Liverpool, 100 years ago:
Rioting has begun again to-night in the “danger zone.” A crowd was smashing the windows of tramcars in Burlington-Street, and troops were sent to disperse them. The crowd was not disturbed by the mere display of force, but when the Infantry were ordered to kneel in the attitude for firing they hurriedly scattered.
Some thoughts and observations:
- Amazing how quickly food supplies dried up. In much the same way plasma TVs did last week.
- Heartening what Lloyd George has to say about the elementary duties of the state: “to protect life and property”. Has Cameron said that? Does Cameron even know that?
- The parallels are interesting ie a big riot, calls for the troops to be deployed etc but is that as far as it goes? You can’t blame police incompetence, light sentencing and the welfare state for these riots.
- A hundred years ago they were bâtons not truncheons. Also employés rather than employees.
Oh my God, there’s going to be a war in 3 years’ time! Are these two things related? War as a way of uniting a divided nation, perhaps?
From the judge’s summing up in the Clapham Common murder trial:
People of certain nationalities, if they had a good case, because they were convinced that perjured evidence would be brought against them they, on their side, procured perjured evidence. If the jury came to the conclusion that the alibi was false they must not judge it so strictly against the prisoner as they would if it had been produced by an Englishman.
Stinie Morrison was found guilty of the murder of Leon Beron and sentenced to death.
You know that rule about how the names of juvenile offenders can’t be reported? Well, I thought I’d have a rootle around in old editions of The Times to see if I could find out when and why it was introduced. The “when” was pretty straightforward: 1933 in the Children and Young Persons Act. Actually, it seems that the press had ceased reporting names some time beforehand. The last example I can find in The Times was about 1923. But the “why”? Beats me. It seems there was absolutely no debate on the matter. Certainly, no evidence of a problem to which it was supposed to be the solution.
Ho hum. There’s been a big media campaign7 on this this week. They seem to want some sort of restriction on the sale of alcohol - although whether this involves higher taxes or a higher age limit I really don’t know. My guess is that Tesco is simply jumping on the bandwagon before it’s too late - although it must be said this seems a tad out of character for Tesco - usually they’re pretty keen to keep out of politics.
Now as a libertarian I tend to be rather against this sort of thing. In principle6 I would like to see no restrictions on the sale of alcohol8 at all and in theory I believe that this would make the world a better place.
What’s interesting is the coalition of motivations that’s been assembled. On the one hand are concerns about public order - teenagers getting legless and causing trouble3 - and on the other worries about an “epidemic”1 of alcoholism.
The second point is easy to deal with. My health is none of the state’s business. Except, of course, that it is - by virtue of the existence of a state-funded NHS whose casualty wards groan with the results Chateau Laffite abuse. For me that’s just another reason to abolish it2.
On the point about public order, well, this is not a simple one. My guess is that a lot of the problems are caused by the welfare state combined with compulsory education4. However, I’m not immune to the idea that underneath the surface the British aren’t all that civilised and that drunkenness is simply what they do5.
1. “Epidemic” indeed! What a misuse of the English language. Now that’s something that ought to get added to the list.
2. Yes, that’s the NHS that should be abolished not Chateau Laffite. See Against the NHS.
3. Yeah, I know, if they’re truly “legless” they’re not really going to be in a position to cause trouble but you know what I mean.
4. See Brian Micklethwait’s Abolish the Welfare State and restore some Respect. See also The Trouble With Child Labor Laws by Jeffrey A Tucker which is sort of related.
5. My understanding is that England was for a long time an astonshingly violent society and that the low levels of crime recorded in the century before 1970 were something of an aberration. Think Gin Lane in the 18th Century - no welfare state, cheap booze, mass disorder.
6. See Why I am a Libertarian
7. In both senses of the term
8. I think most of the same arguments as used in the drugs debate would apply here. See Sean Gabb’s A Neither Profound Nor Original Article on Why the Sale and Use of Recreational Drugs Ought Not to Be Illegal.
Looking for root causes he says:
For four decades now, we have been living in a test tube while the liberals conduct a huge social experiment with our country.Which is true enough. Whether it is the whole truth is another matter. I suspect that (as Brian says) the welfare state has a lot to do with it.
He's right. I know: I've tried. Adonis, my ex-copper colleague, was very kind enough to give me some lessons a few weeks back - or perhaps that should be that I was kind enough to give him some practice, I am not quite sure. Either way, I learnt my lesson pretty quickly: the police know how to take care of themselves.
