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Never mind civil society, there outa be a law!

Britain’s Tony Blair has taken a further step in his self-declared role of father, and quite possibly mother, of the nation. He wants to introduce new laws to regulate anti-social, yobbish behaviour and introduce training (this is not a joke) for particularly wayward parents.

Given the recent Orwellian remarks of Lord Gould, this all makes perfect sense. Blair and his ilk have no conception of civil society as a network of individuals, mediated via institutions, evolving slowly across time. He has no idea of how in such a society, values of self-restraint, civility towards others, concern for the weak, can be internalised rather than be handed down by dictat.

This is not to say that yobbery, uncouthness, family breakdown and other pathologies are not serious problems. Of course they are. Ask anyone who has walked through a major UK city centre on a Friday evening. There is now a large and impressive body of work pointing to both the problems and some possible solutions in this regard. (Go and read Theodore Dalrymple or James Bartholomew, for instance). What these books and other studies have in common is an understanding that the top-down model of social reform, with its legions of officials, laws, agencies and so forth, has manifestly failed. There is little prospect of further efforts in this mould working either. Yet for Blair and so many others – including Tory leader David Cameron no doubt – problems of yobbery or mass drunkeness call for an “top-down” set of “solutions”. All the while the behaviours that are crimes, such as murder, burglary and violence, are frequently met with police indifference or punished only haphazardly by the courts. The law turns topsy-turvy.

It may amaze some readers to think that Blair was once thought of as a highly intelligent politician back in the mid-1990s, and there is no doubt that to this day, he remains – on tactics at least – one of the most astute political figures of modern times. In terms of his grasp of human nature, however, he presents a pitiable sight as he grasps for that “eye-catching” gesture.

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50 comments to Never mind civil society, there outa be a law!

  • guy herbert

    What’s so depressing about this is that no-one in the mainstream has come out to call Blair’s ideas the pernicious totalitarian poison they are. The Tories and LibDems grumble about the inadequacies of the solution, not either the diagnosis of the problem, the way it is used as a pretext for totalitarian measures, or the style of government it represents. Even Liberty, whose record of late has been very good, can only come up with some obscure grumbling about “asbomania”, rather neglecting the PM’s vow to pervert the criminal justice system and the plethora of schemes of compulsory participation that the Respect Agenda promises.

    When will someone point out the emperor has no clothes other than his jackboots? Where’s the evidence that “anti social behaviour” is more than erzatz moral panic about low grade disorder of a sort that’s been endemic forever?

  • Verity

    It was Blair and his slimy minions who caused the breakdown in civil order in the first place by neutering the police and removing authority from teachers and parents.

  • Verity

    Guy Herbert, you would oblige if you did not insert images of a naked Tony Blair wearing jackboots into my brain. I have no need of an emetic.

  • Strooth

    why shouldn’t rubbish parents be given some encouragement to improve their performance?
    You admit bad behaviour can be a problem, but why shouldn’t the government play a part?
    You quote Dalrymple. but wasn’t his book about his experience as a Doctor working in the public sector? if some governnment employees have to sort out this mess, why shouldn’t others get involved.
    You don’t believe that guff about parenting being some sort of sacred private thing do you, we’re all in this together.

  • Perry E. Metzger

    So, where are the protests against this stuff? If freedom loving people in the United Kingdom take this stuff lying down, there isn’t any hope. You have to make your dissent clear, and by means other than simply blogging.

    As I remember, Thatcher’s government experienced a certain amount of street theater when she tried to impose the use of heavy per capita taxes to support local government. Surely Tony Blair is not immune to public expressions of distaste.

  • Since none of these program proposals have ever worked to reduce crime, is it nuts to suspect their real object is to tighten the screws on the innocent law-abider? Just like cameras and gun bans and smoking bans and “congestion charges” and drug laws, they don’t attack the actual problem, that’s too hard. They just keep making things worse for the average man trying to enjoy life. And the screams of protest are cited to support the delusion that “something’s being done”. And, just coincidentally of course, they set in place the machinery of a truly repressive state.

  • Tomahawk

    Where’s the evidence that “anti social behaviour” is more than erzatz moral panic about low grade disorder of a sort that’s been endemic forever?

    Well, in the leafy middle-class backwaters of Surrey and Suffolk, it may well look like a moral panic. By contrast, from my berth in London the problem is all too real. Moreover, it has been getting steadily worse over the last 3 or 4 years. The area in which I live is plagued by gangs of teenage youths who spend all their time riding around on motorbikes and minibikes (in pedestrianized areas), mugging passers-by and pizza-delivery men, and involving themselves in lots of low-level harrassment (that sometimes becomes more serious).

