COLUMN: U.S. & the world: Where do you feel safe?
Last week marked the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. Since then, we haven’t had another attack on American soil. As a result, public concerns about another attack have waned, though many Americans acknowledge that another attack is likely.
Do you feel safe? And not just from external threats. How about when you walk the streets in your community?
If you look at the money we spend on police, prisons and the military, it would seem that we should be safe and secure. Our budgets for safety and security are considerable higher than those of other nations, notes Howard Steven Friedman in "The Measure of a Nation." Have these investments paid off?
Looking at the homicide rate, it doesn’t seem so. The rate of intentional homicides is way higher in the U.S. than it is in any comparable nation. In fact, it’s more than double the rate of South Korea, which has the second highest rate. There is a downward trend in homicides in the U.S., but we are still number one among comparable nations (Look at Monday’s post to see the list of comparable nations used in Friedman’s book.)
Homicides vary widely by race in the U.S. African American men and women are much more likely to die by homicide than white men and women.
Incarceration is one of our main responses to crime. America holds the top spot when it comes to the rate of incarceration. Not only do we throw proportionately more people in jail, sentences here are longer and harsher than elsewhere.
It comes as no surprise to know that our military expenditures as a percent of GDP are higher than other nations. Indeed, one reason why other nations spend less is because we spend more and protect them along with ourselves.
How peaceful are we as a nation, compared to others? The Global Peace Index can give us some insight. This index is composed of 23 indicators, such as number of conflicts fought, level of violent crime, access to weapons, incarcerated population, potential for terror attacks, access to weapons, disregard for human rights, and so on. An index like this is fraught with difficulty and open to interpretation. Yet it is informative to know that the U.S. is rated the least peaceful nation of the set of nations compared in The Measure of a Nation.
Of course, there is variation in peacefulness across the 50 states. The four most peaceful states are Minnesota and three New England states—New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine. The four least peaceful are Florida, Louisiana, Tennessee and Nevada.
Are you surprised by the peacefulness rankings?
How safe do you feel where you live?
Can we improve by learning from other nations?