Blogger Clive Davis, who is well known to us at Samizdata, has this distressing report about an attack by youths on his teenage son. He’s not been impressed by the response by the police. It will not ease Clive’s anger one jot to hear that I had exactly the same experience when I was mugged in Clapham nine years ago. The police jotted down some comments, took a statement from me, including a description of the attackers (I managed to hit one of the bastards quite hard, I am glad to say). About a week or so later I was contacted by Victim Support, offering counselling, which I politely refused, although I was grateful for at least some followup. I had bad headaches for about a week and had to take several days off work. It is, as Clive and the rest of us Londoners know only too well, a regular occurence.
What to do about it? That is the big question, perhaps one of the biggest questions of public policy in Britain. Sure, the economic worries arguably are taking a greater share of the chattering classes’ time right now, but the long-running issue in Britain, at least since I have been interested in public affairs, is the continued uptrend of yobbery and violence in British society. It has been blamed on many things, with varying levels of plausibility: the lack of authority figures that can inspire and instill respect in youngsters, mostly boys; the breakdown of the family and the rising levels of single-parenthood, which in turn is encouraged by perverse incentives, such as the Welfare State. Throw in a culture that celebrates, or at least does not condemn, yobbery and violence plus the decline of manual labour and lack of outlets for youngsters who are not academically gifted, and you have quite a toxic mix. As for the last point – the decline of manual labour – I certainly do not think that could or should be reversed, given all the gains we have enjoyed from the move to a more service-based economy. But it is a problem that has to be thought about. I personally think one step would be to cut the school-leaving age and hack away labour market restrictions so that apprenticeships can be viable. What so many kids lack is a chance to learn a skill and quickly experience the pride of earning a proper wage. It would be a start.
Time magazine has already caused a stir with this front cover. Good. Sometimes it takes a foreign news publication to tell it like it is about what is happening. Not very “Cool Britannia”, is it?
Anyway, my best wishes to Clive and his family.