The Welfare State We're In, The website of the book by James Bartholomew
November 08, 2010
Monday
Did Channel 4 know what it was doing when it commissioned this film?

A TV programme is coming up on Thursday evening in which I expect I will appear. It is a 90 minute film by Martin Durkin about the huge national debt that has piled up and his solution. He will be arguing against Big Government and he interviewed me about the NHS and about welfare and social housing. Apparently the film also includes interviews with four former Chancellors. I believe he also filmed in Hong Kong.

I wonder if Channel 4 knew what they were in for when they commissioned this film since these kind of arguments - presented at length - are not usually seen on British TV. If the channel knew what it was doing, then all credit to it. Maybe something really is changing in Britain. There was a time when most of the media elite would not contemplate giving airtime to such ideas.

Here is a link to the programme details.

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime • Housing • Media, including BBC bias • NHS • Parenting • Reform • Tax and growth • Welfare benefits

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"Only 30% of young offenders grew up with both parents"

It is a pretty stunning statistic. It is only now, with a secretary of state willing to say these things - even to look at them - that the truth is being allowed out. For many years, ministers and some civil servants, too, perhaps, have been unwilling to look at or even measure the relationship between lone parenting and crime. Now at last some figures are being allowed to emerge.

The figure is from an Iain Duncan Smith speech last week. This is the key extract:


But when government abandons policies that support families, society can pay a heavy price.

Take poverty:

* lone parent families are more than twice as likely to live in poverty than two-parent families

Or Crime:

* children from broken homes are 9 times more likely to become young offenders
* and only 30% of young offenders grew up with both parents.

And overall wellbeing:

* Children in lone-parent and step-families are twice as likely to be in the bottom 20% of child outcomes as children in married families

So this is not some abstract debate.

The full speech is here.

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September 06, 2010
Monday
Test

Test

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Testing

This is a test.

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Testing

This is a test.

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July 12, 2010
Monday
True, not all killers come from broken families

A visitor to the site has implicitly pointed out, quite fairly, that not all killers have come from broken families. Of course I wholly accept this. However there is powerful statistical evidence that children from lone parent families are more likely to be delinquent and to suffer from pretty well every measurable disadvantage - such as a poor academic record - and that is even after making adjustment for other factors. There is also evidence they are more likely to turn to crime. (Fuller details are in The Welfare State We're In, the most extreme and horrifying of which apply to the likelihood of a child being abused or killed in a family with a married, natural father present and those where there is an unmarried lover present).

The commentator mentioned Derrick Bird who killed 12 people. I had not looked into his family background. It may be that he is one of those killers who came from a stable background of two married parents. The family background is a significant factor, I suggest, not a determinant.

However, having briefly googled him, I came across the following even in his case:

Mr Bird [his twin brother], 52, a truck driver who once had his own garage business, was a well-known figure around Lamplugh.

In contrast to his brother, he lived in a substantial farmhouse. It was this disparity in their fortunes that apparently drove Derrick Bird, a taxi driver, to kill him in the early hours of June 2.

Derrick Bird was said to be angry when he learnt that their late father, Joseph, had given £25,000 as a gift to his twin shortly before his death.

Anyone who has been a brother or sister or who has more than one children will know just how powerful sibling rivalry can be. When one's sibling is favoured over oneself, it can sometimes feel like rejection by the parent. I think it is difficult to underestimate the power of the relationship with parents to cause good and bad. After all, one spends a great deal of the first twenty or so of one's life with them and, in many cases, the relationship continues to be very important thereafter. For many people, the parents are the emotional foundation of their lives.

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July 11, 2010
Sunday
Raol Moat says it himself: "I've not got a dad..."

A few days ago I suggested that it could have been the broken family from which he came that led Raol Moat to go off the rails. It is extraordinary, though, that in what appear to be his final words, he himself suggested his parenting background was a vital component.

This is the account in the Sunday Telegraph:

As he lay on the grass, his gun pointed at his neck, witnesses heard him tell police: “I have not got a dad – no one cares about me.”

Feeling alone and sorry for himself, the man who had goaded police during a week-long manhunt had finally lost his bravado.

Cornered by armed officers at the edge of a river and with police spotlights trained on him, Moat appeared a shadow of his public image as a steroid-addicted, violent bodybuilder.

Almost whimpering, the 37-year-old had become increasingly agitated during the six-hour standoff.

Witnesses recall seeing him at times rubbing his face in an obvious sign of distress.

Finally, at 1.15am on Saturday, Moat, who never knew his father and whose mother had disowned him, tucked the shotgun under his chin and pulled the trigger in circumstances which are now under investigation.

The tragic story of Raol Moat and his victims poses the question, "if the parenting is important, which parts of it are key?"

Is the fact that a) his father went off without ever knowing him b) that his mother chose to marry another man or c) that his mother, according this recent report 'disowned' him?

Obviously each of these things could have an impact individually and the effect of each could act as a multiplier of the impact of the others. But I suspect, though I cannot bring forward evidence for it, that a boy can do pretty well if he exclusively has to handle the fact that no father has ever been on the scene. If he is brought up and loved by a lone mother, I suspect that the results can easily be satisfactory. Indeed, the story of how the boy seemed happy and fine until his early teenage years, supports the idea. It was then that his mother got married and then that the boy began to be troubled.

I suspect that the arrival of a new man on the scene for his mother is something which often makes the situation much more difficult for the son. He is not likely to accept the authority of a male adult who has simultaneously taken some of the attention of his mother away from him and who is also not his natural father. This may seem like a cruel judgement to make - as though I were saying to mothers in that situation, "it is wrong for you to take another man - you must live alone". I realise that could be hard for many women. But I trying to understand the pyschology of the young son honestly and let the moral consequences fall where they may. A similar situation could arise for a lone father who would like to have a new woman in his life and who daughter could be deeply hurt.

One thing that happens, in some of the lone mother cases, is that the new adult male on the scene can so damage the relationship between the mother and son that the son feels profoundly rejected. That could be what happened in the case of Raol Moat. The effect appears to have been devastating for him.

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime • Parenting

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July 08, 2010
Thursday
Did Raol Moat go wrong because of family breakdown?

When a murderer hits the headlines, it is worth looking to see what were his or her childhood experiences were. Very often there was a break-up between the natural mother and father.

So it is with Raol Moat, the alleged killer currently on the run. Today the newspapers have some details of his background. Poignantly the mother says that he was happy as a young child but then he changed. The photograph of him at the wedding of his mother to his stepfather when he was 13 shows him with no smile on his face.

These details are from the Sun:

His mother remembered him as a gentle, asthma-stricken child who gave no indication that he would grow into the menacing man mountain who has "declared war" on all police.

But by the end of his teens, Moat had changed, she said.

He had never known who his real father was and simmering tensions between him and his mother and stepdad erupted into furious rows when he was 19.

Josephine said: "It was horrible. He started having a go at my husband."

Moat finally left home at the age of 24.

Of course it is not possible to prove that he would have he would not have gone wrong if he had grown up with both his natural mother and father. Similarly it is not possible to show that he would have stayed the right side if only his mother had not re-married. But the overall statistics relating family breakd-down to crime are strong. And many times, when I have gleaned from the papers the family background of killers, they turn out to have come from broken families. The killers of Jamie Bulger, for example, were - as detailed in The Welfare State We're In.

The newspapers never highlight this common background of the majority of killers. And couples who break up when there are children involved often tell themselves that the children will be all right. They say to themselves, 'well, the children would have been much worse off if we stayed together arguing like mad'. The keeness and ability of human beings to justify themselves is impressive.

It is as if they were not capable of changing their behaviour. In fact in many cases they could. But they would find it more of an effort and not what they are currently inclined to do. If, indeed, they were unable to divorce or live apart, they would be obliged to find a better way to live together.

There was a time when more people had moral codes and consciences that more often induced them to question the morality of what they were doing. They tried harder.

The truth is that every time a marriage breaks up when there are children, those children are hurt. And many of the times when the parent who looks after the children remarries, the children are hurt again.

Generally, if they are young, the children don't say much at the time. They wouldn't. They are often silent victims. But they are being hurt.

Of course only a tiny minority go on to become murderers. Only a minority become delinquent. But these kinds of outcomes are the extremes - the tips of icebergs. Underneath there are hurt people whose pain does not show so obviously.

The Sun story is http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/article3045636.ecehere.

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July 06, 2010
Tuesday
The welfare state's link to crime

What drives people towards or away from crime?

I have been dipping into Understanding Criminal Behaviour by David Jones which seems to summarise recent research and ideas. He mentions J.C.Coleman writing an article in 1988 using the notion of 'social capital'. Did this Coleman create the concept? Anyway, two others, Sampson and Laub (1993, building on the concept went to suggest that,

Those with loose social bonds - occurring through such things as weak family ties and insecure employment - will find it easier to deviate. Their behaviour will be less governed by those around them, and they will have less to lose if convicted. (page 96)

They then went one to argue,

that positive events in people's lives such as getting married or finding long-term employment can act as a 'turning point', allowing an individual to have access to a different life.

They gave an example of 'Charlie' who was criminal as a child and teenager but, when he was 18, got a job and began going out with a woman who would become his wife. He changed and came to lead a stable, law-abiding life.

Another academic, Warr (1998) went on to use longitudinal data to argue that marriage was a very significant factor in leading criminals to change their lives.

This is work in progress and academic books - or certainly this one - is written in a way that is complex and precise. It is not easy to draw firm, large-scale conclusions. But my early impression is that marriage and employment are both factors which can help turn people away from crime.

I would argue, of course, that the welfare state has - by the incentives and disincentives it has created - reduced the amount of marriage and employment. By these routes (as well as others) it may have also increased the amount of crime.

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime • Parenting • Welfare benefits

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June 17, 2010
Thursday
"the volition to spontaneously assist"
A society in which people lose the volition and motivation to spontaneously assist and help each other is doomed, even if its economic productivity still suffices to maintain and even expand its flawed structures. Social behaviour evolves from generation to generation in slow, civilisational learning processes. This evolvement might not be able to keep up with the pace of decay. The decisive bottleneck is not in the financing, it is in the human soul.

Robert Nef in The Welfare State destroys welfare and the state published in 2006 by the Liberales Institut in Zurich.

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June 14, 2010
Monday
Welfare states can damage behaviour

(Based on a talk at the Liberales Institut, Zurich 10/6/10)

The England team was preparing recently for the football World Cup championship and had a ‘friendly’ game. During the game, one of England’s outstanding players, Wayne Rooney, disagreed with the referee and told him so in foul language. The local referee was disgusted. He gave Rooney a yellow card and took the unusual step of revealing that Rooney had said to him ‘f--- you!’

The British press was appalled. But not appalled at the fact that Rooney was criticising and insulting the referee. No, that did not bother them at all. They were concerned, rather, that Rooney’s fits of temper made the England team vulnerable. Several former players and managers voiced their opinion that opposing teams would be well advised to ‘wind him up’ and thus get him to commit a foul or an assault which would cause him to be sent off.

Terry Butcher, a former played quoted in the Sun, suggested

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime • General • Parenting • Welfare benefits

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June 08, 2010
Tuesday
The 50-fold rise in carers and therapists per capita
Today in the U.S. there are 77,000 clinical psychologists, 192,000 clinical social workers, 105,000 mental health counselors, 50,000 marriage and family therapists, 17,000 nurse psychotherapists, and 30,000 life coaches. Most of these professionals spend their days helping people cope with everyday life problems, not true mental illness. More than half the patients in therapy don’t even qualify for a psychiatric diagnosis. In addition, there are 400,000 nonclinical social workers and 220,000 substance abuse counselors working outside the official mental health system yet offering clients informal psychological advice nonetheless.

Compare this to the late-1940s, when there were only 2,500 clinical psychologists and 30,000 social workers in the U.S. Marriage and family therapists numbered less than 500 in those days, counselors worked mostly in vocational guidance, and nurse psychotherapists and life coaches didn’t even exist. We’ve experienced a more than 100-fold increase in the number of professional caregivers over the last 60 years, although the general population has only doubled.

This is from an article by Ronald Dworkin in the Policy Review of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. It is a long article but he goes on to make a number of interesting points.

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June 02, 2010
Wednesday
"The yobs regularly ran over the roof of his bungalow and screamed obscenities through his letterbox"

This sort of story does not get into 'quality' newspapers because it is not, of itself, of national importance. It just involves a pensioner dying of a heart attack when chasing yobs away who had repeatedly vandalised his garden and made his life a misery. But it tells us something of the reality of life in Britain today. And if such stories were in the 'quality' papers more, perhaps the elite which runs the media and the country would think about things in a different way.

Incidentally, I don't suppose that any crime has been recorded in this incident. It won't make it to the crime statistics.

Neighbours told how gangs of more than 30 youths aged between 11 and 20 would wreak havoc on the homes of elderly people.

Brian Walker, a close friend and neighbour, said Mr Cooper had been a long-standing target for the teenage yobs.

He said: 'John had a terrible time. They would keep coming back to give him hassle.

'Those living in the bungalows are elderly people, some of them in wheelchairs.

'They have ransacked the woman's garden next door to John, ripping up her plants, breaking furniture.'

He said: 'I was constantly having to keep my eye on John's home and chase gangs away.'

Mr Walker added that he suspected the problems were often caused by youths living in nearby tower blocks.

Fellow pensioner Jean Dutton, who lives just a few doors away, has also suffered torment at the hands of teenagers who have set alight dog dirt on her doorstep and shattered glass bottles against her walls.

The full story is here. It is not a new story. It appeared on 19th May.

Other information alongside the story itself is telling. One is the title of this entry.

