But after doing that work for years, it became more difficult to find more and more interesting things to say about it. So as of a year or so ago, when I started to read Peter Turchin's work on the inequality cycle, I started covering things related to that topic primarily.
In both cases, I tend to focus on the changes in individual psychological factors that percolate up to cause the macro-level trends that most people really worry about -- violent crime, inequality, and so on.
Since I haven't written about crime trends in a little while, and now that you may be reading a lot about it, I might as well review my take on things. Rather than merely link to old posts, it would be better to make it more of a Q&A driven by the audience.
So in the comments, tell me what aspects of the topic you'd like to be covered, what specific views and claims you'd like to see me respond to, and so on. There's a lot of weird, silly, and retarded stuff written about this topic, so don't worry about asking what seems like a "stupid question".
One major thing to take into account for now, though, is the distinction between violence that we can call "criminal" vs. "collective". Criminal violence is face-to-face, mano-a-mano, and is largely opportunistic (mugging, rape, heated argument that ends in a stabbing). Collective violence is something like a riot, rebellion, terrorist attack, or war.
Aside from being conceptually distinct phenomena, they empirically appear to belong to two different historical cycles -- criminal violence is part of the cocooning vs. outgoing cycle (rising crime when folks are more outgoing), whereas collective violence is part of the status-striving vs. self-sacrificing cycle, or widening vs. narrowing inequality (more collective violence when folks are more self-sacrificing and nationally united).
For the most succinct version of my theory on what causes crime rates to rise and fall and rise again in cycles, here's a passage from this overview post. Note: I'm obviously talking about "trust" on an interpersonal, social level -- not confidence in macro-level institutions like Congress or whatever.
Criminals can be thought of as predators, and their victims as prey. Elsewhere (mostly in comments) I've described the basic dynamic between these two groups that generates cycles in both crime rates and trust levels. To recap:
First, people (i.e., potential victims, not criminals) become more trusting of others. Higher trust levels allow criminals to gain access to the prey, who are basically defenseless once access has been gained. So, second, crime rates begin rising a bit after trust levels do. Rising crime rates make people more wary of others. Hence, third, after crime rates have been going up for awhile, average people begin to withdraw their trust of others. Falling trust levels make it more difficult for criminals to gain access to victims, so fourth and finally, crime rates begin to plummet a bit after trust levels begin to fall.
Of course, after crime rates have been falling for so long, average people sense less of a reason to keep others at arm's length and under suspicion. So trust levels begin rising for the first time in a long while. Now we're back to where we started, and the crime-and-trust cycle repeats itself.
Depending on how many requests I get, and how easy it is to discuss, it may be a few days before there's a post up in response. Or if it gets really hectic, I'll just do a response post every several days in an ongoing series.