Why is America’s murder rate so much higher than in other first-world nations?

RealClearPolitics analyzed the most recent United Nation’s data to better understand American violence. The assault rate in Scotland, England, Australia and Germany is more than twice the US-assault rate, at times far more. Yet the US-murder rate is at least four times the rate of these developed nations. America’s murder rate ranks 53 among 153 nations. No other developed nation ranks within the top half. The comparison between assault and murder rates is rough; an assault is not always reported or discovered. Both rates are however based on criminal justice sources from 2003 to 2008. And the comparison, for all its imperfections, captures an important fact: Americans are not exceptional for their violence but exceptional for their extreme violence–murder…

There is an unspoken willingness to tolerate our share of murders. American hyper-capitalism makes a similar tradeoff. We subscribe to social Darwinism to a degree unseen in Western Europe. It’s one reason our economy is the fittest. But it also explains why the wealthiest nation in the world has a weaker social safety net than other developed countries. The conservative equation of freedom: lower taxes and fewer regulations on guns, equals more freedom. Liberals adhere to their own zealous formulation of American freedom. The left has won more civil rights for the mentally ill, but those rights will sometimes risk the public’s welfare. It’s this most-American value that Jonathan Franzen explores, within the ordinariness of middle class daily life, in his recent novel “Freedom.”…

As Franzen wrote in his novel, “The personality susceptible to the dream of limitless freedom is a personality also prone, should the dream ever sour, to misanthropy and rage.” The Arizona tragedy is not an inevitable consequence of freedom. But the nation has accepted its American berserks as one of the prices of that freedom.