    Tha parents of these youths either do not know what they’re up to or, more often, do not care. Most appear to be on welfare and have no ambitions other than acquiring more bikes and bling.

    Local residents are either apathetic or too frightened to intervene — that is especially true of the elderly people who live in this area.

    The police are mainly a waste of space. Usually they don’t want to know: on most of the occasions on which I’ve contacted them about these youths on their bikes, they don’t bother turning up. Having said that, two local community officers have shown some interest and even came to speak with me, but they stressed how limited they were in terms of resources.

    My MP nods in agreement with me when I contact her but in reality she has done little.

    The Blair government’s “soft fascism” receives a lot of derision at this site, but then again most of you are probably lucky enough not to live in such areas. Two things that people in my area are keen on are CCTV cameras and ASBOs – those great bogeymen of the Samizdatas. They are ways of imposing some checks on the hoodlums. I would prefer it if the local community could take care of these problems but it can’t; it is too eroded and weak, which is precisely why the state needs to step in.

    Libertarianism comes cheap when you live in the sleepy shires. But in the inner cities it means nothing more than the rule of the gangs.

  • Two things that people in my area are keen on are CCTV cameras and ASBOs – those great bogeymen of the Samizdatas. They are ways of imposing some checks on the hoodlums.
    But do they impose any checks? Is the all-powerful state actually making any difference at the local level? And why is the local level “eroded and weak”?

  • Paul Marks

    Mr Blair has said that he wants judgement on the spot and no burden of proof.

    So it is clear what he wants – Judge Dredd.

    His policy is based on reading the “2000 A.D.” comic strip.

    “Silly”? Judge Dredd would be the logical person to protect the “old lady who has been spat on by some thug – the courts can not help her”.

    One problem might be that the person punished for spitting at the old lady might not have actually done it (indeed the event may be entirely made up by the police officer) – but do not fear, the person punished can go to court to clear his name.

    i.e. he can go to court to try and prove his innocence after judgement has already been given against him.

    Also the people kicked out of their own homes (the house or flat they actually own) because they are “antisocial” can no doubt appeal as well.

    No doubt this all fits in with the “Human Rights Act” – which tends to have a twisted view of what “rights” are.

    You are quite correct in pointing out that Mr Cameron and his comrades have totally the missed the point.

    Instead of denoucing yet another sign of decay in what is left of the Common Law protection of the subject from the State they whine that Blair is only doing a little and should do much more.

    Mr Blair’s argument is that we can not “use 19th century methods to fight 21 century crime”.

    Actually 19th century methods (in one means the law as it stood by 1899-1900) would work well.

    Policemen “on the beat” (I would prefer private ones, but there we go) with clearly limited powers – but with the courage to take on violent criminals (not to fine little men after the act – but to prevent big men attacking the weak by physically defending the weak).

    A court system that punished criminals in proportion to their crime (I do not hold with homosexuality being a crime – but the law mostly had it right in 1900). What was a crime and what was not being clear and understood by all.

    And a strict but fair prison system (prison rape was unknown – as it was unknown up till only a few years ago).

    If one want to make people nicer then look to the Churches (or to humanist associations) not to the State.

  • HJHJ

    A good piece, Johnathon, and pretty much what I thought when I heard Blair earlier today.

    For what it’s worth, although Blair doesn’t care much about civil liberties, his motivation for top-down intiatives in this area are well-intentioned, not totalitarian. But he just fails to understand that it is the way that local democracy, accountability and voluntary action has been usurped by the state that caused much of the problem in the first place.

    Someone above commented about the police. It is not so much that they have had powers removed, it is that they are answerable upwards to central govt targets rather than locally that is the problem. Their pay and job security is entirely unrelated to whether local people think they’re doing a good job and there is no mechanism in place to make them locally accountable. You have no say over who becomes the senior policeman in your area and it will get even worse as the government (from above, of course) merges forces into regional forces. If you doubt this, look how the police precept on your council tax goes up hugely every year – and remember that your elected council have absolutely zero control over this – you have to pay what the police demand (an amount that increases hugely with their pay and rocketing cost of pensions).

    Of all police forces in this country, it is widely accepted that the Met is the least efficient and least locally accountable (it answers only to the Home Secretary). If you think other forces are poor now, just wait until the govt exerts the same control over them as it does over the Met.

