The Recession's Big Test

Is it every man for himself? Maybe hard times can make us both tough and tender

LM Otero / AP

Shoppers tug over a television during the holiday shopping rush at a Walmart in Dallas.

Every day, another anecdote: Five Banks held up in a single day in New York City, where such robberies are up 54% from last year. Grocers putting electronic tags on sirloin to deter shoplifters. Psychologists predicting more mall violence and workplace rampages. And of course the story that started it all, the Wal-Mart worker trampled by shoppers who pushed past with urgent indifference even as paramedics tried to save him, for there were bargains to be seized.

Mass moral breakdown seems a tidy, symmetrical response to a crisis driven by greedheads and gamblers who blew the bubble that carried us away...

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