Another is: "They had previously poured petrol over his lawn, ruined his immaculate flower bed and set fire to his fence" and another, "Apples and other fruit had been hurled at his house as he sat inside".

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May 17, 2010
Monday
A bit of a problem on crime policy

Alasdair Palmer has identified a bit of a problem with the crime policy of the new coalition. Basically, none has been agreed as far as we know.

The central problem he [Cameron] faces is that, on crime, the Tories and the Lib Dems have diametrically opposing views. Consult the Tory manifesto and you will find a promise to build more prison places, and thereby avoid a repeat of Labour’s early release of 80,000 criminals to reduce overcrowding. The Conservatives think that prison works – at least to the extent that criminals who are under lock and key cannot commit further offences.

The Lib Dems, however, take precisely the opposite view. They say “the evidence shows” that community sentences are better at reducing reoffending than short prison sentences. So they don’t just want to release more criminals early in order to put them on community sentences – they would rather not send them to prison at all. Their manifesto adds that they would cancel any prison-building programme.

The coalition cannot simply split the difference: the parties’ philosophies are contradictory. But a decision has to be made on prison-building. So one of the parties will have to adopt (or at least permit) a policy which explicitly contradicts its manifesto.

The full article is here.

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May 13, 2010
Thursday
Kindness and consideration in football.

After Atletico Madrid beat Fulham last night, Diego Forlan, scorer of the winning goal, instead of just revelling in his side's victory in the way we have been used to seeing British players do, is reported to have gone and consoled some of the disappointed Fulham players (see picture).

It makes me intrigued about the man and the nature of his upbringing. He comes from Uruguay.

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May 10, 2010
Monday
Lydia, Wickham and sex outside marriage

Re-reading Pride and Prejudice I am struck by how it was considered devastating to the reputation of whole family if one of the girls went off with a man without being married to him.

Lydia (silly and wilful) goes away with Wickham (the bounder of the story. Lydia's father, Mr Bennett, remarks that Wickham would be a fool to accept less that £10,000 - a fortune in those days - to agree to marry Lydia. Collins, a vicar, in what is supposed to be a letter of sympathy, passes on the comment of his patroness that no one would now want a connection with the Bennett family - meaning that no one would want connection by marriage to any member of the family including Lydia's sisters who are utterly blameless.

It does seem very hard and actually hard to understand. Even if one were to acknowledge the idea that sex outside marriage was a sin as far as Christians were concerned, it seems beyond all fairness that the sisters should be implicated. Perhaps it is a reflection of how determined people were to be considered 'respectable'. But why were they so determined? Did respectability have financial advantages which could be lost? Or just social advantages?

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April 03, 2010
Saturday
Adults hold back from correctingbad behaviour

A description of how adults now hold back from correcting bad behaviour.

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April 02, 2010
Friday
Things can get worse

Sometimes people say "for centuries and even thousands of years, people have complained that things are getting worse". The implication is that any assertion that things have got worse in Britain in many ways - though not, of course, in terms of prosperity - is probably wrong and just a symptom of getting older.

The argument is clearly illogical since surely no one argues that things have always got better. So the suggestion that things have got worse must be true for at least some of the time. If you were around as the Roman empire collapsed and anarchy broke out, you would probably have been right saying things had got worse. Similarly when a large part of the population was dying in the Black Death.

On the other side, it is not entirely true that people have constantly said that things are getting worse. In Victorian times there was, in the study of history at least, a view that things were improving over a long period of time. It is called the Whig view of history.

Here is part of the glorious view of how things had got better from Macaulay's History of England from the Accession of James II

I shall relate how the new settlement was, during many troubled years, successfully defended against foreign and domestic enemies; how, under that settlement, the authority of law and the security of property were found to be compatible with a liberty of discussion and of individual action never before known; how, from the auspicious union of order and freedom, sprang a prosperity of which the annals of human affairs had furnished no example...

A newspaper this week, though, carried a story which even the most rose-tinted optimist surely would not argue would have been seen at any time beween 1900 and 1960.

Hospitals are paying tens of thousands of pounds for police officers to cover accident and emergency departments on Friday and Saturday nights, it has been disclosed. Officers cover A&E across the UK in a bid to prevent violence towards doctors, nurses and other workers, hospital trusts said.

A total of £60,000 a year pays for four officers to cover A&E at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary and the Western Infirmary in Glasgow on a Friday and Saturday night.

Trusts in Liverpool and Newcastle also said they paid for police officers at the weekend.

From January to December 2009, Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust spent £28,980 for a police officer at Arrowe Park Hospital from 9pm to 5am on Friday and Saturday nights.

Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust pays £25,000 a year for a police officer for Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at Newcastle General Hospital.

The story is, I would suggest, mainly a reflection of the incivility of modern society. Possibly it is also a reflection in part of the slowness of treatment in the hospitals themselves but not necessarily. Either way, it is a symptom of a change - yes, for the worse I am afraid - in our society.

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March 09, 2010
Tuesday
Again the trustworthiness of government statistics in question
Violent attacks are estimated to be 44 per cent higher than they were in 1998 after research on the way police record them allowed comparisons for the first time.

The study, by the independent House of Commons Library, shows violence against the person increased from 618,417 to 887,942 last year.

The devastating review comes despite repeated claims by the Government that violent crime has come down substantially since it took power.

It is the first time such a trend in police recorded crime can be made because a change was made in counting rules in 2002 which ministers have always insisted meant figures before that date were not, therefore, comparable.

Instead, they have always used a separate the separate British Crime Survey which suggests violence has dropped by more than 40 per cent since 1998.

The Tories, who requested the new research, said the findings make a mockery of such claims and reinforce the public's fear that violence is in fact rising.

The full story is here.

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February 10, 2010
Wednesday
Benefits undermining energy - what would Beveridge say

One of the five giants which Beveridge wanted to slay was idleness. What would he say about this particular outcome of benefit dependancy? He would be appalled.

http://winstonsmith33.blogspot.com/2010/01/failing-to-scrounge-from-state.html

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February 09, 2010
Tuesday
'Of 12 incidents that ended with the victim attending hospital, only seven were reported to police'

Sometimes it is truly worrying how much is claimed by this government that is repeated, unchallenged, by the BBC and other media. One of the government's repeated claims of late has been that crime is falling. In reality, we don't appear to have the information to know either way - or so it would appear from the fascinating comments of Roger Graef, quoted in the Mail on Sunday. Roger Graef, according to the website of the London School of Economics, is a visiting fellow at the Mannheim Centre for Criminology. He is basically asserting that the official statistics are thoroughly inadequate.

In an interview, Mr Graef, voiced his 'worries' that official crime figures did not reveal the true scale of violence affecting women and children.

He warned that attacks on children by other children not reported to police were absent from the official British Crime Survey (BCS) - other areas of unreported crime are included to get a wider picture of trends.

Mr Graef said: 'We did our own survey of 1,800 schoolchildren aged 14 and 15. One in three had been kicked or hurt. One in four admitted to kicking or hurting somebody else in a month and that's not recorded anywhere.'

He also pointed out the Home Office-compiled BCS did not include unreported assaults at hospitals and prisons.

And Mr Graef highlighted the limitations of official police crime records - based on his own research.

He said: 'We spent two weeks in Oxford and watched how much crime, how much violence, how much harm was happening.'

Out of 12 incidents that ended with the victim attending hospital, only seven were reported to police.

Mr Graef also disclosed how domestic violence goes unreported. 'Women's groups say that 35 assaults are made on the victim before they call the police. That means there's a dark figure of violent crime which we simply cannot know for sure.'

Sir Hugh Orde, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, said Mr Graef was 'absolutely right' to say the BCS was incomplete, and that 'some crimes will not end up on a police computer'.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1249094/Expert-backs-Conservatives-violent-crime-figures.html#ixzz0f2B2rKTX

This is yet another example of government statistics being unreliable or actually misleading. Please use the search facility on this website citing 'statistics' for more entries on the subject.

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime • Media, including BBC bias

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January 25, 2010
Monday
'Slums' that make for better people than council estates

Kevin McCloud's experience of staying with a family in an Indian slum made fascinating television when I caught up with it last Saturday night. One of the most interesting aspects of it was that it challenged whether 'slum clearance' and new public housing leads to improvements in the lives of those concerned.

He found much to be appalled by in the slums but also much to admire and even envy.

Plague, cholera and TB abound, but its citizens are among the happiest and most beautiful I’ve seen.

This entirely echoes the discoveries of researchers in Britain when they got close to the removal of so-called slums here and their replacement by planned, architect-designed council housing. Michael Young, who had written the 1945 Labour Party election manifesto, joined by Peter Wilmott studied a slum in great detail and then also a council estate. They found that contact with extended families fell by as much as 75 per cent after the move to the estate.

George Orwell, another Left-winger, when he lived among the poor also found that much was lost when people moved to council estates. What are the most important things? I suspect that two are among them: a strong sense of community and family and a sense of being responsible for one's own actions. The idea of community and the benefit it gives is well known. What is less commented on is the impact of independent action. I struggle even to find a language to write about it.

It is illustrated at its best by the daughter of the family in the overcrowded, rat-infested slum building where McCloud stayed. She emerged looking immaculate each morning in her school uniform. She was evidently bright and one believed she would succeed when she said she aimed to be a lawyer. How did she come to be ambitious and work hard? Because she knew very clearly that if she did not work, she would never emerge from the slum and grim. long hours of manual labour. Compare her with the offspring of a household in Britain where no adult works but the flat or house is paid for by the state and they get income support. The children learn that you can get a tolerable life style without really bothering and if anything is wrong, in the house or the education or healthcare they get, it is all down to someone else. Life it not what they make it. It is what the state makes it. That takes away from them a self-respect and a sense of being able to make a difference to their own lives.

"Slumdog Millionaire" was a superbly made film and one can understand the power of the story of the TV quiz changing everything in the hero's life. But the more important story is of the thousands of girls like the one in Kevin McCloud's film who was going to change her life through a decision in her own mind to work. The state changes the condition of people's minds. That is the way it tends to do the greatest damage.

ps The name that was not mentioned, as far as I know, in the programme was Hernando de Soto who is a leader in this field and who has argued that the key thing for economic growth is to give property rights to slum dwellers.

pps Much more about the damaging effects of council housing - and their possible causes - is in the housing chapter in The Welfare State We're In.

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime • Housing

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December 15, 2009
Tuesday
Mob petty nastiness at the Jingle Bell Ball

I went to the Jingle Bell Ball at the O2 arena the Sunday before last. Plenty of top pop stars were there including Janet Jackson. But there was an extra act that was not on the programme: John and Edward, known as Jedward. They had been contestants on the X Factor.

When they finished their song, they got applause and screams, like the other acts, but then a growing amount of booing.

I have asked a few people why they were being booed. I am told it is because some people think they should be have been knocked out of the X Factor earlier than they were. They think that John and Edward sing out of tune and that they stayed in the competition while better singers were being knocked out. This may all be true. But as far as I can tell, John and Edward did nothing wrong. They just benefited from votes and/or from the choices of X Factor judges. If they were kept on longer than than some people think they ought to have been, it was not their fault. Booing them was unfair and cruel. It is a kind of yobbish, mob behaviour in which insulting and bullying is considered a kind of fun and not shameful. It is also a relatively new kind of behaviour in Britain. I have not been to many pop concerts but I have not heard of booing at them before.

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May 11, 2009
Monday
Some people think children are behaving better

Sir Alan Steer has claimed that Britain's pupils are better and better behaved, according to the Times Educational Supplement (April 24th). The teachers' trade paper comments that "raised eyebrows and cries of disbelief" greeted Sir Alan's comments. However the paper's commentator, Michael Shaw goes on to support Sir Alan's view.

He says that NUT surveys became more positive about behaviour between 2001 and 2008. He also comments "youth crime also seems to have fallen over the past 15 years, with the proportion of ten to 17-year-olds who are reprimanded, warned or convicted by policy down by 12 per cent since 1992."

He also recommends a book, State Schools Since the 1950s: The Good News, by Adrian Elliott who apparently found that students were four more times likely to truant in the 1950s and he also offers other indications that there was no perfect discipline in a supposed "golden age".

These measurements deserve to be looked at closely. However here is a little anecdotal observation of my own from the other side. Near to me is a well-known comprehensive school in a pretty smart area of London, though many of the students travel in from council homes further out. I often see the children come out of school in the afternoon. At that time I usually see three or four "community police officers" stationed in the street that is nearest. They are clearly there to police the children.

When I have been in the shops nearby, there have sometimes been two or three other officers making sure there is no disruption in that area either. I once saw a shopkeeper angrily shooing off some students who wandered into his shop. I don't think it is too much to guess that he has had trouble with the children before.

Of course, it would not be new for children to shoplift. But when I was young, I went to school near to what was called then a "secondary modern". I often saw students from that school. I never saw a single policeman or any trouble on the streets at all.

Yes, yes. I know this is merely an anecdote and proves nothing. It is just a sliver of evidence. Perhaps more substantial are the figures obtained by David Ruffley, the Conservative police reform minister. He has found that the number of persistent young offenders has increased by 60 per cent over the past decade:

In 2008, there was a total of 15,819 persistent young offenders in England and Wales – up 60 per cent on the 9,868 recorded by police forces in 1997.

The full account is in the Telegraph.

The government minister responded that the figures "are not designed to measure overall trends in youth crime, and will give a misleading picture of the true trend if used for this purpose."