  • Molly

    it is too eroded and weak, which is precisely why the state needs to step in.

    Now THAT’s a god damn classic! Parties like the one HE supports have ripped the shit out society and prevents us from taking a stick to the beery scrotes to defend ourselves and so what does he do? He calls for the state, the caring sharing state that shovels people into worthless state schools, subsidises children getting pregnant and spent 50 years replacing civil supports with state institutions, yes he calls for the state to “step in”. Mate, it has been stepping in for far to fucking long and the shit you have to put up with is a consequence of the shits you vote for.

    And I live in downtown Newcastle, so I don’t know what the hell your are talking about with this sleepy shires shite.

  • GCooper

    So, let me see. Fifty years of socialist dismantling of society has resulted in precisely what conservatives predicted when it began.

    And the government’s response? The all too predictable, ‘this isn’t working – we must do more of it!’

    Cameron’s response was equally facile. The causes of the mess we are in cannot be tackled either by Bliar’s neo-fascism, or Cameron’s chasing after whatever politically correct fad he thinks could win him the next election.

  • toolkien

    Having the state “step in” is precisely the problem as people come to believe that civility IS handed out from above and not DEMANDED between people. When the rectification of an ill becomes a program the hands come off the wheel at the individual level.

  • Molly! Welcome back! I thought you didn’t love us any more.

  • Verity

    toolkien – Good point that people come to believe that civility is something handed down from above instead of a contract between normal people.

    Blair’s a nasty piece of work and no mistake. He is not well-intentioned but misguided. His power freakery probably exceeds Hitler’s. Except he isn’t out to conquer another country. He just wants to triumph over his own. As someone – was it Johnathan Pearce? – Perry? – posted around a week ago, this prime minister makes Oliver Cromwell look like Hugh Hefner.

  • Tomahawk

    Molly:

    Thanks for that hissy fit. Of course, you’re completely right: the Labour Party is to blame for urban decay in every town and city in the country. If only we could all have more guns and less government, our inner cities would be perfect, just like they are in the USA… er, yeah but, no but,….

    Robert Speirs:

    But do they [CCTV and ASBOs] impose any checks? Is the all-powerful state actually making any difference at the local level? And why is the local level “eroded and weak”?

    Put it this way. There are quite a lot of CCTV cameras scattered around the area but in the one place where they are absent, the minibikers and hoodies are at their worst. I don’t think the state can solve all these problems but it can help to give a lead, especially as you tend to find that a lot of the trouble centres round a handful of ringleaders. Some months ago, there was quite a significant dip in crime in this area because two of the principal thugs were finally caught by the police and incarcerated in Feltham. I have heard from other people who say that ASBOs have had a similar effect with some yobs.

  • asus phreak

    our inner cities would be perfect, just like they are in the USA…

    And of course you neatly describe the Democratic party’s heartland: inner cities. The problem is not that there are guns, frankly most of the people who get shot are criminals getting shot by other criminals.

  • Thanks for that hissy fit.

    But she did rather take your legs.

    Of course, you’re completely right: the Labour Party is to blame for urban decay in every town and city in the country.

    Yes actually, though as you might guess, I do not think the Tories are much better or they would have dismantled things like the Town and Country Planning Act and all the other idiotic things that brought us such planned marvels as cleverly zoned piss stinking shopping centres and crappy tower blocks. You voted for it and you got it. Don’t like the de-socialised yobs that resulted for decades of statist intervention? Pity that. I thought all these interventionist measure you guys have been voting for for so long was supposed to have made things better? Oh, of course, silly me, you just need MORE of it and this time it will work. Sure.

  • He is not well-intentioned but misguided. His power freakery probably exceeds Hitler’s.

    I don’t really think hyperbole like that helps your argument. I subscribe to Guy’s “Soft Fascism” idea (fascist economics are really just regulatory statism) but lets keep a sence of proportion and not take those analogues too literally.

  • I’ve lived in the sleepy shires of both Manchester and Liverpool. CCTV and ASBOs do nothing to discourage yobs unless you have a police force that can track people down after the act was recorded, or enforce the ASBO. That is considerably more expensive than having a decent localised police force in the first place. Taking people off welfare dependency would help too.

  • Tomahawk

    But she did rather take your legs.

