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July 08, 2008


Samuel Coates

Interesting post.

passer by

moral sense comes from natural law, if you are a believer in god, then he did it, or if you are like me an atheist then it comes from our natural biological condition, pre installed before birth.

Or as you put it the other day "order can emerge from “blind” processes, without conscious design."

As for the young black lad, and knife crime in general its a product of the down side to immigration. What is going on is a small scale race war, and its not just black and white, its black on black, group identities get stronger when the group feels threatened or it wants to assert itself. when you are growing up modeling and developing your identity is very important

Did you notice the cross of st George at Kinsella make shift shrine? did you see many black or Asian faces? did you notice his gang name on the cards? bulldog. He came from a good rich family no?

some might all dream about a stateless/classless world, but the human condition says otherwise.

Luis Enrique

This is good stuff. There's an article on the intergenerational tranmission of attitudes up on Vox you might like.

I wasn't sure about the idea that there's no return to playing by the rules if you're poor idea - becuase I know (and I don't think this is entirely sample bias) plenty of people who certainly started out as poor working class, and by dint of hard work and fair dealing have done well for themselves. I'm thinking of satisfaction and self-respect too here, rather than just getting rich or doing a job that middle class people would imagine is rewarding. But perhaps what you had in mind by 'poor' is those, say, living on sink estates where there are very few of the people who have done well for themselves by conventional means to inspire them. This is a subset of working class. Even then, aren't there perhaps enough people who manage to leave a sink estate, via 'playing by the rules' to show that playing by the rules pays? I'd like to know some real data on 'exit rates', and how exits are achieved, otherwise we're just trading our ill informed preconcpetions.

Also there's probably room for a bit of irrationality, certainly in young men, no? You don't have to say everything people do 'makes sense' given where their situation, unles you want to reduce making sense to a meaningless truism.

So what sort of intevention is going to reduce inequalities in power and expectations - what would you do to meaningfully improve the social dynamics within a sink estate?

Eddy P

You are quite correct, Chris, to show that violence and anti-social behaviour is in the rational interest of people in this situation. Further it is not just a rational action in the pursuit of (relative to their peers) wealth. A reputation for violence will also ensure the loyalty of one's friends and often enough success with women. In short it is a rational decision in the pursuit of status, colloquially "respect".
Your mistake then is to attribute this to a class divide. Did not the old working class have a different definition of status; one inherently less destructive. Hard work was valued. So was family cohesion and community spirit. To explain the change in the definiton of status is to explain the rise of violence. And the change derives wholly from Marxist tinkering from above.
The welfare state means that hard work ensuring the basics of survival for yourself and you family is not a form of status since it is given out free.
Family cohesion is not a form of status because it is not economically necessary and relies on a notion of the "typical family" which left-wing intellectuals regard as hopelessly outdated and inherently oppressive. They disseminate this view constantly and it is patronising to think that people in poor communities are not affected by this propaganda.
And community spirit is no form of status because your community is a kaleidoscope of peoples with no common ground whatsoever.


Given that homicide is trending down, and has been for years, perhaps a better response would be "our society isn't broken, shut up you silly man and stop pandering to ill-informed Daily Mail-reading hysterics"? Be more cynical. Of course Cameron is going to make noises about a broken society and high crime. Law and order is a key Conservative issue. Cameron's not just some impartial analyst; he's a politician whose job is to discredit the Government so that his party can take over at the next election.

(Knife crime is up, true, but that might have something to do with the massive search programmes the Met has been operating - most of the reported "knife crimes" are "people carrying knives" rather than actual stabbings.)


Philip Hunt

Ajay is right. Britain is not a "broken society". If you want an example of a real broken society, consider Somalia.

Will Davies

Whether you're right or not (and it certainly sounds convincing to me), policy-making is not - and has probably never been - about seeking the analysis with the greatest explanatory power. Cameron's priority is to produce an account which is a) different from the government's and b) a basis for action. Once a) and b) have been achieved, he might even have the luxury of considering whether this account c) helps solve the problem. But at no point does he get judged on whether or not d) his account explains all of the phenomena society chucks at it.

Anyone who has ever listened to a smart, authoritative Marxist (e.g. David Harvey or Bob Jessop) analyse world events finds themselves wondering how such astonishing explanatory power doesn't make the speaker either very powerful or very rich. George Soros couldn't explain the financial economy as well as David Harvey. But there's the rub - you can become too good at explaining, at the expense of producing defensible grounds for plausible policy.


One might also point out that, if violent crime is a sign that society is broken, whatever broke it seems to have taken place around 1980 or perhaps slightly before, and the breaks seem to have started healing around 1996. One probably wouldn't point that out if one were (say) a Conservative politician, though.


passer by

Crime Down?

violent crime is the only real measure of crime.You could have been murdered or had your face slashed in 1920 or 2007 and it amounts to the same thing, thus that gives the true measure of crime.

Here are some of the raw stats on that, from the officially 'not fit for purpose' government department.


Page 56 of 193
Main Volume (pdf, 1.9mb)

Column 2
number of violence against the person per 100k


So in 1950 you had a 1/2% chance of being a victim, in 2007 a 2%, so will it be 8% in 2057 at this rate?


passerby, the only violent crime that's really true for is murder; other violent crimes suffer from exactly the same reporting problems as non-violent crimes.

passer by

Fancy that, in moral relativist Marxist world, attempted murder, rape, stabbing, a good kickin don't count.

How about the advances in medical care that turn a certain murder a few years ago into NOT A VIOLENT CRIME? get a grip

Bishop Hill

I don't think you can properly address this issue without considering race. The eighteen teenagers murdered in London this year are almost exclusively black, and of the people arrested, most are black too.


In order to explain this, you have to explain why the lack of opportunity affects only black people in such a way as to lead to violence. I'm not saying that this case can't be made, but Chris hasn't made it here, and I think he needs to. If we are to reach a solution, we need to understand the problem first.


@Bishop Hill: True - most of London's gangs consist of black youths, and most of the exceptions to that 'rule' are Asian gangs.

However, in Glasgow there has been estimated to be a proportionally similar number of gangs (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/glasgow_and_west/7227088.stm), and most of those consist of white youths.



chris strange

"whatever broke it seems to have taken place around 1980 or perhaps slightly before, and the breaks seem to have started healing around 1996"

Errrm ... You do realise that they where using the BCS as their data source? And that the BCS only started in 1982? Of course it isn't going to show much before that point.

Taking a larger data set from Home Office homocide data and it shows very clearly that during the early part of the twentieth century crime was lower than today the rate fairly stable, it was not until the decade after the end of WW2 that the numbers started to explode. Using more data the trend is more easily defined, low and stable in the early twentieth century, then increasing dramatically from 1954 to 1992 after which it starts to slowly fall.


Bishop Hill

Question That

But are they killing each other on the same scale?

Bishop Hill

I've searched the Glasgow Herald and there seem to be virtually no murders at all there. Actually I find this odd, because a couple of years back it was meant to be the murder capital of Europe.


Society's not as "broken" as people think; it just looks that what on the news. This reminds me of the old Hicks line about how if you watch the news you'd think that if you walk out of your door you'll immediately be attacked by a crack-addicted, aids infected pit bull.
But as beliefs are important here, I guess we have to deal with this illusion of society crumbling and our culture creating a generation of knife-wielding murderous drug-heads.

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