Thursday, 11 February 2010

The Bonfire of the Economist's Vanity

Sorry for radio silence. I had a month off from blogging. As James Brown sang: I’m back!

A friend of this blog asked me to comment about this editorial from last week’s Economist. Its angle is that Cameron’s ‘Broken Britain’ doesn’t exist.

Stepping back from the glare of the latest appalling tale, it is clear that by most measures things have been getting better for a good decade and a half…The broken Britain of legend is one where danger stalks the streets as never before. In the real Britain, the police have just recorded the lowest number of murders for 19 years. In mythical broken Britain, children are especially at risk. Back in real life, child homicides have fallen by more than two-thirds since the 1970s. Britain used to be the third-biggest killer of children in the rich world; it is now the 17th. And more mundane crimes have fallen too: burglaries and car theft are about half as common now as they were 15 years ago. Even the onset of recession has not reversed that downward trend so far.
Comatose teenagers line every gutter in the boozy Britain of popular imagination. Yet after a long period of increase, there are tentative signs that Britons are drinking less alcohol. The overall consumption of drugs is dropping (though some narcotics, including cocaine, are becoming more popular) and rates of smoking are now among the lowest in Europe.
As for family breakdown, some commentators seem to think that sex really was invented in 1963. British grannies know differently. Teenage pregnancy is still too common, but it has been declining, with the odd hiccup, for ages. A girl aged between 15 and 19 today is about half as likely to have a baby in her teens as her grandmother was. Her partner will probably not marry her and he is less likely to stick with her than were men in previous generations, but he is also a lot less likely to beat her. In homing in on the cosier parts of the Britain of yesteryear, it is easy to ignore the horrors that have gone. Straight white men are especially vulnerable to this sort of amnesia.

As an aside, and as a betting man, I would bet that the person who wrote this article is under thirty, either female, Asian or gay (or all three), from a middle to upper middle class background; they are some sort of senior intern following up an Oxford degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics with a stint at the Ec while pondering which career to pursue in the Political Class. They pitched the editorial and got the gig. That’s why the piece is so redolent of the flippant intellects, shrivelled moral imaginations and brazen incuriosity of the graduate class of today.
Anyway, enough of the rhetoric.
To take it point by point:

Regarding the ‘crime is going down’ mantra. Yes, certain types of crime are going down. Mainly the crimes that are motivated by Mr Marx’s commodity fetishism – burglary and car theft. This is indubitably a good thing. But why has it happened? In my view because consumer goods have never been cheaper, welfare provision is generous and credit was plentiful. If DVD recorders, computers and the like were well out of the financial range of the criminal class they would come into your home and take them off you, as they did back in the days when video recorders were the ne plus ultra of consumer fetishism.
When the truth about this country’s financial situation is laid bare after the coming election and the borrowed money tap is turned off for the first time in years as well as a new austerity applied to welfare culture, the behaviour of criminals is likely to change. It’s always worth remembering that when people can get something easily they don’t bother with the hard way – until they decide they have to.
The crimes that have escalated over the past 15 years are crimes such as violence and the use of knives among the young. That has rocketed. Any comparison of teen-on-teen knife murder in the past five years and 20 years ago will show that violence has exploded in recent years. But Left/liberal commentators shamelessly hide this in the general statistics.
I have argued about this many times with a well-known Labour-supporting journalist and he airily refuses to engage with it. Many crimes, particularly petty violence and shoplifting simply go unreported. The police make it abundantly clear they are not interested in ‘minor’ crime. This is the result of a highly privileged, socially liberal judiciary and public administration thinking it social justice to not enforce the law on these crimes. They forget that honest people in poor areas are the people who have to pay for their big-hearted actions. It’s hard to see Hackney, Croydon and Lambeth and their drugs, knives and welfare problems from Hampstead Heath.

The middle par is a splendid example of Political Class doublethink. Yes, every provincial town is a mess of violence and vomit several nights a week – my town centre most definitely is – but ‘there are tentative signs that Britons are drinking less alcohol.’ What signs are these?
Drink isn’t the problem anyway. It’s the entire social and cultural orientation of people that’s becoming a problem. Drink just unleashes it. Drink is just a detonator for the morons our society creates.

More doublethink:

The overall consumption of drugs is dropping (though some narcotics, including cocaine, are becoming more popular).

Nothing to do there but titter.

The third par is also doublethink. Or, perhaps, no-think. Like many a flimsy argument blithely put, it contains the seeds of its own destruction:

As for family breakdown, some commentators seem to think that sex really was invented in 1963. British grannies know differently. Teenage pregnancy is still too common, but it has been declining, with the odd hiccup, for ages.’

A girl aged between 15 and 19 today is about half as likely to have a baby in her teens as her grandmother was. Her partner will probably not marry her and he is less likely to stick with her than were men in previous generations.

How quick that last sentence is rattled off and how much nuance it contains!
And why won’t the man stick around? Because often he will have had no father himself from which to learn moral responsibility and civilised behaviour from; because the stigma of fatherless children was abolished by ‘progressives’ and because he no longer has to because everyone else – via the state – is paying for his children. This ‘empowers’ women, according to the Labour Party. An extreme example of the sort people these arrangments produce is the recent case of two junior psychopaths in Doncaster.

