‘We Don’t Have Light’

A street during a blackout in Caracas, Venezuela, March 8, 2019. (Carlos Garcia Rawlins)The lights have been out for a while in Venezuela, but none of this should surprise us. We have literally seen this before.

New York City collapsed in 1977. There were 1,557 murders in the city that year, more than twice the number there had been ten years earlier. That awful trend would continue to get worse until the city hit its homicidal apex in 1991, with 2,245 murders, but the shadow — the literal shadow — of 1977 continued to loom over the city.

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Anno Domini 1977 saw the nation as a whole suffering from stagflation, and New York City in particular was crippled by a financial crisis following years of misgovernment heavy on policies that lately have enjoyed a revival: tuition-free education at City University of New York, substantial growth in public-sector personnel spending, big deficits financed by potentially volatile securities, short-term emergency financing, etc. Against that background of chaos and desperation, the so-called Son of Sam serial killer commanded the headlines as a brutally hot July settled over the simmering city.

And then the lights went out.


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