    Well, not exactly. She said “shit” a lot, tried to make out that statism is to blame for everything, and that if only we lived in some kind of Mad Max world without government everything would be hunky dory. But of course, you’re right, everything was wonderful before the welfare state. Those slums that used to exist never really did. Births outside of marriage never occured before about 1965. Crime was never a problem in Britain before the socialists came along (those people we shipped off to Australia just wanted to go there on holiday).

    Whenever something bad happens, just roll another Hayekian spliff and enjoy a libertarian pipe dream, Perry.

  • GCooper

    Tomahawk writes:

    “Those slums that used to exist never really did.”

    Oh, slums existed, all right. They just didn’t breed the same number of sociopaths you were complaining about a few posts ago.

    “Births outside of marriage never occured before about 1965.”

    Like your hero, Bliar, have you never read any history, either?

    You seem confused. Either Bliar is right and society is getting worse, or he isn’t and it’s much the same.

    So which is it? And if it is the former, in what way are you suggesting that the massive increase in single parenthood and sink estates is not the direct result of post-war social policies?

    Oh, and try to reply without your ususal shower of personal abuse, if you possibly can.

  • Tomahawk

    CCTV and ASBOs do nothing to discourage yobs unless you have a police force that can track people down after the act was recorded, or enforce the ASBO. That is considerably more expensive than having a decent localised police force in the first place. Taking people off welfare dependency would help too.

    Mark: there is a lot to be said for that. But one thing I’ve noticed since ASBOs were introduced is that it has raised people’s expectations about what the authorities can achieve. Time will tell if that is misplaced – I certainly don’t think they are a panacea, but leaving things to go to rot isn’t a good option (I know that’s not what you’re saying).

    GCooper:

    *Groan* The nightly ritual of having to deal with your distortions and misunderstandings. I’m not sure I can be bothered, other than to point out that you’ve suffered a bad bout of irony by-pass on the 4th/5th lines of your comment. And yes, I think the increase in single parenthood is, to a great degree, a consequence of the welfare state (although women’s economic empowerment in the labour market also plays a role – perhaps you’d like to reverse the tide on that too?). I guess what I’m saying – and you’d know this if you read any history other than the usual Great Man stuff – is that social problems did not begin with the welfare state. The latter was much more highly developed in Scandinavia than it was here, but they didn’t have as many social problems. It was less developed in the US but they have more social problems (certainly in the inner cities). There is no simplistic correlation between these things, no matter how convenient it would be for your ideology if there were. The erosion of social capital has tended to be a more general phenomenon than anyone here is giving credit for, and for a multiplicity of reasons. As well as the welfare state, social capital has declined because of deindustrialisation, the breakdown of old social-class boundaries, and the omnipresence in people’s lives of the mass media. Just don’t expect any of that to be covered at Little Grumblers Central when there are always big socialistic fish (“red” herrings?) to fry!

  • GCooper

    Tomahawk writes:

    “And yes, I think the increase in single parenthood is, to a great degree, a consequence of the welfare state…”

    Well, at least that’s a start.

    “… social problems did not begin with the welfare state.”

    No, but the very social problems you were complaining about earlier most certainly did. You should read some Theodore Dalrymple. As a doctor working at the sharp end he has a keener take on it than any number of polytechnic sociologists waffling about “social capital”.

    The social problems that existed prior to the ‘golden age’ of the welfare state (bad housing, poor health, poverty etc) are quite dissimilar to the ones you were kvetching about earlier: “The area in which I live is plagued by gangs of teenage youths who spend all their time riding around on motorbikes and minibikes (in pedestrianized areas), mugging passers-by and pizza-delivery men, and involving themselves in lots of low-level harrassment (that sometimes becomes more serious).”

    For the most part, though not entiurely, these are a direct consequence of ‘socially liberal’ policies implemented by both Conservative and Labour governments since WWII. Even accepting the role of the mass media in social disintegration, what has driven that if not social liberalism?

  • Tomahawk

    read some Theodore Dalrymple

    Well, there was a threaddevoted entirely to him at Harry’s Place the other day. My comment was:

    Dalrymple sometimes has interesting observations about criminals and the breakdown in various social mores, but at heart he is a little grumbler who despises popular culture and whose mission is to confirm to curtain-twitching Mail readers that we’ve never had it so bad. One of his most obnoxious turns is when he starts praising elderly working-class people for their “good manners”. I too prefer the good manners of the older generation to the present chavvy vileness – but what Dalrymple really means is that he yearns for a time when the working classes knew their station and deferred to the authority of the “respectable” middle classes.

