profit dedicated to building economic power for all Americans, will provide technical assistance in determining a pathway to the first municipally owned grocery store in Chicago. This collaboration furthers the Johnson administration’s work towards repairing past harms that have contributed to purposeful disinvestment and exclusion and lack of food access in historically underserved communities.

Notice how the mayor blames retailers for “purposeful disinvestment and exclusion and lack of food access.” If they’re losing money by the truckload, why on earth should they stick around?

“In the coming weeks,” said Hizzoner in a separate press release, “we will be taking a much closer look at the challenges we face, and how we will address those challenges reasonably and responsibly, and not on the backs of workers and working families.”

This is appeasement, plain and simple; a willful defining down of the real problem and a failure to address it head-on. If Chicagoans think the price of groceries is too high already, just wait until the government gets involved.

“Take all the problems private chains face in low-income areas, then add in amateur management by a bureaucracy, Chicago-style political corruption in hiring and contracting, and a limited range of products,” said Chicago Republican Party Chairman Steve Boulton. “Food deserts do exist in Chicago neighborhoods, but the answer is promoting capitalist prosperity and stopping crime, not injecting more socialist dependency.”

Were Patrick Moynihan alive today, were he around to hear this sorry suggestion by the mayor of one of our nation’s great cities — that we combat shoplifting not by cracking down on the crime itself but instead by creating a big-government workaround — we suspect the normally loquacious lawmaker and former college professor would be stunned into silence.

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