Unfortunately his reasoning for thinking that the figures are misleading has not been reported, or perhaps he gave no reason. In any case, I am afraid I am now sufficiently cynical about government statistics that the only ones I am inclined to trust at all are ones which are not normally cited by anyone and therefore have not been subject to political manipulation. On this basis, these figures obtained by Ruffley may be an excellent indication of the trend. But now attention has been drawn to them, we can expect a remarkable apparent improvement.

Many indicators (quoted in the book) make me confident that children's behaviour has deteriorated in the past 50 years. I strongly suspect that the decline continued in the past decade.

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime • Education

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March 27, 2009
Friday
Teachers having lunch with school-children

A discussion on the radio this week centred on lunches for children at schools. How healthy are they? How easily can the children leave school and eat at the local chip shop? Then someone said that the teachers often did not not superintend the lunches in school. Or, if they did, they then were entitled to take a long break. It sounds unlikely but I thought a two-hour break was mentioned.

What a contrast there is between this idea and what I have seen at two private schools - one in Britain and one in America. Most notable was the private school in New York State where, I think, all the teachers had lunch with the children and, even better, each teacher went to a separate round dining table so that he or she would talk with the children on that table. It must surely be the case that this is a civilising practice for the children. They are more likely to learn the boundaries of good behaviour and more likely to have sensible and even, occasionally, educational discussions.

When I visited this school last year, I sat on one of these round tables with the headmaster on my left and children on my right. Doubtless it was no accident that the child I was placed next to was extraordinarily bright. He told me his favourite subject was history and he preferred European to American history because it was longer and richer. He must have been about 13 or 14, I think. Of course, the school did not make him as clever as he was but it certainly enabled him to thrive.

The other school, in Britain, was Hampton Court House in South London where the teachers ate with the children. This was entirely informal, I think, and children could avoid being with teachers if they wanted to. But I got the impression that they were perfectly happy having lunch with teachers and, again, this must surely be a civilising influence. Children can learn about history and science in class. But at lunch, any subject can be discussed and the child can have the benefit of the perspective of an educated adult.

The private boarding school that I attended had no teachers present at meals and it was pretty shambolic. I guess that many private schools would benefit from having the teachers present at meals. I would not be surprised if among the government-run schools there is more of a rule that teachers cannot be obliged to go to lunch with students. I would also guess it was pressed for by the teachers' union. I would welcome any information on this.

If that indeed is the case, it would be an example of teacher union power being used to the detriment of the interests of the children.

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime • Education

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December 18, 2008
Thursday
How did gangs arrive on council estates?

There have been 20 occasions since 2004 on which gang members have fired guns in the Croxteth and Norris Green areas where Rhys Jones was killed. The gang members start as early as 12. They come from broken, workless homes and start out as couriers or look-outs for the older members. Then they progress up the pecking order, their rising status measured by the viciousness of the crimes they have committed.

Sean Mercer, the youth who killed Rhys Jones, has been stopped by police on an astonishing 80 occasions by the police. He scorned them and their lack of ability to arrest him and other gang members.
It is surely impossible to deny the association between the social breakdown – the unmarried parenting and the worklessness in Norris Green and Croxteth – and the development of these gangs.

In Norris Green, more than half the people are in social housing and the workless rate is 35 per cent – far above the national average. A worrying number of council house and housing association estates have turned into ghettoes of hopelessness, vandalism, crime and fear. A poll by YouGov on behalf of the Centre for Social Justice found that a third of social tenants nationwide feel that where they live is not ‘reasonably safe’. Nearly half won’t say that they trust their neighbours and 40 per cent don’t believe that the local schools provide a good education.

The underclass has grown and become concentrated in many council estates. What are we going to do about it?

Yes, of course we can start by tightening up the weaknesses in the policing, prosecuting and sentencing. These communities have a crisis on their hands and it is offensive that police time is taken up with so much paperwork. It is absurd that the police should have had such knowledge or the wrongdoings of Sean Mercer yet been somehow unable to send him to a corrective institution. The weakness of our justice system – and those who made it so weak – bears a responsibility for the death of Rhys Jones.

So, yes, it would help if Labour finally fulfilled its long-ago promise to be ‘tough on crime’. But we need to go much deeper. One of the major causes of crime is the way many estates have become centres of unemployment and unmarried parenting. There is plenty of evidence that unmarried parenting leads to a greater likelihood of children becoming delinquents. Add that to a concentration of unemployment on a council estate and the result can be extremely toxic.

Council housing has been around for well over a century. Originally it was allocated to the respectable and even prosperous working class. It was a reward and a privilege for people considered worthy of it. It was also for those who had been compulsorily or otherwise moved out of housing areas designated as slums.

But then in 1949, the allocation of council housing began to change. It began to be granted to people on the basis of need rather than worth. In 1977, this way of doing things became compulsory. And so began the downward spiral of Britain’s council estates. Sir Robin Wales, the Mayor of Newham described it like this last year: “If you walk in and say ‘I’m homeless’ you get a greater priority than if you walk in and say ‘I’ve managed to do something for myself but I’m still looking for a council property’”. I could add that if you walk in and say, “I’m homeless and I’ve got a baby” then you jump ahead as if you were playing snakes and ladders.

So the system now makes the life-choice of being unmarried and workless easier to fall into. Not actually attractive, but less obviously awful. Worse still, it makes it almost impossible to get out the trap. Once you have council or social housing and are in receipt of housing benefit and council tax benefit you will find it difficult to discover a job which would bring in much more money after you are obliged to give up these benefits.

Housing benefit is the dark secret of the whole benefits system. People often say the Jobseekers’ Allowance and Income Support are tiny. They say no one would be discouraged from working because they get one of these benefits. Perhaps. But once you add on housing benefit and council tax relief and other so-called ‘passport’ benefits, the maths change substantially. The council estates have become quagmires from which few escape. Would you like to guess how many people move out of council estates each year? It is mere four per cent. Once you are in, it is practically for life. A large minority of people are living in these estates, subsidized by everyone else and living low-quality lives.

Reform is desperately needed. But even after 11 years in power, Labour is still in the position where it is only promising a green paper next year. In other words, it has not thought the unthinkable. It has buried its head in the sand.

What should be done? First, one must surely allow those of retirement age to live out their lives in peace in the council homes they have known for years. But after that, we should no longer be content to let this disastrous social experiment continue as it is. Those of working age should be required to seek work if they get subsidised rents or housing benefit. The tenancies should not be for life but for limited periods – an idea that is being taken on in the Netherlands. Tenants should be given every encouragement to become the owners or partial owners of their properties. Unmarried parents should no longer jump up the housing lists compared to those who have worked and planned for their futures.

Such a programme – allied with a more purposeful justice system - could make a dramatic difference. Some may say the government would need a lot of political courage to do such things. But many of us – especially those in council estates – will need a lot of courage to face the future of increased unemployment, crime and fear that will result if we do nothing.

The above is the original draft of an article which appears in today's Daily Express.

Thwe full report on housing by the Centre for Social Justice is here.

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime • Housing • Parenting • Reform

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December 07, 2008
Sunday
"Barely a third of working-age [council] tenants have full-time work"

If you read little else on this website, I hope you will at least read this extract from an article by Iain Duncan Smith in the Saturday Daily Telegraph. It describes the problem well and with some data which I had not seen before.

Britain is witnessing a growth in an underclass whose lifestyles affect everyone. Perhaps the reason why most people haven't been aware of the extent of this is because housing policy has, over 20 to 30 years, ghettoised many of these dysfunctional families.

In the Seventies, only 11 per cent of households on the estates weren't working; today barely a third of working-age tenants have full-time work. Less than 15 per cent are headed by a couple with children. Two-thirds are occupied by lone parents, lone men or lone women.

On such estates, few children see a positive father figure, with young men having children by different mothers, with the state covering the cost.

Small wonder that alcoholism rates are high and drug dealers ply their trade in full view of young families. This social breakdown leads far too many young boys into street gangs.

Although gangs are criminal and bound together by harsh discipline, the leader acts as an authority figure and the gang's strong ties and loyalties perversely replicate the family they never had. As gangs clash, residents suffer from the violence and high levels of crime.

These young boys are on their way to a life of crime. You don't have to take my word for it - look at the background of those who as young offenders end up in custody.

Over three-quarters of them are from broken homes, just under half of them experienced violence in the home and half of them have educational levels below an 11-year-old.

Girls suffer too. Many have grown up in dysfunctional families where their mothers had children as teenagers and they have shared the house with a string of "guesting fathers". Too many will repeat the lives of their mothers.

Families like this are much more at risk of abuse than any other. Recent NSPCC research has shown that a child growing in such a family structure is up to six times more likely to suffer abuse, which is why the social services are under growing pressure.

The cases of Baby P and Shannon Matthews have led to demands that more children be taken into care, yet in the past ten years 20 per cent more children have been taken into care. Furthermore, the outcomes for those youngsters are appalling.

Nearly half of all the under-21s in the criminal justice system have been in care, only 12 per cent gain five A-C GCSEs and a third of all homeless people have been in care.

When social services do take the child, too often the young mother goes off and has another child, which will more than likely end up in care as well.

The full article is here.

Here is a link to the Centre for Social Justice report on "housing poverty".

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime • Housing • Parenting • Welfare benefits

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July 19, 2008
Saturday
Crimes are under-reported now. As for reported crimes, they have soared over the long term.

One thing that it often said by those who wish to argue that crime has not really increased is that crime used not to be recorded whereas now, by implication, it is.

The latter is certainly not true. There have probably been some serious academic attempts to measure how big the under-reporting of crime has been at various times. However it seems clear that a great deal of crime is now not reported. Here is a little anecdotal evidence taken from an entry from the Times Educational Supplement "opinion staffroom" today:

It's really the stuff that I know goes unreported which annoys me more, as I said at the beginning. I'm sure nobody bothered calling the police about the people who pulled the door off our communal bin room the other week, or those who ripped up a duvet and left the bits scattered all over our communal lawn this week, or those who dumped the contents of a wheelie bin in the middle of the road last week, or left a supermarket trolley and large metal cage at the bottom of the steps last week, or those who continue to smoke in communal areas in our apartment block, or the idiot in the block shouting racial abuse out of the window at some foreigners in the street last night, or those who disturb everyone by shouting as they come home from a drunken night out (pretty much every night). And we did call the police twice in the last few weeks at 3am because we heard violent attacks on our neighbours. That's just in the last couple of weeks. Every morning on my walk to the bus stop I see some evidence of the behaviour of the night before.

Most are things which would be considered minor crimes (vandalism, antisocial behaviour, smoking in a public place, racial abuse, stealing property etc etc) but the police are hardly going to take you seriously if you ring up about a shredded duvet on your lawn. It's just annoying, mindless behaviour.

Oh, and we live in a "nice", residential cul de sac of reasonably expensive, new apartments.

The site can be accessed here.

It might be worth repeating a quotation I cited in The Welfare State We're In from Professor Jose Harris:

A very high proportion of Edwardian convicts were in prison for offences that would have been much more lightly treated or wholly disregarded by law enforcers in the late twentieth century. In 1912-13, for example, one quarter of males aged 16 to 21 who were imprisoned in the metropolitan area of London were serving seven-day sentences for offences which included drunkenness, 'playing games in the street', riding a bicylcle without lights, gaming, obscene language and sleeping rough. If late twentieth century standards of policing and sentencing had been applied in Edwardian Britain, the prisons would have been virtually empty: conversely, if Edwardian standards were applied in the 1990s then most of the youth of Britain would be in gaol.

This is from a footnote in the book Private Lives, Public Spirit: A Social History of Britain 1870-1914.

In my own book, I cite much other evidence to suggest that crime has become a great deal worse than in previous decades. The rise in recorded crime, let alone unrecorded crime, is astonishing. Between 1898 and 1998/99, recorded violent crime multiplied seventy-seven times. The numbers went from 4,221 to 331,843. The graph (printed in the book) shows that rise was continuous and remorseless. To believe that this was all due to changed standards of reporting, you would also have to believe that there was a continuous, unbroken change, year by year, in the standards of reporting. It is not credible. Nor, I believe, is there evidence for any such thing.

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime

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July 18, 2008
Friday
Lies, damned lies and crime statistics

This is the beginning of a solid article by Stephen Pollard about the unreliability of crime statistics. It has some good points but I feel that there is likely to some other factor that has not yet been identified which leads to crime figures that appear so unlikely.

It was claimed that the figures published yesterday showed that there were five million recorded crimes in England and Wales - a fall of 9 per cent in the 12 months to March.

The phrase 'lies, damned lies and statistics' is never more apposite than when dealing with crime figures. Indeed, there were two sets of 'official' figures: first, the number of crimes recorded by the police and, second, crimes counted by the British Crime Survey. The police figures say there were five million crimes last year while the British Crime Survey figures say there were 10.1 million.

And if you think that's confusing, it gets worse: both sets of figures are wrong.

The figures for crime recorded by the police are very misleading because they only take into account, as is clear from their name, those crimes which are actually reported to the police.

On the other hand, the British Crime Survey is based on 47,000 people who are asked about their experience of crime. So, in theory, it's a better guide to the true level of crime than the police's figures. But it, too, is still deeply flawed.

For one thing, the British Crime Survey is hamstrung because its researchers only interview people who are prepared to discuss the problem - and they are hard to find in high-crime, inner-city areas.

Worse, the survey doesn't count repeat violent crimes against a victim. So, if someone is repeatedly mugged, not only might the crimes never be recorded because the victim was never included in the survey, but even if he was, the number of crimes would be counted as one.

Thus one university criminologist has calculated that the total number of violent crimes committed against adults is likely to be 80 per cent higher than the figure recorded by the British Crime Survey.