    I can see why he appeals to you.

    polytechnic sociologists waffling about “social capital”

    Well said! And who is the arch-waffler-in-chief? Why, it’s only Professor Robert D. Putnam, world-famous political scientist and public intellectual at Harvard, author of internationally acclaimed “Bowling Alone”. Move along, nothing to see here. Just some waffler from Neasden Poly! Much better to listen to some grouchy prison doctor.

    You’re out of your depth, sonny.

    I’d also advise others on this thread to read Francis Fukuyama’s State Building: it might cure you all of your unfortunate collective habit of confusing state scope with state strength. But then again, it might not.

  • As usual, the inappropriatly named ‘Tomahawk’ does not actually answer the questions. So with all this statism you have been voting for, why are you having such yob problems? Where is the New Socialist Man you were expecting?

    The big advantage I have in this debate is that before socialism came along and promised to fix everything, we did not have the libertarian Hayekian spliff smoking set up that classical liberals like me have been arguing for. I am one of those people who would have been fighting against the Corn Laws and all the other grotesque Victorian social engineering attempts that used law to backup social bigotry. Your line of argument might work with a fantasising ‘Golden Age’ Tory but perhaps you have not noticed that I do not much care for your brothers in blue either.

    In short, we have tried your way, we have tried the Tory way, which turned out to be pretty damn similar in the end, and it seems even you do not like the results much (though strangely you seem dead keen to have more of the same).

    In one breath you tell us we need more of all these splendid regulations the statist political parties have been shovelling out for decades, in the next you tell us in spite of that you are up to your eyeballs in boozed up yobbos and cackling chavs and then you tell me that I am deluded for not seeing that all this splendid statism was clearly the best course of action. Vastly entertaining.

  • Denise

    Strooth

    Do you really think that rubbish parents will become good parents just because the government wants them to? Especially if the so called encouragement is forced on them by law? They’d probably become more rubbish just to spite the government.

  • Tomahawk

    Perry:

    I did answer the question: the erosion of social capital, for all the reasons provided.

    Your line of argument reminds me of those Trots who always deny that “real” communism has ever been tried, and so we just need to try it properly…

    Before I started commenting at Samizdata, I asked someone at Harry’s Place (someone I don’t normally agree with) about you and this site. He said (I paraphrase slightly) that your usual response to nuanced arguments is ‘to splutter dismissively before cracking open another bottle of Chateau Hayek’. You’ve lived down to expectations.

    BTW – I hear that the Evil State is quite thin on the ground in Somalia. You might want to check that place out: it must be a real bastion of peace and prosperity.

    Good night, moonbats!

  • Verity

    Squaw Man writes: *Groan* The nightly ritual of having to deal with your distortions and misunderstandings.

    Wha’? … There’s no “having to deal” with anything. Who the fuck are you? An elected representative charged with a duty by the people who elected you? Hello? You have a duty to perform a nightly ritual? Who assigned you this ‘nightly ritual’?

  • BTW – I hear that the Evil State is quite thin on the ground in Somalia.

    As usxual you do not know what you are talking about. Somaliland works just fine.

    But yet again, I asked how do you explain how it all went so wrong after decades of your ‘solutions’? How long before you admit the drunken chavs are all yours? You are the one who votes for replacing social mechanisms with political solutions. Surely by now the pubs should be full of New Socialist Man! Perhaps we need to just regulate a bit more, like France perhaps? And what about all the CCTV cameras? As we have more per capita than even Israel, surely that must just mean we need a few more, eh?

    But I am sure you are right, we just need more regulations and a CCTV in every house. Barcodes on our necks might be a good idea too.

  • guy herbert

    I disagree that government interference is responsible for “anti social behaviour”, but I also disagree that it can solve it. And I still have to see any sign that it is a new problem, though modern conditions may have changed its nature subly: more toys making more noise, more property to be damaged or stolen, more mobility.

    The sleepy Warwickshire village where I grew up was, more than 20 years ago, plagued with kids hanging around and vandalising the phone boxes, bus shelters and other street furniture, and screaming backwards and forwards about on motorbikes till all hours. The estate I lived opposite at the turn of the century had predictable screaming matches and fights most nights of the week between 11pm and 1am.

    What does understandably disturb people is impunity for arbitrary bullies demanding respec’ from people who get in their way. This is not cured by adding another, bigger, arbitrary bully to the mix, demanding respec’ from everyone whether purportedly on behalf of the community or not.

