Great Decline in Crime Has Lessons to Offer

ig events go by unseen while we sweat the smaller stuff; things happen underground while we watch the boulevard parades. Truly underground, sometimes: in 1858, the pundits and politicians in Britain were obsessing over the British government's takeover of India from the East India Company and the intentions of Napoleon III, yet the really big thing was the construction, with the supervisory genius of the great engineer Joseph Bazalgette, of a sewer system to protect London from its own waste, and so arrest the smelly “miasma” that had come to crisis conditions that year. This underground system, along with its visible embankments, would, both directly and by example, save countless lives in the developed world during the next century—making cholera epidemics, for instance, a thing of the distant past. But it got built in relative invisibility

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