I am not sure about the British Crime Survey not reporting crimes committed against those under 16 (which Stephen makes further on). I think I remember reading recently that that policy has been changed but I am not sure.

The full article is here.


Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime

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May 07, 2008
Wednesday
Violent crime appears to be 83% worse than the British Crime Survey suggests

My suspicion that government crime statistics could be misleading (see previous entry) is supported by a study published by Civitas in June last year.

It appears that the British Crime Survey has a very particular way of counting crimes. The real incidence of all violent crime appears to be 83 per cent higher than that which given in the British Crime Survey. This understating of crime has been going on since the survey started in 1981. Since the total level of crime in each year since then has been understated but to an unknown but presumably varying degree each year, the assertion that violent crime is going down is not wholly reliable. I suspect there are further reasons to doubt the trustworthiness of the crime figures. A few have already been suggested in comments on my previous post (below).

I should add that the academics who wrote this report went out of their way not to criticise the statisticians themselves. The fault they find is with a way of treating the figures that was started in 1981.

Here is part of the Civitas press release:

...ever since its inception in 1981, the British Crime Survey (BCS) has omitted many crimes committed against people who have been repeat victims. If people are victimised in the same way by the same perpetrators more than five times in a year, the number of crimes is put down as five. The justification for this was ‘to avoid extreme cases distorting the rates’, but, as Farrell and Pease point out, ‘if the people who say they suffered ten incidents really did, it is capping the series at five that distorts the rate’.

By recalculating the figures without the arbitrary cap of five crimes, Farrell and Pease have revealed that there are over three million crimes omitted from the BCS:

In its most recent published sweep, BCS estimated an annual total of some 6.8 million ‘household’ crimes (covering burglary; theft in a dwelling; other household theft; thefts of and from vehicles; bicycle theft; and vandalism to household property and vehicles). It estimated some 4.1 million ‘personal’ crimes (which covers assault, sexual offences, robbery, theft from the person, and other personal theft). Our re-analysis reveals that, if we believe what the respondents tell us, there would be 7.8 million household offences and 6.3 million personal crimes. Thus, removing the arbitrary five offence limit, over three million extra offences come to light… Household crime is increased by 15% and personal crime by a staggering 52%. As the sum of personal and household crimes, total crime would have been understated by 29%.

The increase in the number of crimes is not evenly spread across all types of crime. For example, theft of vehicles is not increased at all, but levels of vandalism are almost a quarter more than reported, and there are 20 per cent more burglaries. Violent crime of all types increases by 83 per cent. Violence perpetrated by an acquaintance increases by 156 per cent and domestic violence by 140 per cent. As Farrell and Pease say, ‘these are not minor differences’.

The full press release is here.

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime

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April 29, 2008
Tuesday
Lie, damned lies and crime

Last week I suggested at a meeting that the figures for unemployment in Britain had been manipulated. A member of the audience who said he was a civil servant was appalled and angry, suggesting that I was impugning the integrity of civil servants. I was somewhat taken aback by his outrage since I have become very accustomed, in the past ten years, to the thought that many government statistics are highly misleading. There are so many examples of it.

Hospital waiting lists are a prime example. Much unemployment is hidden under the category of incapacity benefit. Education is an outstanding example. My confidence in all government statistics has been completely undermined.

When I was a once-a-week leader writer for the Daily Telegraph (about five years ago) I would often start my research with some headline government statistics that appeared to support the official line and then find, on looking more deeply at the figures, that the headline figures were extremely misleading and, in some cases, that the real story was the very opposite of what the government was suggesting. Exam results are a well-known - or rather 'notorious' - example of this but there are many others that are less well-known and which succeed in fooling people (or at least the media).

As I explained to the irate civil servant, I am not suggesting that that figures are simply changed by the statisticians - that numbers are moved around Mugabe-style. No, I am suggesting something more subtle. I am also not suggesting that the statisticians are driving the misleading of the public. That is a political matter and therefore surely driven by the politicians and their 'special advisers' and public relations advisers - although let us not pretend that statisticians are all without political views and that all of them can put those views away when they select which, of the many ways of measuring things, they choose.

It is quite easy to manipulate statistics. One can choose the numbers that put the best gloss on things, ignoring ones which tell a different story. One can quote one study which ignoring others. One can redefine what counts and does not count as an instance, say, of an exam pass (just change the pass mark from 50% to 10% and you get a surge of apparent academic success.

One of the statistics I am currently suspicious of is the supposed fall in violent crime. I have not had time to mine the statistics. But I noticed this weekend a story in the Sunday Telegraph which encouraged my suspicion. A professor of 'advanced social sciences' surveyed frontline police officers, contacting them by email. No such study can be regarded as conclusive. However she apparently contacted 1200 of these officers which is quite a big sample.

She

...found that 80 per cent of borough police officers agreed or strongly agreed that knife crime was worse in their community than five years ago. Only eight per cent disagreed.

Some 70 per cent judged that gun crime had worsened and nearly three quarters said they had seen a rise in gang crime.

Professor Qvortrup herself remarked that the result of her survey 'flies in the face of other research from the Home Office and the British Crime Survey, which says that gun crime is falling'.

I wonder. Is gun crime really falling? If so, why?

The full story is here.

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime

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February 13, 2008
Wednesday
the benefits system is the most influential kind of sex education around

I wonder if this is true? A person who commented on the Daily Mail website on the story below, wrote:

In The Netherlands a single mother with a child is not entitled to claim benefits or social housing until aged 22. This makes young women more likely to be careful about teenage pregnancy and get on with their education and lives instead of stuck in a hole of state dependency.

- Adam, UK

If this is indeed true, it casts a different light on the debate on teenage pregnancy in the UK. Usually the argument is all about sex education and I think, if memory serves, it is suggested that the Netherlands has a particularly open form of sex education which, it is suggested, does no harm because the teenage pregnancy rate is lower that Britain's. But if this commenter on the Daily Mail website is correct, it would seem quite possible that in fact any lower teenage pregnancy rate could be due to the benefits system rather than the nature of sex education. It might be that the benefits system is the most influential kind of sex education around.

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime • Parenting • Welfare benefits

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February 12, 2008
Tuesday
"When I started 35 years ago, things like this would never have happened."

It is understandable that when older people suggest that behaviour has changed, that younger people are sceptical. Perhaps there is an element of 'them' and 'us'. A younger person might feel, "this is our time. If you say now is worse than before, you are saying that we, the young, are worse than you, the old." And nobody likes to hear criticism.

Yet the truth is, even if it is hard to accept, that British society has dramatically changed for the worse in the past half century. Of course we are richer and wealth brings a kind of freedom. But our behaviour - including the behaviour of many older people - has significantly changed.

Some evidence for this is in the book. But here is another little piece: funeral directors who have been in the business for years say that the respect shown to funerals has noticeably declined. Here is the coverage from the Daily Mail:

Drivers and youths are showing no respect for the dead or their grieving families, according to Britain's undertakers.

The past decade has seen public attitude towards funerals reach an "all-time low", they claim.


Similarly, firefighters are facing a torrent of abuse and mindless attacks from yobs as they attempt to save lives.


In a "sad reflection of today's society" motorists refuse to stop for funeral processions and regularly cut up hearses.


Horses pulling funeral carriages have even had stones thrown at them by schoolchildren.

Undertakers have revealed that members of the public now rarely stop when the cortege passes and policeman no longer salute.

The National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors says members are reporting more such incidents, with the situation worse in big cities.

John Weir from the society, whose members organise 60 per cent of funerals in Britain, said: "Respect for the dead is at an alltime low.

"People used to stop as a funeral went past, those wearing hats would take them off, policemen would salute and traffic would give way.

"That doesn't happen any more and in the past ten years there has been a decline in behaviour.

"Funeral directors have noticed this change and, of course, it is the families who are affected.

"A funeral only happens once. If something happens, the relatives are scarred for ever. It is a sad reflection of today's society.

"Things are worse in the cities; in market towns and in the country it is not as bad."

John Harris, of T Cribb and Sons funeral directors in London's East End, organises 800 horsedrawn funerals each year. He believes carrying out a funeral has become more difficult because of the attitude of other road-users and a lack of respect from today's youngsters.

"In the past ten years respect for the dead has declined," he said. "And it is part of a wider breakdown of society.

"Road users are the biggest problem. Drivers will overtake and then cut in, which can spook the horses. And we have had an incident of schoolchildren throwing things at the horses.

"When I started 35 years ago, things like this would never have happened."

The full article is here.

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime

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January 02, 2008
Wednesday
Has 'selfish materialism' made the British unhappy

I appeared on the Today programme on Radio 4 this morning. I was up against Oliver James who has a new book arguing that Thatcherite "selfish capitalism" has made British people unhappy. Unsurprisingly I didn't agree. But actually, though I think his economic premises in his new book are utterly wrong, I do have respect for Oliver James as a psychologist. I quoted him in The Welfare State We're In and met him while researching the book. He kindly directed me towards research indicating that British people are less happy than in previous generations - something on which we agree.

Over the next week, it might be possible to listen to the interview on the BBC website. The link is here. The conversation was at 8.48 on Wednesday 2nd January.

He has some good lines. I liked the one: "You can't pull with a Ferrari in Copenhagen". This is a claim which should be tested.

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime

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December 03, 2007
Monday
A falling off in army discipline

While it is increasingly accepted that behaviour in Britain has deteriorated, people still believe that the army remains as it was: full of brave men of exceptional discipline and character. This may be so. One hopes so. However, given the decline elsewhere, I am not surprised to get the following report. I should emphasise that this is second-hand and I do not offer it as strong evidence. I mention only as a possible lead indicating what might be happening. It comes from someone who knows a man who...

...travels round the world with the military. As a result he has acquired a great deal of insight into the changes in military culture over recent years. Apparently, soldiers now dress in a slovenly way and officers can no longer collar them in passing if their dress or behaviour is sub-standard. Due process has to be followed and this has evidently meant that officers don't bother, with obvious results. This is possibly a result of worthy anti-bullying policies but, again, has had unfortunate results.

My correspondent puts down the reduction in discipline to altered rules on how an officer may and may not tell off a soldier. Doubtless that has played an important role. But I would suspect that the change in the character of British people generally has also affected the behaviour of armed personnel.

I should add that I have no wish to knock the armed forces, for whom I have great admiration. On the other hand, I believe it would be wrong to turn a blind eye if a change such as this is taking place.

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime

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July 29, 2007
Sunday
The worst social evils of the 21st century

Recently I took part in a debate at the Royal Society for Arts about what are the greatest social evils of our time. I was welcomed by Matthew Taylor as I went in and he called me a 'token right-winger' which gives an idea of the views of most of the other participants. The main speech was by Julia Unwin. There was, perhaps surprisingly, some agreement about the worst social evils such as cultural impoverishment. However, even here I am sure we had wholly different views about the causes of that impoverishment.

The RSA website has an audio recording of the debate. The actual recording is here: http://www.thersa.org/audio/lecture190707.mp3

My main contribution starts just after a third of the way through. I also commented on the notion that the market economy has increased avarice in modern society at the beginning of the last eighth of the recording.

In my comments I mistakenly referred to a market in Rome having been created by Tiberius. I think the one I was thinking of was actually created by Trajan. I should also have mentioned that in late Victorian times, when charitable giving was vastly higher than it is now and behaviour was better, there was lower tax and Britain had much more of a market economy.

The page leading to the recording is here: http://www.rsa.org.uk/index.asp

Incidentally, the idea of the Julia Unwin that climate change should be regarded as a major social evil seemed to me quite extraodinary. It may or may not be an evil, but it is surely not a social evil. I am dismayed by the way that she - and perhaps the Royal Society of Arts, too - have turned old charities to address their own interests instead of the views and intentions of those who founded them.

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July 20, 2007
Friday
Crime levels are under-reported in Britain

When I say that crime per capita has increased 47 times over in the past century, people often reply that reporting of crime has increased. This idea is widespread. I am afraid I have yet to see it cogently argued, with evidence. I would be glad to see the argument put properly. (Norman Dennis once wrote a pamphlet saying that the idea was wholly untrue.)

In the meantime, there is some evidence suggesting the very opposite. The latest such evidence of this comes from the Federation of Small Businesses:

Small businesses have so little faith in the legal system that they no longer bother reporting crimes that cost them £19billion a year.

They think thieves and vandals are let off far too lightly, according to a survey published yesterday.

Four out of ten fail to report crimes because they do not believe police take them seriously enough, says the Federation of Small Businesses.

The findings reflect growing anger at shoplifters being let off with onthespot fines, half of which go unpaid.

Under the latest Government proposals they will escape punishment altogether if they agree to say sorry.

(Full article in Daily Mail)

This suggests that there is serious under-reporting of crime that is happening right now. It seems to me highly unlikely that small businesses did not report so many crimes in, say, the 1950s. But it would be interesting to see any evidence on the issue.

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime

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April 26, 2007
Thursday
Charles Murray's welfare reform plan

I have just been to a talk given by Charles Murray, the American intellectual who has been so influential in the matter of state welfare and the damage it has done. He spoke about his idea for reform - an idea described fully in his book In Our Hands.

His idea, briefly, is this: that the government should give every person US$10,000 a year in place of all welfare benefits, retirement payments and healthcare. Of this, US$3,000 would have to be used to buy health insurance.

I hope he will forgive me if I misreport some of his remarks. I do not have shorthand.

He said he was not primarily concerned that the welfare state costs too much "though it does", nor that it tends to make things worse "though it does" but that it "drains" the life out of people - particularly the spiritual life and sense of meaning.

He believed that people derive a sense of meaning in their lives in one or more of the following four ways: vocation, community, family and faith. For these things to retain their meaning, it was vital that government should leave them alone.

