WALTER WILLIAMS: Our unwillingness to defend ourselves

July 15, 2014 

The U.S. Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that 2012 losses because of personal identity theft totaled $24.7 billion. The money losses from identity theft pale in comparison with the costs of paperwork, time and inconvenience imposed on the larger society in an effort to protect ourselves. Unless we develop a low tolerance and a willingness to impose harsh sentences, identity thieves will continue to impose billions of dollars of costs on society.

Today's Americans tolerate what would have been unthinkable years ago. According to the National Center for Education Statistics and the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 209,800 primary- and secondary-school teachers reported being physically attacked by a student during the 2011-12 academic year. Hundreds of thousands more are threatened with injury. These facts demonstrate an unwillingness to defend ourselves against these young barbarians, who often will grow into big barbarians.

And when young barbarians do grow up to become big barbarians, often there's still an unwillingness to defend ourselves. In many poor neighborhoods, the police know who the criminals are, but their hands are tied by the courts. These criminals are permitted to prey on the law-abiding members of the community, who often are huddled in their homes.

But it is in the international arena where we face the greatest threat from our unwillingness to protect ourselves. The West, led by our country, is doing exactly what it did in the run-up to World War II. It knowingly allowed Adolf Hitler to rearm, which led to a war that cost 60 million lives. We have a similar lack of willingness to effectively deal with terrorists. We are too focused on government handouts rather than the most basic function of government: defending us from barbarians.

Write to Walter E. Williams, a professor of economics, at Department of Economics, MSN 3G4, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA 22030-4444. Email:

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