    But there are plenty of people it seems, who have internalised the gangster mindset in a way that used only to be true in gangland, following those eastenders who selectively remember the dominance of Krays as an era of peace and harmony. We have a leakage of prison values into the culture up to the Prime Ministerial level.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Tomahawk says that the problems with yobbish behaviour have become much worse in the last three or four years. So, during the period when dozens of new criminal offences have been created by the present government, during a period of relative prosperity, things have turned far worse. That does not quite fit with the wonders of social-democracy on the Blair/Cameron model, does it?

    In the United States during the 1990s a steady fall in unemployment, enforcement of workfare, zero tolerance policing and so forth led to a significant drop in measured crime, albeit not on a uniform basis. It is possible to turn things around. But I don’t see either Blair or Cameron embracing such measures. At most, Blair seems to want to micro-manage daily life. That is hubristic and likely to fail.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    “Most of you are lucky enough to live in such (quiet) areas”, writes Tomahawk. I’d be a bit careful in assuming where we live, old chap. I live in central London – Pimlico – which has its share of problem areas. Others live all over the capital, not just the posh bits. A city financier was recently stabbed to death in Perry’s own street.

    As for Suffolk, my home county, it is pretty peaceful, although I would not recommend walking around parts of Ipswich or Lowestoft on a Friday and Saturday night.

  • Bernie

    Blair’s talk of 19th Century methods not being effective in the 21st Century is spot on for winning an argument in the state educated 21st Century. You don’t need time consuming logic that couldn’t be followed anyway by an attention span of less than 1 minute. You don’t need to regard any member of the electorate as having any intellectual capacity either. All you need to do is say “That’s old fashioned”.

  • Julian Morrison

    Socialists routinely become fascists. They lose their utopian faith that they can legislate and make people good, but they don’t lose their faith in government. Therefore they legislate and impose from the presumption that the hoi polloi are subhuman dregs who must be whipped into shape – ergo, fascism.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    “As well as the welfare state, social capital has declined because of deindustrialisation, the breakdown of old social-class boundaries, and the omnipresence in people’s lives of the mass media. Just don’t expect any of that to be covered at Little Grumblers Central when there are always big socialistic fish (“red” herrings?) to fry!”, writes Tomahawk.

    Let’s go through all this. First off, are you really suggesting that good manners, respectability etc has been damaged by the fact that folk work less in big factories and instead work in offices? That does not really make sense. You mention the breakdown of old social class boundaries. Assuming that is accurate, I still don’t see how the decline of boundaries should trigger bad behaviour. Upward mobility can have a civilising impact.

    As for the stuff about the mass media, again, much of what we see is coarase and oafish, but humans have free will and are not all turned into chavs after reading the Sun or Maxim.

    In any event, I cannot see how any of the issues of declining “social capital” can be addressed by the sort of policies Blair seems to be advocating.

  • GCooper

    Tomahawak writes:

    “Well said! And who is the arch-waffler-in-chief? Why, it’s only Professor Robert D. Putnam, world-famous political scientist and public intellectual at Harvard, author of internationally acclaimed “Bowling Alone”. Move along, nothing to see here. Just some waffler from Neasden Poly!”

    If you think making reference to the man who provided the vocabulary for the Neasden Poly bores is going to result in a sharp intake of breath and a ‘By God! He’s got us now! What an authority!’ you’re very mistaken.

    Tell us, from the top of your great peak of secondhand sociology, how it is that, despite the breakdown of the Putnam’s nostalgic, small town America social network, US crime rates have been declining in recent years?

    You might also want to expand on the role played in that decline by tougher law enforcement. Or perhaps that’d be too much to expect.

    Meanwhile, as Perry de Havilland and others have also noted, you are still evading the question: if the style of social liberalism you advocate works, why is there so much of the crime you were complaining about? And why the need for repressive authoritarian measures from your hero, Bliar?

    And no, you haven’t answered it yet, because you tried to weasel with this lame “all the other factors/social capital” catch-all. But those factors, too, are almost entirely the result of social liberalism , aren’t they? So the question stands, unanswered. Much as anticipated.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    GCooper, well said sir. (Since I have had some cross words with you in the past it is only fair to state that).

  • GCooper

    guy herbert writes:

    “I disagree that government interference is responsible for “anti social behaviour”…”

    But surely you would accept that it has an influence on it? It is, for example, hard to see how government policy towards marriage and single parenthood cannot have had an effect on youth crime. Indeed, even some black social commentators are now standing up and saying this.