He offered his sense of how Europeans defined the purpose of life these days. He felt they think that the idea is to have a pleasant time until you die. He felt that they no longer believe that life has a special or transcendental meaning. Their priorities seem to be holidays and shorter working hours. The idea that work can have meaning in their lives has faded. Their belief in marriage, too, has dwindled. They even are no longer so ready to put their children's interests above their own. There has been a secularisation of society. People now think they are a combination of chemicals which, after a while, would "de-activate".

This may be a caricature of how Europeans think but it is not so very far from how a lot of Britons think. His view is influenced, I think by the fact that he is a believer - and believers in God are probably more widespread and fervent in America than in Britain. It is his religion that perhaps makes him more shocked by some of the behaviour in Britain than non-religious people are.

In fact, I would suggest that America's continuing belief in God helped to get through the welfare reform of 1997. Many simply thought that it was wrong, for instance, that there should be special government payments for those having children outside marriage. It was against God's law. (American religion is, perhaps, different from what remains of British religion in that, here in Britain, the church has given up on morality and tends to take a socialist approach, calling for more big government).

He said that if his plan were introduced, behaviour would be affected. There would be 'feedback loops'. I think he implied that a girl would be less inclined to get pregnant out of wedlock if she knew she would get no extra money from the government. She would also be able to get money from the father because his regular money from the government would be paid to a known bank account and money could be taken from it. This would, Murray suggested, affect his behaviour, too. He would be more cautious about making women pregnant.

The idea of 'feedback loops', such as described above, is crucial to understanding how the welfare state has undermined behaviour. The welfare state has, in many ways, taken away the feedbacks which a society without state welfare used to supply.

Among these, Murray emphasised, is stigma. He said "stigma is wonderful" and "it is extremely powerful" and he suggested it was rarely a bad thing except in novels.

My take on Charles Murray's proposal is this:

I am struck first of all by how he admitted that this was a compromise. He said he was making an offer to the Left. They would be allowed to keep big spending - since his plan would continue big state spending. But it would be in a different form that would curtail many of the bad effects of state welfare.

Many times I have been asked, when giving talks about my book, "so what is the answer?" I have always felt it is impossible to give a satisfactory answer. The ideal solution - minimal state welfare - would probably not be politically acceptable in a democracy. But reforms that would be politically acceptable would probably not be radical enough to make a 'good society'.

What Murray has done is come up with an admitted compromise. But I wonder whether even this compromise would hold. I can imagine some hard luck stories that would be played out at length on TV and radio and would cry out for action by the government. Gradually, the whole thing might fall apart. I fear that in a democracy there is a tendency for people to look to government to sort out every problem. I fear that even in America, the will to say: "let the chips fall where they may - the net good to society will still overwhelmingly come from a low welfare state society" is not likely to be strong enough in the face of such stories.

I have come to fear that all advanced societies are becoming more and more welfare state dependent and that people in these countries are gradually being changed more and more by these welfare states. The welfare state gives you money if you have children out of wedlock, it gives you money if you don't work, if gives you money if you are well but you pretend to be ill and it declines money it would have given you if you have saved. I agree with Charles Murray that the worst effect of the welfare state is on the character of the people it affects (mostly the less well off). I would love to see major reform but I fear that over the long term, reform will not last and that the damage done to society will continue.

If this happens around the advanced world, we are really talking about a whole civilisation in decline. Is this too gloomy? I hope so.

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime • Parenting • Reform

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April 17, 2007
Tuesday
Banning guns is not the obvious answer that it seems

One’s first reaction to the horrific killings of 32 people on Monday on Virginia Tech campus is: “why on earth don’t the Americans bring in gun control?” It seems the obvious answer.

If you have been listening to the BBC coverage you will probably have been subtly encouraged to view it this way. The attitude on some of its programmes seems to be: the Americans are bone-headed about this. They should be like us civilised Brits and ban gun ownership. But the facts about guns are not what you might expect.

Yes, it is true that guns are widely owned by American people. They can be found in two out of every five homes. It is also true that the homicide rate in America is tragically high at 5.9 deaths per 100,000 people each year.

But guns are also widely held in peaceful Switzerland. They are in 27 per cent of homes. Yet the rate of homicides in Switzerland is only 1.1 per 100,000 people which is lower than in Britain. So the idea that there is a simple connection between guns being out there and people getting killed is not reliable.

In Norway gun ownership also quite common with a third of homes having one. And what is the rate of homicide there? Fewer than one per 100,000, far lower than in Britain. The rate in England and Wales is 1.5 and and in Scotland it is 2.2.

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April 16, 2007
Monday
A parallel between the famous Stanford experiment and the welfare state

Philip Zimbardo was on the Radio 4 programme "Start the Week" this morning. He briefly described a famous experiment which he conducted in 1971.

Here is a description of it from Wikepedia:

The Stanford prison experiment was a psychological study of the human response to captivity, in particular to the real world circumstances of prison life and the effects of imposed social roles on behavior. It was conducted in 1971 by a team of researchers led by Philip Zimbardo of Stanford University. Undergraduate volunteers played the roles of guards and prisoners living in a mock prison that was constructed in the basement of the Stanford psychology building.

Prisoners and guards rapidly adapted to their assigned roles, stepping beyond the boundaries of what had been predicted and leading to genuinely dangerous and psychologically damaging situations. One-third of guards were judged to have exhibited "genuine" sadistic tendencies, while many prisoners were emotionally traumatized and two had to be removed from the experiment early.

The full Wikipedia entry is here.

I see a parallel between the Stanford experiment and the welfare state. The Standfor experiment showed that good people could, if their circumstances were changed, start acting very badly indeed. We humans are generally not so inherently virtuous that we can go on acting well regardless.

This chimes with one of the central claims that I make in The Welfare State We're In, that living within the structure of the welfare state has changed the character of the British people.

I do not think that the majority of young men who become criminal thugs were born to be that way. I suggest that the circumstances they found themselves in made it more likely to that they would turn out that way. The welfare state conditioned these circumstances. The welfare state caused more young men to be brought up in adverse circumstances. It caused:

- more to be brought up by an unmarried mother, perhaps with visiting boyfriends
- more to be brought up on a sink council estate
- more to be illiterate and alienated at school and therefore more likely to be in gangs and turn to delinquent behaviour
- more to be unemployed.

One could add a few more such circumstances. Add them together and you have a large-scale experiment in what those kind of circumstances do to people. We know that, in many cases, criminal activity has been the result.

The circumstances in which people - particularly the poorest fifth - are brought up in Britain has been changed by the welfare state. It has had a damaging effect on their behaviour. But they could just as easily have been fine, decent people. It was nothing about them genetically. It was the circumstances into which the welfare state put them - just as it was the circumstances into which students were put in Stanford which made them behave so awfully.

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March 06, 2007
Tuesday
70 per cent of young criminals have lone parents

Alongside this story in the Telegraph was a box of "Family Facts and Figures". One of them was:

70 per cent of young criminals have lone parents

another was

22 per cent of children live with a lone mother.

This would appear to be further evidence that lone parenting makes it more likely that children will become delinquent. It does, of course, have to treated with care since it is possible that children of lone parents are more likely to suffer from some other problem that causes them to be more likely to be criminal. In other words, it is conceivable that the evidence is misleading. On the other hand, there is plenty of well-researched analysis that leads one to believe that this bare statistic powerfully reflects an important truth.

I am very interested in the origin of this 70 per cent figure. Previously the British government, unlike the American, has been reluctant to make any analysis of the family background of convicted criminals. It has been as if it did not want to know. So where does this figure come from? Is it in the Freud report?

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime • Parenting

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January 27, 2007
Saturday
Blair's lies, full prisons, undersentencing and Gordon's part in all this

Most of the nonsense which Mr Blair spoke in order to get himself elected has been forgotten. He has not been held to account. But occasionally the propaganda which served him so well is remembered. The absurd lies are finally exposed. This week it has been his crime policy.

One of Mr Blair's most famous pieces of propaganda was the promise that, if elected, he would be "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime".

But this week the British public has been made very well aware that the government over which he presides did not build anything like enough prisons to house the steadily increasing number of criminals. In other words, he simply was not "tough on crime". That was a lie.

In addition, the failure of his government to build sufficient prisons has made crime worse than it would otherwise have been. This, rather unusually, has now been pointed out by a judge:

Judge Richard Bray jailed two men over a fight outside a pub, and told Northampton Crown Court: "I am well aware that there is overcrowding in the prisons and detention centres. That is not going to prevent me from passing proper sentences in each case.

"The reason our prisons are full to overcrowding, and have been for years, is because judges can no longer pass deterrent sentences."

He added: "What message does it send to criminals when they are told in the dock they will only have to serve half the sentence the judge thinks appropriate?

"Until politicians wake up to this fact, criminals will continue to re-offend and the prison population will continue to rise ever higher."

Of course, while Mr Blair 'presided' over the failure to build prisons, the person who should probably take the main responsibility is Gordon Brown. He was acting prime minister for domestic policy. His men at the Treasury will have been the ones telling any Home Secretary who wanted to build prisons, 'sorry, money is too tight'. So the great extent of the rise in crime is yet another failure of this government that probably can be put down to the actions of Gordon Brown.

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime • Politics

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December 07, 2006
Thursday
A debate

In the 'comments' section of the posting below on re-offending, John Hudson has cast doubt on my assertion that the welfare state has been a major factor in the massive rise in crime in Britain. His argument is worth a hearing and I have responded to it.

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December 06, 2006
Wednesday
Raising the school-leaving age would be crazy

It should not be difficult to spot the flaw in the argument for making all children stay at school until they are 18. It is contained within the first two, short paragraphs of the news story in the Daily Telegraph:

Teenagers should be forced by law to stay in school or training up to the age of 18, the review of skills ordered by Gordon Brown said yesterday.

More than one in six young people leave school unable to read, write and add up properly and the proportion of 16- year-olds staying on in full time education in the UK is below the average for developed countries, it said.

To put the same information in a different way, this advisory body suggests that children whom Britain's state schools have failed to teach even to read and write should be compelled to stay at those schools for an extra two years.

This is absurd. You might call it 're-inforcing failure'. This is an idea according to which, if you have a system for climbing a mountain which does not work, then you should be made to go on using it.

The damaging consequences of increasing the school-leaving age are serious. We already know - in a big and undeniable way - that many of those children whom state schools have failed even to teach how to read and write, are disenchanted by school. It would be surprising if anything else were the case.

We also know that such children - especially the boys - are the ones who are likely to establish gangs within the school, to disrupt lessons, to bully, to truant and to commit crimes. This is already a major problem. An astonishingly high proportion of street crime is already committed by children of school age in school hours.

What would be the effect of keeping even bigger boys at school who are disenchanted by the experience and who have not even learned to read and write and who have already formed gangs and become juvenile delinquents? It would undoubtedly be to breed bigger and more dangerous young men present in school. It is not an exageration to say that the crime rate in Britain would increase. More teachers would be too frightened to even attempt to exercise authority. More knives and drugs would be brought into school. More lessons would be disrupted. At present, those who stay on are the keener ones. They have a better chance to make progress in those two years because the disenchanted ones have left. That chance would be seriously endangered by this proposal.

Raising the school-leaving age is a seriously bad idea.

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime • Education

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December 05, 2006
Tuesday
Re-offending up from 55% to 67% in the past five years

One of the contentions of The Welfare State We're In is that the welfare state has been a major contributor to the massive rise in crime and anti-social behaviour since the beginning of the 20th century. The problem is compounded by the fact that the state, in addition to being a bad supplier of welfare, tends to be a bad administrator of everything else it does, too. This applies to all aspects of criminal justice including investigation of crimes, prosecution, the courts and punishment.

The poor performance of the state in these areas exacerbates the increased crime for which the welfare state is largely responsible.

At the end of last month, Lord Ramsbotham, the former prisons chief, wrote a scathing attack on the administration of prisons in The Independent. It was significant because it came from such a well-placed soure.

This is part of what he wrote:

Yesterday's announcement that the prison population now exceeds 80,000 is the latest low point in what one can only describe as the Government's headlong and self-induced race to absurdity as far as the conduct of imprisonment is concerned.

He cites various reasons for this. The one that is particularly worrying is this:

If you do not resource prisons, to enable them to conduct work, education and training, prisoners are more likely to reoffend, as proved by the fact that the reoffending rate among adult males has gone up from 55 per cent to 67 per cent in the past five years.

That rise in re-offending seems remarkable and suggests, all by itself, that something may be going badly wrong in our prisons.

What could it be?

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime • Waste in public services

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November 11, 2006
Saturday
Roy Keane - a surprising new supporter of my views on the change in behaviour of footballers

Roy Keane, of all people, has criticised the bad behaviour of football players . This is comical, considering his own record of foul language, insults, intimidation and deliberate violence - in one case leading to serious injury. The thing that really seems to irritate him now is players faking injury. It is an example of how selective and illogical people can be when it comes to a moral code.

Despite all the above, I welcome Keane's words (see the Telegraph article and below). When I wrote The Welfare State We're In, I was delighted to find a long history of sendings off in professional football. I thought that I had discovered a good way of demonstrating the dramatic deterioration of behaviour in Britain - a way that went beyond anecdotes, a way that was quantified.

Many people watch football and they would easily relate to the figures I was able to quote. It seemed like a great way to make my point. But this was to ignore the passionate longing of many football fans - including highly intelligent people - to believe that it is all the fault of the referees. Many fans refuse to accept that behaviour has changed. They say the enormous rise in sendings off is only and entirely because referees have become stricter. They claim that one footballer barely has to touch another for the ref' to give a yellow card. You can be sent off for things which would never have resulted in such a tough response in the good old days.