One of the fun techniques he showed me was how to deal with a sit-down protester in five seconds flat. Using one knuckle. I'm not going to forget that in a hurry. It may go some way to explaining why sit-down protests are something of a rarity these days.
Here are a few of the items I enjoyed this week:
- Tony Blair holds a summit on gun crime but somehow fails to invite Rob Fisher: “I know the solution, and it is really very easy and straightforward. Drum roll please. Are you ready? Legalise drugs. No-one ever got shot over cigarettes, alcohol, or anything you can buy for £2.99 from Boots.”
- Jeremy Black has a couple of good articles on the First World War. Here and here.
- Also from the Social Affairs Unit, William Rubinstein offers an historical perspective on the current cash for honours scandal.
- Live Aid: “Fund-raising event which helps needy African dictators enlarge their fleets of Mercedes, while simultaneously enabling white, midole class people to demonstrate conspicuous compassion.” Harry Phibbs reviews How to be Right: The Essential Guide to Making Lefty Liberals History.
- Stewart Brand, environmentalist heretic. (hat-tip: Instapundit)
- Want to get ahead in the USA? Easy: brag. OK, so that’s a bit of an over-simplification of a thought-provoking, if long, article. (Hat-tip: Instapundit)
- An academic bemoans the state of British education before the Guardian journalist interviewing him proceeds to prove it: “It’s superficial stuff, fine for the general populous,...” Oooh.
- “At last, a machine fully compatible with Windows Vista.” Heh.
- ‘Vietnam troop commander William Westmoreland gruffly announced during one commission hearing that he was not interested in leading an army of “mercenaries.” Friedman coolly replied, “Would you rather command an army of slaves?”’ From a Reason bio of Milton Friedman (hat-tip: A&L)
- “In the first government defeat, the Lords voted to rule out using sexuality, criminality and cultural or religious beliefs as grounds for diagnosing a mental disorder.” Yes, you read that right.
- Squander Two fisks Tony Blair. At some length. He also defends Blogger from the techno-snobs. I am inclined to agree with him. The days of the permalink crisis are long gone.
- Jackie reviews an Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison, a psychiatry professor who also suffers from manic depression. Jackie also manages to get to the root causes of gang culture in a sentence:
One of the girls made a good point about the fact that lots of the boys who have these guns are more afraid of those around them than they are of the law…
- The other week I linked to some colour photos of Russia from the 1900s. Here are some (coloured rather than colour, I suspect) from the 1890s.
... here are some of the items I’ve enjoyed reading/listening to over the past week:
- Ann Althouse describes her podcasting technique as putting nails into a rice pudding although you may find her distinctive style puts you in mind of a quite different dessert. (Hat-tip: Instapundit)
- Hydrogen. It’s a hoax. I particularly liked Zubin’s description of how difficult it would be to transport. (Hat-tip: Pajamas Media)
- When I first saw Apple’s latest Mitchell and Webb advertising campaign (the one in which the guy with the job is the PC and the layabout the Apple) my immediate thought was: “Well done, you’ve just lost a potential customer.” I was not alone. (Hat-tip: Tim Hall). Charles Pooter agrees.
- Mark Steyn takes a break from his own prophecies of doom to diss the climate change competition. Nothing particularly new, just good knockabout stuff.
- David Farrer blogs about Bavaria’s parallel currency, one of many to have emerged in Germany since the introduction of the Euro. Yeah… but… isn’t it just a teensy bit illegal?
- “In my darker moments I think guns should be not just legal but compulsory for sane, law-abiding members of the public.” David Copperfield outlines a multi-agency approach to crime prevention.
- And finally… this week’s link to English Russia: the rebuilding of Moscow. When I see photos like this I can almost believe that the Putin clampdown is only temporary.
Or maybe not.
So we come to the end of yet another series of Bad Lads’ Army - British TV’s most subversive programme.
While the massed ranks Establishment would have us believe that there is nothing that can be done about the current crime wave, Bad Lads’ Army drives past delivering a well-aimed two-fingered salute.
The programme (originally Lads’ Army) starts from the simple premise that there is nothing wrong with today’s youth that could not be solved by a month of 1950s-style National Service.
What happens every year is that some of the 30 or so recruits get chucked out but that most make it through to the end. Along the way, a regime of physical exercise, kit inspection, psychological challenges, instant punishments, paltry rewards, ill-fitting uniforms and lots and lots of cold water tame their initial arrogance and cockiness and replace it with team spirit, pride and a respect for others. For many of them passing out from Bad Lads’ Army is the first thing they have ever seen through.