    “The sleepy Warwickshire village where I grew up was, more than 20 years ago, plagued with kids hanging around and vandalising the phone boxes, bus shelters and other street furniture, and screaming backwards and forwards about on motorbikes till all hours”

    No doubt it was. But twenty, or even thirty, years ago isn’t a sufficently long yardstick. Suppose you had grown up in the village in, say, 1953? There would, of course, have been crime – but probably not the extent and degree of it which you are recalling from more recent times.

    I don’t, for a moment, back Bliar’s contemptible nonsense about “21st century crime”, nor his nasty little bully-boy proposals, but I do accept that the situation has, in respect of juvenile crime, considerably worsened in recent years and that this is, to some significant extent, due to the prevailing social climate, which shifted markedly during the 1960s and ’70s.

  • Verity

    Jonathan writes, “Well said, sir” and I second that.

  • Verity

    I’d also like to compliment someone else. Guy Herbert writes: We have a leakage of prison values into the culture up to the Prime Ministerial level.

    I think this is a devastating observation and it is correct.

  • Tomahawk

    OK, I’ve read through the comments since I last posted, to see what wisdom I could find; as I said earlier, there is a serious problem with anti-social behaviour in my area and I’m all ears for helpful suggestions. Let’s see, what do we have?

    GCooper: “grumble, gripe,…. social liberalism, … Tony Bliar… whinge, moan…”

    JP: “Why should there be all those social changes following economic changes, er… even though wherever we look around the world, social changes normally do follow hot on the heels of dramatic economic changes…?”

    Perry: “Statism,… Hayek, … er, yeah but, no but, yeah but…”

    In sum: not a single worthwhile short-medium-term suggestion for dealing with anti-social behaviour. What a pack of jokers! Blair is not perfect but he does at least give the impression that he’s doing something. Perry’s preference, by contrast, is to head to his back garden to guzzle another bottle of cheap wine while spouting some airy-fairy Hayekian waffle. But when pressed for a constructive suggestion, he’s all at sea.

    When I was an undergraduate many years ago, I was briefly attracted to Marxism. But I was soon turned off it because its “solution” to every social or political problem was “revolution!” Interesting, but not terribly practical. Perry has basically the same problem. Whereas for Marxists the root of all evil is capitalism, for Perry it’s the state. In each case, abolition is the “cure”, after which we will enter some kind of Nirvana in which everything is perfect. But what can we do in the meantime to improve things little by little in the real world? Er,… grumble, moan, dissemble, obfuscate … and of course, rail at the modern world, while being egged on by a posse of lobotomised Ukippers.

    (BTW Perry – please do not waste my time with any more of your hypocritical emails bleating about rudeness, when it’s perfectly obvious that you’re happy to allow rudeness on these threads — provided that it’s the ‘right’ people who are targeted by it (see above).)

    This site is the right-wing equivalent of Lenin’s Tomb. Like the Tomb Samizdata is populated by moaners who have simplistic views about the world’s problems and even more simplistic solutions. Like the Tomb Samizdata pushes the line that electoral politics doesn’t work — by which it means no major party is insane enough to take up its policy suggestions. Like the Tomb Samizdata, stripped of its ideological posturing and windy rhetoric, is nothing more than an echo chamber for a small band of screeching zealots, from crusty ‘you’ve-never-had-it-so-badders’ like GCooper and RAB to would-be ethnic-cleansers like Verity. And what does this pondlife collectively call itself? Why, by a name that summons up images of brave Soviet dissidents! Oh well, Perry, I guess the problem for our generation is that we’ve never had to fight any wars — which leaves us trying to get our kicks whichever way we can. Yours is to fantasise about a Big Brother state that’s going to cart you off to the gulag at any moment. But don’t worry, old boy; the worst thing that’s ever likely to happen to you is a bout of food poisoning after some dodgy bruschetta. There’s only one word to describe this site — and you’re full of it, mate.

    Goodbye Samizdatas — it’s been a mildly diverting experience to observe you blow-hards going beserk, but now it’s time to leave. Nurse Ratchett will be along to tuck you in shortly.

  • RAB

    Thomas Bach! So you were attracted to Marxism were you?
    It was every breath of air you breathed where I grew up.
    Ah but you didn’t like it because it involved Revolution! Bless!
    Marx not only believed in capitalism, but thought it essential to the next stage of human social developement.
    So you didn’t get past page three of Das Kapital either eh? Just skimmed the Manifesto, written with his factory owning buddy Engels.