I can only gasp at the way these fans ignore the violence, the shirt-pulling, the pushing, the holding, the tripping, the kicking and the punching, not to mention the diving, that are now part and parcel of football. I would suggest that the new, stricter rules are not the cause of the sendings off but have been put in place because it was the only way to reduce the level of mayhem on the pitch. Indeed this was explicitly the case in the 1970s, I think it was (the details are in the book).

But, in any case, the book was meant to be about the welfare state, not about football refereeing, so reluctantly I changed the way it was written to put less emphasis on the astonishing history of sendings off. I did not want to put people off my welfare state arguments by arguing with them about football!

Nevertheless, I am glad to a kind of back-handed support for my views from Mr Keane. It is implicit in his interview that he thinks behaviour has deteriorated. He, of course, was a fully paid-up member of this trend. For details of his own sorry role, see Chapter One.

This is from the Telegraph article:

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October 30, 2006
Monday
Trick or treat: an excuse for vandalism

In a small Tesco store in Alresford, a pretty Georgian village in Hampshire, I saw a sign declaring that flour and eggs would not be sold to people under 18 years of age until after October 31st. What a strange development this is.

Tesco has imposed the ban because it is trying to do its bit to reduce the amount of damage done by those who 'trick or treat' on the night of Halloween. I don't know for how many years it has imposed such a ban. I was ready to believe that this was another case of the nanny culture gone mad. But the staff there told me that it was no joke. Even in this village that looks as though it is the epitome of English civilisation, they told me that Halloween night is an evening on which those who 'trick or treat' really do some genuinely nasty things. The damage that can be inflicted with flour and eggs is the least of it. The 'trick or treaters' have been known to go a great deal further including setting fire to letterboxes.

A sign such as Tesco now feels it must put up would not have been at all necessary even 20 years ago, let alone 50. It is hard to overstate the reduction in civility in British culture.

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July 10, 2006
Monday
How did the welfare state damage the character of the British people?

This is an article of mine which appeared in the Yorkshire Post.

MY FATHER used to tell my brother and I about his time serving in India during the Second World War. The Japanese army was advancing and looked likely to invade.

My father said that his greatest fear was that, if captured by the Japanese, he would be unable to hold out in the face of torture and might let down his comrades by revealing military secrets.
The way he thought about this reveals something about his generation's mindset. For millions of people such as my father, duty towards others was one of their major concerns. The concept of duty – and honour – were strong.

But the British now tend to think in a different way. How many now are worried, above all, about their responsibilities to others? Some are, of course, and they can be heroic in caring, for example, for disabled members of their family. But more generally, there is now almost a national ethic of selfishness. The whole character of the British people has been revolutionised.

Why?

Why have we changed from being a society so law abiding that George Orwell wrote in 1944: "An imaginary foreign observer would certainly be struck by our gentleness; by the orderly behaviour of English crowds, the lack of pushing and quarrelling... there is very little crime or violence."

He would be astonished if he returned today. In a recent survey by the Jill Dando Institute, fewer people in Britain than in any other major European country said they would confront a group of 14-year-olds vandalising a bus shelter.

I suspect this is largely because we are aware these days that there are some very dangerous 14-year-olds around.

There is an enormous contrast here: in 1931, during Orwell's lifetime, there were three crimes a year for every police officer. By 2001, that figure had rocketed to 44.

Why has family life, too, changed beyond recognition? The big, extended family was very important in the 1950s.

Michael Young – who, incidentally, was the author of the Labour Party's 1945 election manifesto – studied the way the working class lived in the East End of London. He was impressed by the many thriving, supportive, extended families. A woman shopped for her elderly uncle. The young were baby-sat by the old. Contacts between members of aunts, grandparents and cousins were frequent.

Now, in place of these vibrant, extended families, there has been an explosion of unmarried parenting. Often children go entirely without contact or support from the father's side. And the mother herself may
also lack contact with her own father.

What has caused these massive changes in British society? The research I did for my book, The Welfare State We're In, led me to think that, strange though it may seem, this transformation has been brought about largely by the development of the welfare state.

The welfare state was created, of course, with good intentions. It was meant to provide a safety net for the unfortunate. But, as an unintended by-product, it changed the way we live and the pressures which each of us feel in our daily lives.

Previously, we had powerful reasons to be good people.

Imagine yourself, for a moment, to be a working man living a century ago. You are almost certainly a member of a friendly society, like the vast majority of industrial workers. Being a member of a friendly society (there were hundreds of them) means that you have insurance against being unemployed or of becoming incapable of work.

Let's imagine that you get sick. You are seen by a doctor employed by the friendly society, and then visited by other members.

These are people you see at meetings of the local branch of the society. They live nearby. If you need some help, they will willingly offer it.

But if they see you out in the garden, perfectly fit and well, they will know that you are cheating your fellow society members. You would be shamed in your own community. This represents a strong pressure on you to behave well and to be honest. It encourages a sense of responsibility and honour.

You are married. But note how you persuaded the young woman to marry you. She chose you with care because she knew that the state would not give her support if you turned out to be work-shy or irresponsible.

So she wanted a man who would be reliable and provide for any children you might have. To get this wife and have a family with her, you had an incentive to prove yourself a good, trustworthy man.
Over and over again, the absence of a welfare state left in place natural pressures on people to be decent. But the modern welfare state has taken many of these away. It has said to poorer women: "Don't worry if the father of your children can't provide; other taxpayers will." It has said to men: "Don't worry if you don't feel too good, you can stay on incapacity benefit for years on end and we probably won't know if you are working on the side."

If claimants have lied, there is often no punishment and no public shame. People don't really care if you cheat a whole nation's taxpayers – not like they would care if you were cheating them and their friends personally.

The impact of the welfare state on the character of Britain is pervasive. There is not the room here to look at the effects of other parts of the welfare state: the keeping of alienated children at state schools; the discouragement to saving provided by means-tested benefits, now being enhanced by Gordon Brown's convoluted and inefficient system of tax credits; and the impact of permanent mass unemployment – which has only existed since the introduction of the welfare state – on people's morale and attitudes.

Yet these add up to powerful forces shaping our lives and changing our culture.

There are, of course, still some people who are marvellously kind and decent. But how many children being brought up today understand the culture and the way of thinking that led Admiral Nelson, on his deathbed, to say "Thank God, I have done my duty"?

To buy a copy of The Welfare State We're In from the Yorkshire Post Bookshop for £12.99, call free on 0800 0153232. Postage and packing costs £1.95. Order on-line at www.yorkshirepostbookshop.co.uk

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June 21, 2006
Wednesday
If we locked up 10,000 more offenders a year, we could prevent 1.4 million crimes

Useful figures on using prisons to fight crime:

"Anti-prison campaigners are, of course, fond of claiming that jail does not work, pointing to the high levels of re-offending among ex-convicts. But this is to ignore the crucial point that when a criminal is locked up, it is physically impossible for him to commit any offences.

"He may return to his life of crime once he is released, but at least when he is inside, the public is safe from him.

"There are sobering statistics to show just how many crimes he might have committed had he not been locked up. According to a Home Office survey in 2000, the average inmate committed 140 crimes in the 12 months before his admission into custody.

"On that basis, if we locked up 10,000 more offenders a year, we could prevent 1.4 million offences, saving the public purse a fortune as well as reducing aggravation for law-abiding citizens.

"The indisputable fact is that, according to police records and the authoritative British Crime Survey, crime levels have fallen when more offenders have been sent to prison.

"Yet the conjunction of a rising jail population and declining crime causes the anti-prison brigade to descend into tortuously illogical thinking and intellectual absurdities as they refuse to face up to the facts."

This is from an article by David Green in the Daily Mail

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June 06, 2006
Tuesday
The Human Rights Act increases the level of crime

Unfortunately the Express does not publish online so I can't link to an excellent article by Simon Kernick, a novellist, with the headline "How law and order has been betrayed by the crazy Human Rights Act". It would be good if a copy of this article could be deposited with the porters of every QC in London and at the offices of all solicitors.

In brief, he describes how Lisa Potts saved children from being hacked to death with a machete and was herself badly injured as a result. She could not work for at least five years and was awarded £68,000 compensation. Since then, £2.7 million was awarded by the prison service to a prisoner last moonth allegedly for negligence over a failed suicide bid. The sum of £72,000 was paid to another prisoner who fell over and hurt his back.

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May 31, 2006
Wednesday
Prison facts and figures

In researching the article (see previous entry) on prison sentencing, I came across the following facts and figures:

In January 1993 there were 41,561 in jail in England and Wales. The current population is 77,004 (according to BBC Online).

When Labour came to power in 1997, the prison population had increased to more than 60,000, a rise of about 45 per cent in four years.

The prison population is currently 143 per 100,000 of total population in England and Wales. In other words, 0.143% of the total population is in jail.

The equivalent figures for other countries are:

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What hope is there for law and order when we have judges like this?

Unedited version of my article in today's Daily Express:

Anybody reading this newspaper would have been proud to have had Tom Grant as a son or brother. He left school last year with A grades in history, politics and French. He had been captain of football and was awarded Oakham School's W.W.Holman prize for 'Promise, Endeavour and Achievement'. Only two weeks ago, he returned to his former school in Rutland and the headmaster, Dr Spence, remarked "He seemed so alive and so buoyed with enthusiasm". Everything we know about Tom Grant suggests he was a particularly fine, young man, with a strong sense of responsibility.

It was because of his sense of responsibility that when he saw an argument on the train getting to a dangerous point, he intervened. He paid for the decision with his life. He was stabbed to death. He had been on his way from Glasgow to Paignton to see his parents.

Yesterday, on the very same day we heard of the Tom Grant's death, an interview was published in The Guardian with the chief judge of this country: Lord Phillips. Lord Phillips is at the peak of the legal profession. As Lord Chief Justice, he is influential with the judges who make important decisions every day. So what did he say? That fewer criminals should be sent to jail. He expressed concerned that prison overcrowding was "absolutely fatal" for efforts to treat convicts. He said judges should not send people to prison unless they really have to and that "the sensible place for rehabilitation is in the community".

It is tempting just to throw ones hands up in despair.

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime

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May 25, 2006
Thursday
The amnesty won't stop the growing knife crisis

Kiyan Prince, 15, was stabbed to death with a knife last week outside his school, the London Academy in Edgware, North London. Since then it has emerged that two of the classmates of this promising young footballer, one aged 14 and the other 15, have been found guilty of the knife murder of an asylum seeker.

Some parents at the school have been quoted saying their children are terrified of knives. There has been a plea for the children who go there to be checked for weapons, to make the others safe.

All this comes soon after a series of knife crimes recently including the fatal stabbing of Christopher Alamene, 18, in Sheerness, Kent.

If ever there were a moment when the public would want the Prime Minister to offer a really convincing lead, then this was it.

But yesterday in parliament, when he was questioned about how he was going to deal with the growing knife culture, how did he respond? Tony Blair said that he was "hopeful" that the amnesty for turning over knives to the police, which started yesterday, would be successful. He claimed that such amnesties had "worked successfully some years back". He also mentioned that the minimum age for buying a knife would be increased and that further kinds of knife were being added to the 'offensive weapons' list.

It is impossible to believe that this little collection of measures will be at all effective. The scale of the problem was small only a decade ago. Now it is growing rapidly. Previous amnesties did absolutely nothing to stop the growth of the knife culture.

The figures are astonishing. The number of people prosecuted for carrying a knife rose by nearly 60 per cent in the five years up to 2004 - a huge rise in a very short time. There is plenty of reason to think it is getting much worse.

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime

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May 14, 2006
Sunday
Schools as academies of crime

The revised and updated paperback edition of The Welfare State We're In is published tomorrow. As part of the publicity for the launch, I have written an article that appears in the Sunday Telegraph today. Here is an extract:

According to research published last week, Britons have the worst reputation for yobbish behaviour in Europe.

Three-quarters of Europeans think Britain has a problem with anti-social behaviour - a higher figure than for any other country on the Continent, the study, devised with help from the Jill Dando Institute, discovered.

It blamed drunkenness and a breakdown in discipline in homes and schools.

The Victorians would have been appalled and astonished. A principal finding of this report would have been quite contrary to one of their strongest beliefs: the idea that schools have contributed to the "loutification" of Britain.

Victorians thought that education was crucial in the fight against crime.

When I first came across the assertion that compulsory state schooling had contributed to the amount of crime in British society I found it an extraordinary idea. We are so accustomed to thinking that schools are good, admirable institutions that it is strange to think that they might be doing harm in any way at all. But the more one considers the evidence, the more credible this surprising thought becomes.

The full article is here.

There is more on the subject in the chapter on education in The Welfare State We're In.

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime • Education

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January 20, 2006
Friday
'There was less crime in the 1930s' says a crime correspondent of that time

Sometimes people claim that the statistics showing crime has soared in this country are misleading. They suggest - though rarely with any evidence in my experience - that crime is far more commonly reported now than in the past. But now and again, people speak from their memory and it cuts through all the statistical arguments. Tony Blair did it a few months ago when harking back to the days of his youth when people could leave their front doors open without fear of being burgled. Today, here is Bill Deedes, whose memory goes back right to the 1930s:

As we are reminded daily, we are a more violent country than we were. Why? Surely we ought to be more concerned about it. Ministers are happy for us to blame poverty, but that is nonsense. I was a newspaper's crime correspondent in the 1930s, when poverty was incomparably harsher than today, and can make comparisons.