…he is also a lot less likely to beat her.

Yes, well, you can’t beat someone if you’re no longer with them.

I will admit that I don’t like Cameron’s phrase ‘Broken Britain’. It’s as phoney as a newspaper campaign. Of course, most of the people currently objecting to the phrase were the very people who were forever screaming about ‘Thatcher’s Britain’ and blaming every last ill on her government. For example, within the past few years the late Richard Stott in the Daily Mirror was still blaming every violent crime that occurred in Britain on Mrs Thatcher, 15 and more years after she left office. Labour must be careful over this.
Having interviewed Cameron I know that he has the single-mother welfare industry created by Labour firmly in his sights. Personally I think he’ll bottle it when the time comes but we shall see.
The Economist has long been a magazine extolling the selfishness and hypocrisy of liberals in love with consumer capitalism: Blair’s old speechwriter, Neether, in his role as comment editor of the Standard, seemed always to be getting senior editorial staff from the magazine to pen the spurious from-business-class defences of Labour’s insane immigration levels. Defences that have subsequently been proved by the House of Lords report on the matter to be completely wrong. Still, cheap labour’s cheap labour – it’s not called The Economist for nothing.
The more people I meet who are involved in the Political Class at even lowly levels, the more I encounter this idea that somehow a mixture of the preeminence of pop culture, feminism, gay rights and ‘multiculturalism’ means that Progress Has Happened and It Is Not To Be Gainsaid in Any Way. Anyone who asks awkward questions is held to be opposed to gay rights, feminism etc and is liable to be called a ‘fascist’ or ‘rightwing’.
I am in favour of gay rights and feminism, but I stop short at surrendering to the ideological fantasy that the family is not THE building block of a civilised society but A block and that everyone can do exactly what they like and it's all for the best in the best possible world. I've seen enough of it going wrong to know that is the moonshine of the socially leftish middle class.

Then there’s this pearl:

The waning of the manufacturing jobs that used to be the mainstay of the working class has created a generation of young males, in particular, who don’t know what to do with themselves.

Could have been written Marie Antoinette, couldn’t it? What has created the generation of young males ‘who don’t know what to do with themselves’ is the impact of trendy and ‘progressive’ social developments in homes and schools. Where nobody can or is allowed to stand up to these children before the road to the underclass is taken. Meanwhile the middle classes get the glittering prizes. And they call this social justice. As I once said to an Oxbridge graduate journo who was extolling the virtues of decriminalising skunk: ‘It’s all right for you. You can get away with it. Thousands of kids round here won’t be so lucky.’

The editorialist mentions how Britons are sentimentally looking back on – vile expression – ‘yesteryear’.
I don’t. I like to think I have a level head about what we have lost and what we have gained. And we have gained much. But some things, some worthwhile things, have been or are being lost. To point this out is not to be a sentimentalist. In my opinion, children who grow up on nothing but telly, the net, computer games and porn on their phone will be less pleasant, less lovable, less use and enjoyment to themselves and to others than children who grew up using their imaginations through playing with each other and reading and drawing so on. I may be wrong but what I see so far makes me feel I am not that wide of the mark. The innocence and space of childhood is being stripped away, sexualised and, somehow, nationalised. It fills me with dread. To note this is not to be nostalgist, surely?

To conclude. If The Economist want to see the sharp end of the pluralism they are in love with, they should get out of Shoreditch and spend some time hanging round the sinks, where the crack and kicking-heads-like-footballs culture is. Broken Britain may be a cliché, but you could hardly say it was in full working order, what with nearly 10 million people economically inactive and/or in the welfare system and a government which still insists we need foreign labour. After 13 years of an enormous socialist spending spree, the current situation leaves Blairite capitalists with some very thorny questions to answer.


Ayrdale said...

We expect our politicians to assure us that "you've never had it so good" and now the Economist has joined the apologists for the socially "progressive" slide into chaos.

Politicians, journalists, used car dealers and double glazing salesmen (if any are still around) make up the arse end of those we know, love and trust.

The Economist journo shows why, and also shows why many are turning to the blogs.

Mark Brentano said...

That's a hell of a post. It genuinely is the case that the journos who come up with this kind of bubblegum think they're street because they shop in Camden and drink in Hoxton. You know, where poor people live. Also, once you allow that the Socialist project has failed on one level, all the dominoes start to tumble, and leftist journalists are unable to allow that the whole enterprise is seriously flawed.
There is also a piece of of what Plato called spurious or bastard reasoning to be found in this idea that crime has gone down and that this signals something positive. How high was it before it went down? Too high for a civilised country or not? If your house is burning down and the flames in one room are extinguished, you can say that the situation has improved. Your house is still on fire, though.
Word verification, appropriately enough, is ranth

Saul said...

I have a subscription to the Economist and that load of old coblers and whataboutery has made me think about cancelling it.

Saul said...

A Burkean defence of the traditional family that puts one in mind of the Life of Brian line - "but you haven't got a womb where will the fetus gestate". it's a fair point though I think that from a libertarian point of view the traditional family flawed as it is at least comes about with the non-intervention of the state.

William Gazy said...

Indeed, Ayrdale.
Thanks, Saul and Mark.