The perils of “doing something”

Fifty years ago, Edward C. Banfield published The Unheavenly City: The Nature and Future of Our Urban Crisis at a time much like our own, with poverty, crime, and racial unrest seemingly ascendant. It was also a time in which both Left and Right engaged in a great deal of hyperbolic commentary about these problems—a tendency Banfield’s book sought to address.

The Unheavenly City is one of those rare academic books that became a bestseller, marked by Banfield’s characteristic straight talk and satirical passages, such as when he muses on whether the burdens of impoverished, unwedded mothers might be lifted by authorizing them to sell their babies…. (Read more

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