We have become so accustomed to reading of children being knifed for their mobile telephones, men robbed and then gratuitously stabbed to death, and grannies beaten over the head for a few pence, that we are no longer surprised by it. But if you have a memory as long as mine, you will know how alarmingly we have descended.

The full column is here.

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime

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January 16, 2006
Monday
The BBC makes progress and looks at benefit fraud

Another step forward: a six-part BBC series on benefits and how they got wrong. The first one, tonight, appears to be about benefit fraud. According the Telegraph,

David Street, the series' producer, said: "These are just a few of the cases that are prosecuted every year. The scale of fraud in disability living allowance claims is just staggering.

"I have made a lot of programmes about fraud and I have to say I was stunned by the size of this problem."

The full article is here.

The programme is on BBC1 at 8.30pm tonight and is called 'On the fiddle'.

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime • Media, including BBC bias • Parenting • Waste in public services • Welfare benefits

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December 17, 2005
Saturday
Parents live apart 'to cash in on benefits system'

Newspaper articles don't get much more important than the Daily Telegraph one below. It goes to the heart of how and why the character of British people has changed. You see in it incentives not to be married. Through that, you see a major cause of the increasing number of children not brought up within a family with married, committed parents. That, in turn, tends on average - though not always, of course - to lead to alienation and delinquency among more children. That is a pathway to uncivil behaviour and crime. And then there is also the incentive to fraud - making lying and cheating a normal part of the way people lead their lives.


By Sarah Womack, Social Affairs Correspondent
(Filed: 16/12/2005)

Thousands of couples with children may be choosing to live apart because they can cash in on benefits.

An official report by one of the Government's former leading experts on the family shows that as many as one million couples in a committed sexual relationship live most of their time at separate addresses.

Family campaigners seized on the findings, saying women who lived apart from their child's father or a new partner were rewarded with higher levels of state benefits.

The research, contained in a politically sensitive report published yesterday by the Office for National Statistics, has prompted politicians and family campaigners to question Government policy. They say changes to the tax and benefits system could encourage women to wait until they are married before having children.

The ONS report, Living arrangements in contemporary Britain, has been surrounded by controversy for some time.

Last year there were claims - strongly denied by the ONS - that the Government was suppressing a draft version because the findings could be seen as embarrassing.

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime • Parenting • Welfare benefits

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December 15, 2005
Thursday
"Them lot bang up some old homeless man which I fink is bad even doe I woz laughen after doe."

A grim tale of the British underclass. It is gruesome to think that minds can become so alienated and vicious.

(The news story to which this account is related is here.)

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime

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November 29, 2005
Tuesday
Britain is getting more and more violent.

Updating more statistics from The Welfare State We're In, I have been looking at the crime figures.

The statistics are extraordinary. The amount of theft is going down - such as theft from cars. But the amount of violence is going up. Curiously, the number of homicides in 2004/05, at 859, is not massively higher than the number recorded in, say, 1900 (312). But there have been enormous rises in other kinds of violent crime.

I will give the figures for 1900, 1998/99 and 2004/05 (note that the system for recording crime changed in 1998/99. Where it made a big difference, I will note it.)

Attempted murder 75; 676; 736

Threats or conspiracy to murder 8; 11,212; 23,668

Wounding or other acts endangering life 269; 14,006; 19,425

Other wounding 943; 196,737; 485,195
(redefinitions aplenty in this category but even in the past two years, using the same definitions, there has been a rise from 345,345 in 2002/03 to 485,196)

These are stunning figures. The trend towards more violence is still raging. The jump in 'wounds or other acts endangering life' from 14,006 to 19,425 since 1998/99 is telling because it is hard to think of any way in which the figures could be regarded as misleading. The definitions are unchanged. There is little question of extra reporting (which could well have taken place in cases of rape). So the conclusion must surely be that Britain is becoming a markedly more dangerous and violent place.

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime

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November 28, 2005
Monday
No man's land on a council estate
There's a real culture of dependency on these estates. One reason is because people expect to be housed and never to be kicked out....

Imagine you are a nine-year old boy living here. You see these groups of older boys. They seem to be tough. They seem to be having a good time. Nobody interferes with them. You want to be a man and these appear to be men to you.

These are quotes from a new pamphlet.There is a shortage of descriptions of the dynamics of life for those who become alienated and turn to crime and other forms of destructive behaviour. So the publication of No Man's Land: How Britain's Inner City Youth Are Being Failed by the Centre of Policy Studies is welcome.It is written by Shaun Bailey, a man whose mother tried to get him away from the council estate culture in which she lived. She succeeded but he has returned to try to help on an estate. He describes the culture there.

The first chapter is on the CPS website here. The full pamphlet can be bought via that website. There is a serialisation in the Daily Mail today.

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime • Housing

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November 14, 2005
Monday
The school bullying 'epidemic'
Almost every child is affected by bullying and is growing up in a society that sees violence as "the norm", the children's commissioner has said. Professor Al Aynsley-Green argued that, despite good work in schools, there is still denial about the "existence, severity and effect" of bullying.

He told the Observer that violence had become the norm in the workplace, on television and in the home.

This is from BBC online this morning.

Further on:

Professor Aynsley-Green's comments came just days after 15-year-old Natashia Jackman was stabbed in the head while at school in Camberley, Surrey.

And on Wednesday, 19-year-old Tommy Kimpton, of Penryn, Cornwall, was sentenced to two years in prison for killing a friend who had bullied him.

All this is likely to get worse, not better. The social problems which give rise to it, including unmarried parenting, mass unemployment, benefit dependency, compulsory attendance to the age of 16 of children who are not successfully taught even how to read and write, are all still in place and in some cases even more serious than 15 years ago.

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime • Education

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November 09, 2005
Wednesday
Throwing bricks at British firemen - an echo of the French riots

The audience of parents of children at Tonbridge School last night was one of the most positive and supportive I have come across.

I talked mainly about how the welfare state has damaged the culture and morality of Britain and how it has led to higher levels of crime. One member of the audience responded by saying he had been a fireman who had worked in council estates. There had been youths there who he described as 'untouchables' - that is they were not touched or cowed by anything. They did not care if they were arrested, or got hurt or went to prison. These youths would throw bricks at himself and other firemen as they tried to put out fires.

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime • NHS • Waste in public services • Welfare benefits

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November 05, 2005
Saturday
What is the cause of the Paris riots?

When the riots in Paris are reported, the most commonly mentioned factor is race. The implication is that this is a cause of the violence. No doubt racial conflict adds to the problem. There is also mention of people being poor.

But I suspect something different lies behind it all. The report in the Telegraph on Thursday by Henry Samuel referred several times to the places in which the riots took place:

The riots first broke out on the Chêne-Pointu council estate. Last Thursday, two adolescents from the estate died when they scaled the 8ft wall of an electricity substation to dodge police and were electrocuted.

....Chêne-Pointu typifies the problems of many of the urban ghettoes that surround Paris and other large French cities: a high immigrant population, soaring unemployment and drug dealing.

...."We're not dumb. Sarkozy has declared war on suburban youth," said Karim, 23. "Unless he apologises for the way he has treated us, then he can expect 40 nights of violence," he said.

But others around the estate back Mr Sarkozy. "What he says may be crude, but he's right. Drug runners and petty criminals have had it good too long around here.

....In the neighbouring Bosquet estate, Traore Gounedi, a 27-year-old worker in a local social centre, is incensed. "Ten years ago, Clichy was a real no-go area. But in recent years we had built up sports clubs and other associations and it had become calm...."

As night fell at Chêne-Pointu, sirens heralded the approach of two fire engines that positioned themselves in front of the estate awaiting the flames.

Notice the appearances of the word

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime • Housing • Parenting

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September 22, 2005
Thursday
Scotland is three times more violent than America

Scotland is the most violent country in the developed world, followed by other parts of the United Kingdom. This is according to a UN assessment. It tells us volumes about how dramatically the culture in this country has deteriorated. The middle class does not see most of what is going on. The complacent reassurances of the Governmen which repeatedly asserts that it is making progress and hiring more officers is - in the light of these figures - absurdly inadequate.

The Times article on the subject is here.


http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1786945,00.html

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime

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July 01, 2005
Friday
The Government does not want to know about the positive effect of marriage

The Government spends a huge amount of our money on social research. This research is one of the main sources of data for independent analysis, too. But the Government deliberately avoids researching things when it might discover things that are inconvenient. It does not analyse convicted criminals to find out their family backgrounds - particularly whether or not their parents were married and stayed together throughout their childhood. In America, 32 per cent of all adult criminals were found to have lost one parent before the age of fifteen. At the time, only eight per cent of the population at large had a lost a parent in this way. And in Britain? We don't know. The Government does not want to know. It might interfere with the politically correct pretence that all kinds of parenting are just as good.

Here is an excellent excerpt from an email newsletter by Harry Benson on another way in which the Government is avoiding the truth. He ends with a call for people to join in fighting this "see no truth" attitude to social research. The more who respond to his call, the better:

At the end of June, the government released its latest findings from the Families and Children Study (FACS). FACS is a superbly designed panel study that has followed the progress of several thousand families for five years.

The latest study found that lone parent families were more likely to work less, earn less, save less, be unemployed, be deprived, be on benefits and suffer poorer health than couple families. The finding does not tell us much that is new but adds to a large body of existing research.

What is especially striking is the way the study completely disregards marriage. For the second year running, FACS combines four different family types into one super group called “couple families”. Yet there is a great deal of existing research showing that these four types – married and unmarried families, as well as married and unmarried stepfamilies – do not have the same outcomes.

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime • Parenting

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June 27, 2005
Monday
Are some British schools dangerous, nasty places?

Here is an excerpt for a Guardian article about 'youth cabinets' discussing the problems of the young:

There are too many exams; gangs are out of control (although some thoughtful voices ask what the difference is between a group of friends and a gang, concluding that it depends on which neighbourhood they are from); bullying makes many lives a misery and knives are becoming a common sight in playgrounds.

Sapphire, 15, from Leeds, thinks that by the time she has children most primary school pupils will be carrying knives. One boy says a gun was brought into the playground at his school. Crime seems a daily reality in these children's communities.

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime • Education

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Home schooling is growing fast - but why?

For some time now I have been confident that the number of children being home-schooled has been rising fast.

Now comes confirmation from an article in the Sunday Times. What the article does not analyse is the cause of the trend. I would suggest that it is partly

1. dissatisfaction of middle class parents with the quality of education their children can get particularly, but not only, at state state schools.
2. Inability readily to pay for private education (which, arguably, is much more expensive than it should be, for a variety of reasons including state rules on planning, health and safety and so on).
3. Desire of parents to save their children from the violence and influences towards crime, drugs and teenage parenting in some of the more 'bog-standard' inner city comprehensives.

Here is the Sunday Times article:

Number of children taught at home soars Lois Rogers, Social Affairs Editor THE number of children taught at home has almost doubled in the past five years, a trend that experts say reflects a crisis of confidence in the state school system. Government figures show the number of five to 16-year-olds educated at home jumped from 12,000 in 1999 to 21,000 last year.

The increasing number of parents opting out of the school system reflects a similar trend in the United States, where one in 20 children is now taught at home.




Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime • Education • Parenting

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June 26, 2005
Sunday
The no-go areas of brutish Britain

Another measure of how brutish Britain is becoming: DHL will no longer deliver to some areas because of the danger to drivers. Imagine what those areas must be like for the residents.

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime • Housing

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June 23, 2005
Thursday
American welfare reform was bitterly opposed and not bi-partisan

Ron Haskins, a senior adviser to President Bush on welfare reform, addressed the Centre for Policy Studies yesterday. It was an exceptionally good presentation - powerful about the way in which the 1996 welfare reform programme has succeeded and honest about admitting ways in which it has disappointed.

He brought home that the welfare reform was not, as it is usually described in Britain, a genuinely bi-partisan affair. It was, above all, a Republican reform that was fought bitterly by most Democrats (with one particularly notable exception). Based on the American experience, we should not get hung up on the idea that only the Left can reform welfare on the same basis that 'only Nixon could make peace with Commmunist China'. In America, passionate Republicans aimed to save their country though welfare reform and they have, to a remarkable degree, succeeded.

The notable exception on the Democrat side was,

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime • Parenting • Politics • Reform • Welfare benefits

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June 21, 2005
Tuesday
Frank Field thinks the unthinkable
Former Welfare Minister Frank Field is pushing for tough action to throw unruly tenants - responsible for social ills including noise, assaults and vandalism - off estates.

And he believes ministers should copy a scheme in Kamper, eastern Holland, where neighbours from hell have been moved into vandal-proof accommodation in steel containers.


Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime • Housing

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If we had had welfare reform like America, we could have had this:

Below is what has been achieved in America. It could have been done here. But instead of radical reform in welfare, Gordon Brown increased means-testing. There has been some reduction in the value of welfare benefits and some increased incentives to work and even some increased conditionality of benefits. But it has been minor and at the edges.

If Blair had done what Clinton (pushed on by the Republicans) had done in the USA, then we might have had this:

What was the result of the 1996 reforms? By 2003, American welfare case loads had declined by about 60 per cent nationally. The number of families receiving cash welfare is now the lowest it has been since 1971. Between 1993 and 2000, the percentage of single mothers in employment grew from 58 per cent to nearly 75 per cent. The sub-group of never-married mothers working grew from 44 per cent to 66 per cent.

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime • Parenting • Politics • Welfare benefits

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May 30, 2005
Monday
The government says it can do nothing more to reduce the number teenage pregnancies

Beverley Hughes, the children and families minister, told the Guardian last week that there is nothing more the Government can do to reduce the number of teenage pregnancies. Her message was "Nothing to do with us. The government offers lots of sex education in schools, but those teenagers keep on having babies. Now it is up to the parents."