Whether what the viewer sees is a true reflection of what happens (I think yes) and whether the effect lasts (I suspect not) is debatable - TV is such a liars’ medium. But ITV is to be congratulated for devoting an hour of primetime to the idea that no one is irredeemable.
Yesterday morning, GMTV was leading with the government’s plan to introduce a £1,000 fine for assaulting NHS staff.
- I’m sure there is a problem
- This won’t solve it
- The root cause is a lack of will to enforce the law (except under certain circumstances)
So, there is a problem with assaults on NHS staff?
Apparently so. On one level it is difficult to believe - why assault someone who is trying to help you? On another, I can believe just about anything is possible when the welfare state, nationalised medicine and a weak criminal justice system combine
So, what’s the Welfare State got to do with this?
I am not quite sure but it seems that wherever it goes, trouble follows. Brian Micklethwait has some ideas on the mechanism
And nationalised medicine?
Queues - the curse of the NHS. So bad they have to lie about them. An acquaintance of mine spent 7 hours in casualty when his 1-year-old daughter broke her leg. I think he could be forgiven for getting a bit emotional
And you reckon the criminal justice system is weak?
Well, less effective than it used to be. How else could crime have gone up?
So, this new law won’t solve things?
We already have a law against assaulting NHS staff or anyone else for that matter. It’s called criminal assault. If the state is incapable of enforcing the existing law what are the chances it will be able to enforce this one? And if it were capable of enforcing the existing law it wouldn’t need this one
But, isn’t there the argument that these types of “targeted” laws are more effective?
There may well be statistical evidence to back it up. Unfortunately, one of the iron laws of politics is that as soon as you start using a statistical relationship to guide policy the statistical relationship starts to break down.
The other problem with laws like this is where it leaves the rest of us. With a lower level of protection, one assumes
What makes you think that statistical relationships break down?
The classic example is the Phillips Curve. Actually, that is the only one I can think of off the top of my head but it is a bit of a corker. Some time in the late 1960s, someone (Phillips presumably) noticed that there seemed to be a relationship between inflation and unemployment: the higher the inflation, the lower the unemployment. So, politicians increased inflation in the hope of lower unemployment - at which point the relationship broke down and they got both higher inflation and higher unemployment
What laws does the state have the will to enforce?
Any law that can be applied against people with money. Taxes, smoking bans, planning laws, health and safety, for instance
Why does the state lack the will?
I am not quite sure. My best guess is that for a good 40 years now, the state has been gripped by victimitis - the belief that people who do bad things are in fact victims of the (apparently) law-abiding and respectable. Perhaps the result of reading too many whodunnits, who knows. Anyway, the result is that the state will do almost anything to avoid arresting, prosecuting, convicting or punishing the perpetrators. Instead it spends most of its time trying to convince criminals to become better people, not that this has been noticeably successful
...most of the people the government is relying on to defeat yob culture are conscientious objectors in the war on crime.
Dumb Jon expresses an uncharacteristic cynicism.
That’s a disgrace. How can people have a sensible conference about drugs if they all belong to that half of the population that never takes them?
Comment on Copper’s Blog.
Schools, hospitals, clean water, policing, courts without the state. Impossible? Not only is it possible but it’s happened and not that long ago either. Jay Jardine reviews the Voluntary City.
Peter Briffa is on form:
Still, while there is life, this is hope. For all the suffering and evil they inflict, it is worth reminding ourselves that serial killers can provide a valuable social function, asking as they do key questions about how we relate to one another as human beings.
As he says.
The Copper on the uselessness of specialist squads.
Norman Dennis lays into the Home Office’s latest mantra.
The Copper on violence:
If the local library ring up to report a problem customer returning a library book late, you just know that you’ll be rolling around on the floor somewhere between Late Medieval History and the Large Print section.
Copper’s Blog on youth:
For the genuinely unemployable there are innumerable schemes or projects that demand attendance a few hours a week. The aim of such schemes is to “…empower young people and give them back their self-esteem…”, in my experience the attendees require less “empowering” and a good deal less “self-esteem”. Young criminals hold such a high opinion of themselves that I for one would like to see them taken down a peg or two.
If you can think of a less efficient way of working, let me know
The Blogosphere’s favourite policeman explains the intricacies of investigation procedure.
"Let people kill burglars" as Sir John Stevens doesn't say.