  • RAB

    Oh and Thomas Bach, you are in danger of having more come backs than Frank Sinatra.
    Don’t be miserable and new labour!
    There I was nice to them!
    Come back and play, I for one certainly havent finished yet!
    Moaning? Moi!!

  • GCooper

    Pretty good flounce, Tomahawk – shame about the evasions, lack of logic, inherent contradictions and junior common room style.

    By the way, don’t forget to pick up Ruth Kelly’s career on the way out, will you? It’s a shame to leave the place untidy. And, after all, what else is a Za-Nu Labour bagman for ?

  • Verity

    GCooper – Actually, I don’t think Ruth Kelly is toast. She is bossy, RC, broad in the beam, has ghastly taste in clothes, is overbearing and, like all socialists, has all the answers to absolutely everything.

    My take – this clump of socialist nitwittery will not be packing her lumpen bags any time soon. She is a Cherie doppelganger.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Blair is not perfect but he does at least give the impression that he’s doing something.

    That says it all. Instead of actually dealing with the questions and criticisms of his brand of mixed-economy, paternalism, Tomahawk claims that the big thing is to “give the impression” of “doing something”. That apparently is what matters. No wonder you like the cut of David Cameron’s jib. It is all about impressions, isn’t it?

    As for the rest of your pathetic rant as you walk out the door, why exactly does this blog have to provide “short-term” solutions to certain problems? This blog aims at spreading libertarian, pro-market, pro-individualist, ideas. It is a common bleat from critics like you that we are not willing to “do something” about X or Y. So what?

    In any event, we hold the idea, which no doubt you will misrepresent, that the best thing a state can do in many cases is to do as little as possible.

    As for your ad hominem attacks on the folk who comment and post on this site, it merely shows that you have no idea of the life experiences of folk here, some of whom have been involved in wars, lived through the demise of communism, worked as financial journalists, and so forth. What a conceited ass you are.

  • John McVey

    A rundown of the commentary I have seen, from a gastronomic perspective…

    Perry & friends start eating a fine dinner with grace and decorum, having advocated and practiced taking care of future needs consistently for years.

    Tomahawk, him and his kind having consumed most of their stores a long time ago, eye the diners’ fare. He catches sight of a genuine teacup & saucer, and snorts derisively. “I’m hungry,” he says at the dining group in an accusatory tone. “You have stores, give us some.”

    Perry & friends calmly and politely state the need to consider the longer term consequences of actions, and that Tomahawk’s kind a reaping what they have sown (or failing to reap what they have not, rather). Perry & friends, quite rightly, want to keep what is theirs, and staunchly defend their right to do so.

    Tomahawk replies “Pah, snotty talk from people who’ve never experienced starvation!”

    Mary shoots back stating that she bleedin-well has and that Perry & friends are right on the money about long-term consequences.

    Tomahawk responds “But I am hungry NOW, dangit!” and stamps his feet.

    GCooper takes the time to point out that even at the present stage Tomahawk can still have enough to eat both now and after the next harvest, and later a fine feast just like those at the present dining table, if Tomahawk would only have the good sense to admit the values of old-phashioned(*) productivity and planning for tomorrow, starting with sowing some crops.

    Tomahawk sneers back with comments about some people being crusty old farts living in the past yearning for the good old days. “I used to be just like you, in a certain sense.” He then praises a brazen thief who has delusions of being the next Robin Hood.

    Most of the diners sigh quietly before resuming their own table conversation, but GCooper gets up from the table and takes to Tomahawk’s chin with a napkin while shuffling him to the door.

    That about sums it up: Tomahawk and his/her kind refuse to accept responsibility for the long-term consequences of what they advocate and have advocated in the past, giving all overt attention to the short-term and in the process advocating more of the very same wrongful policies that created the problem in the first place. It remains to be seen whether Tomahawk in particular is in cahoots with those who activelt want that consequence, doesn’t care about any time after the “short to medium term” (Lord Keynes, anyone?), or refuses to admit it is so.

    (* ph=f : spam issue)

    JJM

  • GCooper

    Thanks, Mr McVey – that was really very funny. Accurate, too.

  • Verity

    I read the comments of some newcomers to this site, the slack sentimentality of thought, the vulgarity of expression, the towering rudeness to fellow posters and I think, gosh, I miss Findlay. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to turn the computer on one morning, come to Samizdata and find an erudite, elegantly argued, engaging book review by him? I see you haven’t taken his name off “Resting contributors”, and I think that is nice.