She was echoing Tony Blair who, as he bemoaned the lack of respect in British society, said he could not bring up other people's children for them.

So is it really nothing to do with them? Is there nothing they can do about?

Britain has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Europe at 42.8 conceptions a year for every 1,000 girls under 18. Our teenagers have five times as many babies as Dutch girls, three times as many as the French and twice as many as German frauleins. It seems unlikely that this has nothing to do with the government. There is not something particular about British girls that means they have babies more frequently than girls elsewhere.

Britain is second only to Sweden in Europe in the proportion of women aged 18 to 35 who are lone mothers. Lone mothers are more than four times more common here than in Italy, Portugal, Greece or Spain? It is unlikely that this, too, is nothing to do with government policy.

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime • Parenting

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May 16, 2005
Monday
It's the family, stupid

Messrs Blair and Brown just don't get it. They think good social policy revolves around a bad definition of 'poverty'. They are puzzled by the 'hoodies'.

This from a good article by Fraser Nelson in the Scotsman:

For all the hype about the New Deal, Brown’s economy has specialised in finding alternatives to work for young people. When Labour came to power, 23% of 18-24 years olds were not working: this has risen to now 25%.

And benefit dependency has risen from 6.01m when Labour came to power to 6.58m now. Family disintegration has continued apace: the proportion of births to lone parents is up from 21% in 1996 to 26% today.

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime • Parenting • Welfare benefits

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May 14, 2005
Saturday
42.2 per cent of babies born out of wedlock
The number of babies born out of wedlock has reached its highest recorded level, according to official figures published yesterday....

A total of 42.2 per cent of births took place outside wedlock last year, up from 41.4 per cent in 2003 and an increase of nearly 10 per cent since 1994 when the figure stood at 32.4 per cent.

What is remarkable about this news item in the Daily Telegraph yesterday is that it was a small down-page story with no comment or even quoting anyone being disturbed by it. Yet it, to those who have looked at the effect of unmarried parenting on the children, the most worrying item of news in the paper.


Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime • Parenting

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May 13, 2005
Friday
It's abart respec' Tony

A good, to-the-point posting on the Civitas blog about Tony Blair bemoaning the lack of respect in modern society.

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime • Parenting

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May 11, 2005
Wednesday
NHS beds halve and crimes against the person up 281 per cent
The NHS is the world's third-largest employer with a million people on its books, second only to the Chinese Army and Indian railways. We spend some £80 billion a year on the NHS, equating to £1,400 annually for every man, woman and child. Despite this the number of NHS beds in England has halved in the past 25 years.
The average British woman will have 2.2 healthy pregnancies in her lifetime - almost enough to keep the UK population stable - but will give birth to only 1.7 children. The difference is accounted for by the number of abortions.
The number of people working in the public sector has increased by 10 per cent since 1998, accounting for some half a million of the new jobs created since Labour came to power.
Total public sector employment in 5.29 million, up from 4.71 million in 1997.
In 1981, 600,000 people claimed incapacity benefit. Now it is 2.2 million.
The greatest increases in recorded crime since 1997 have been in drug offences (509 per cent) and violence against the person (281 per cent) and there has been a drop in burglaries by nearly a fifth.
More than half the households in Britain have less than £1,500 in savings, and a quarter have no savings at all.
Teenage birth rates in Britain are twice as high as in Germany, and five times as high as in Holland.
150,000 children are educated at home, and the figure is rising. Bullying, harrassment and religion are the reasons most cited by parents for taking their children out of school.

From Britain in Numbers published by Politico's and serialised in today's Daily Mail.

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime • Education • General • NHS • Parenting • Waste in public services • Welfare benefits

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May 05, 2005
Thursday
Even churches are not safe from incivility

This is a sobering illustration of the decline in civility in Britain. A vicar near Rochdale has been forced to hold services at his home because youths have so disrupted his services and intimidated his congregation, many of whom are elderly.

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime

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May 03, 2005
Tuesday
Why poor parents in Miami send their children to a private school

Yesterday I visited the Greater Miami Academy, a private Adventist school with 175 children in the elementary part and 165 in the Academy (grades 9 to 12).

The school takes part in a programme called 'Florida Pride' which is intended to help poorer families send their children to a private school.

Fifty children in the elementary school are on 'Florida Pride' scholarships and 23 in the Academy. The subsidy is worth $3,500 a year and comes out of money that would otherwise have been paid by companies to the government in tax.

The parents have to make up the difference between that money and the fees of US$4,000 in the elementary school and US$5,500 in the Academy. (Incidentally, the subsidy given by the church is bigger than that from taxpayers, since the cost of giving a child a place is actually US$11,000.)

I asked to talk to some of the students on the programme. In trooped four girls in 9th grade, aged about 15 or 16.

I asked why their parents had gone to the trouble and expense of applying to get them onto the Florida Pride programme instead of staying at a public (local government) school. The first, Denise, said that students in the public school she previously attended brought in weapons...guns. I asked if they waved around the guns, had them in holsters or what? She said they would have them and then show them.

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime

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April 08, 2005
Friday
The welfare state's role in causing family breakdown

My two daughters were discussing divorce and separation among the parents of the children they know at their school. I asked them how many children at school could they think of whose parents were divorced. After consideration, they came up with four. That is probably out of about 25 children who my older daughter knows well in year six, say another 10 in year five, perhaps another 30 in year three (where my younger daughter is) and another 20 in other years. So a total of about 85. It is, of course, possible that there are some divorced parents they did not know about. But it seems probably that not much more than five per cent of the children have divorced or separated parents.

What has this got to do with the welfare state?

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime • Parenting

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April 04, 2005
Monday
Lee Bowyer breaks new ground in British incivility

New ground was broken in British incivility on Saturday at a premiership football game.

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime

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March 25, 2005
Friday
Labour claims on crime

Norman Dennis' posting on crime levels in London was written last December, but it is a useful aide-memoire in the run-up to an election when the Government is likely to be trying to get away with absurd boasts about its record on crime. I particularly liked this section:

Perhaps the most distasteful bit of responsibility-shedding by the Home Office has been the line that the fear of crime is as much the problem as the fact of crime. It's the populist and hysterical tabloids, stupid. It's the nervous old biddies, stupid.

The fact is that the totally reasonable fear of crime has undoubtedly been one of the main factors in preventing the crime figures being even worse.

The enormous rise in burglaries has been restrained by people making their homes into fortresses. Old people are mugged less than young people because they do not venture out into public spaces at night. Cars have been rendered much more difficult to steal than they were ten years ago.

The whole posting is here.

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime

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March 24, 2005
Thursday
The fantastic reduction in crime during Victoria's reign

Why did crime rates fall so dramatically during Victoria's reign? Why is the fact that crime fell so little known? And why do some very clever and well-educated people decline to believe it?

The fall in crime in the second half of the 19th century is an astonishing, little-known story throws light on how government welfare policy may influence crime levels ('the causes of crime'). Crime levels, in turn, probably reflect more general standards of behaviour.

Here is an excerpt from Dr Jose Harris's excellent Public Lives, Public Spirit: Britain 1870-1914 which gives us some of the facts from which to start:

One of the most striking features of British society betweeen the 1860s and the First World War was its continually diminishing rate of recorded crime - a phenomenon that was historically quite unusual by comparison with both earlier and later periods in British society and with the experience of other industrialising societies in the latter half of the nineteenth century. In spite of increasing concentration on imprisonment as the sole form of punishment for serious crime, the prison population in all parts of the United Kingdom was proportionally much smaller in 1914 than it had been in the 1860s, while sentences for penal servitude were one-fifth of the level of fifty years before. Recorded crime and conviction rates are clearly a somewhat elastic measure of actual criminal behaviour, and public definitions of what constituted 'crime' were no less fluid in this epoch than in any other. But as legislators thoughout the period were constantly extending the boundaries of crime and as police were increasingly active in its apprehension, it seems scarcely credible that falling crime rates can be ascribed to mere transient social perceptions.

This point could be demonstrated much more forcefully than I have space for here; but the point should be made that a very high proportion of Edwardian convicts were in prison for offences that would have been much more lightly treated or wholly disregarded by law enforcers in the late twentieth century. In 1912-13, for example, one quarter of males aged 16 to 21 who were imprisoned in the metropolitan area of London were serving seven-day sentences for offences which included drunkenness, 'playing games in the street; riding a bicycle without lights, gaming, obscene language, and sleeping rough. If late twentieth century standards of policing and sentencing had been applied in Edwardian Britain, then prisons would have been virtually empty; conversely, if Edwardian standards were applied in the 1990s then most of the youth of Britain would be in gaol.

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime • Welfare benefits

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March 20, 2005
Sunday
Instructions to American Servicemen in Britain, 1942

From Instructions to American Servicemen in Britain, 1942:

The British are tough. Don't be misled by the British tendency to be soft-spoken and polite.
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They are not given to back-slapping and they are shy about showing their affections. But once they get to like you they make the best friends in the world.

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The Briton...is... the most lawabiding citizen in the world, because the British system of justice is just about the best there is. There are fewer murders, robberies, and burglaries in the whole of Great Britain in a year than in a single large American city.

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You will find that English crowds at football or cricket matches are more orderly and polite to the players than American crowds. If a fielder misses a catch at cricket, the crowd will probably take a sympathetic attitude. They will shout 'good try' even if it looks to you like a bad fumble. In America the crowd would probably shout 'take him out'.

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They are good sportsmen and are quick to recognise good sportsmanship wherever they meet it.

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It isn't a good idea to say 'bloody' in mixed company in Britain - it is one of their worst swear words.

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The British dislike bragging and showing off.

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In peace or war, 'God Save The King' (to the same tune as our 'America') is played at the conclusion of all public gatherings such as theater performances. The British consider it bad form not to stand at attention, even if it means missing the last bus. If you are in a hurry, leave before the national anthem is played. That's considered alright.

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On the whole, British people... are open and honest. If you are on furlough and puzzled about directions, money, or customs, most people will be anxious to help you as long as you speak first and without bluster. The best authority on all problems is the nearest 'bobby' (policeman) in his steel helmet. British police are proud of being able to answer almost any question under the sun. They're not in a hurry and they'll take plenty of time to talk to you.

I quote these excerpts because they add to the evidence in The Welfare State We're In that the British used to be regarded as particularly civilised people (something which is no longer the case).

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime

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March 15, 2005
Tuesday
Which influenced behaviour, the culture or the welfare state?

James Hamilton, a psychotherapist, recently interviewed me for his blog. This is an excerpt:

Do you feel that the protective conservative virtues and values, have been repressed by state intervention?What do you think of Theodore Dalrymple's assertion that it was the middle-class abandonment of traditional values that led to a similar abandonment by the working classes whom those values had most urgently protected in the past?

The circumstances in which we are brought up and live determine which parts of our nature will come to the fore. I used to enjoy telling my father - a classic 'English gentleman' - that if he had been born as one of the ravaging hordes of Attila the Hun, he would have murdered, raped and robbed without hesitation. He was amusingly discomfitted by the idea and tried to deny it.

But if we are brought up, say, where it is normal to be a member of a Friendly Society (as it was at the beginning of the 20th century) which offers help to us in times of need and requires to help others when they are in need, if we are bought up in a family in which mutual help is expected, all this and more brings out different parts of our nature than if we are raised in, say, a vandalised council estate where a large number of people are on state benefits and not working.

In the former, there are various pressures to be what we regard as 'virtuous'. There is peer pressure. There is the pressure of knowing that we will be helped only because of the deal whereby help we must help others. In the benefit-dependent estate, on the other hand, the need for mutual help has been taken away by the state. The people are put in the position where they are perennial takers. That develops a different attitude. This is just a part of the way in which, I believe, the welfare state has changed the the nature of British people.

I admire Theodore Dalrymple's writings enormously. However I disagree with the idea that the the lower classes have somehow followed the example of the upper classes in living in a less virtuous way. There is far more divorce and separation among the poor than among the rich. In this, as in other things, the poor have not copied the rich. They have developed different habits. Benefits dependency, the drastic reduction in incentives to save and to marry and many other changes have strongly affected the poor. They have been changed, not by a bad example, but by bad laws and, in particular, the welfare state. The welfare state has profoundly changed the circumstances of the poor.

Through this, not example, the character of the poor has been changed.

What are your views on the role of popular culture in the decline of civility? It is a theme of Nick Hornby's novels (High Fidelity, About A Boy) that pop culture can have the effect of trapping people in an extended, damaging adolescence. In the absence of the Welfare State, would civility have survived pop culture?

I find this idea wholly unconvincing. Pop music and words come out of the culture. They do not create it. It is true that in reflecting a culture, popular music re-inforces it. If you have obscenities from Eminem, then people will be influenced. But first you have to create Eminem - the culture in which he develops and becomes successful.

Popular music has been around for centuries, indeed millenia. The idea that popular music has a life of its own and goes around creating cultures is incredible. We did not move from "I give to you as you give to me" (part of a Bing Crosby song) and "Get yourself up, dust yourself down and start all over again" (part of a Fred Astaire song) to "F***, you, Debbie, Debbie, f**** you!" (Eminem referring to his mother) by some sort of arbitrary, self-creating vagary of the history of popular music. The change in the music grew out of the change in the culture. That, in turn, was changed by the creation of the welfare state which so profoundly changed the circumstances in which most people live.

For the complete interview, go to the March 4th posting on James Hamilton's website which should be here.

Posted by James Bartholomew • Indexed in Behaviour & Crime

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