Knife Crime

It\’s all the fault of markets. If we\’d remained in our cloth caps huddled around the mine or factory we worked in, grateful for the annual day out on the charabanc to the seaside, this would never have happened.

Yet the terms on which the better life was granted did involve the undermining of collective communal values. The growth of the market was at the expense of society. If the market has favoured individuals, it may also have injured society, even "broken" it, as Conservatives claim. How is the connection to be traced between perpetual economic growth and the social fracturing everyone deplores? It seems the social cost of things does not appear at the point of purchase, but manifests itself slowly, insidiously, over time.

In order to sell more and more to people in the 1950s and 60s, inner, psychic spaces had to be cleared so that we would be receptive to whatever was on offer. This required the dismantling of older ways of answering need, which involved dependency upon others. Networks of kinship and neighbourhood had to be swept away in order to create markets; just as in the colonial era, "undiscovered" lands had to be "opened up", so that "natives" might learn the value of a handful of coloured beads in exchange for the ruin of their cultural traditions.

OK, let\’s be very crudely reductionist here. There are something like 1200 murders a year in the UK (rough number). We\’ll also assume that in that golden age there were none.

Hands up everyone who would rewind the clock: back to a 1950s standard of living, back to a stultifying society (the 60s really were rebelling against something) but 1,200 people a year not being murdered.

Anyone?

Or is the collateral damage worth it (obviously not to the 1,200 of course, but to the 60 million of us)?

26 thoughts on “Knife Crime”

  1. How do you get 1,200 murders/year? Does that include manslaughter etc? I though it was nearer 700-800.

    Tim adds: Made up number. Approx 2 per 100,000, 60 million people.

  2. So Much For Subtlety

    Uuuummm, well, (quiet voice), me.

    I am not sure I’d like the 1950s standard of loving but it would take me a while to think of much else that was wrong with it. I could even live with censorship given that intellectual life was vastly more free back then. More social mobility as well so I am not sure about that stultifying.

  3. Tim, I think your argument here is misguided. Jeremy is partially correct in his article – he just has the wrong target.

    This required the dismantling of older ways of answering need, which involved dependency upon others. Networks of kinship and neighbourhood had to be swept away in order to create

    the welfare state.

  4. Got to agree with Ed, crime rates started to explode just as the post war after the effects of the welfare state kicked in. It should also be noted that recorded crime rates hit there lowest level just before WW1 when there was no welfare state and it was through the market, not the state as now, that people exercised control over their lives.

  5. I can see the argument you are making and agree with it, but, like Ed, I think you are making the mistake by taking on the argument in the first place. Mr Seagrove’s efforts don’t make sense and appear to be based on a particular worldview dictated by a specific ideology.

  6. Lets compare knife crime today, with that of the Victorian era, a time when the market was even more dominant than today.

    My view is that Ed is correct, take away the concept of personal responsibility in one area of someone’s life, and it will diminish everywhere else.

  7. I believe you have a 2% chance of being a victim of violence in the UK. 1950 it was 1/2%, yes of course this is much greater if you are black kid in inner London ect.

    (And of course you have to make an personal judgment as to the changes in medical scinece that turns murders into attempted murders or a serious fight in a pub car park into just a few stiches)

    Personally working in A&E for 25 years I would say double it, the amount of folks we treat who will not cooperate with the police is frightening.

    Of course 2% overall is manageable and is a small risk, but the point is where is it going, is there any sign of it going down? lets say the next 50 years does the same, then we will be at 8%.

    I think I am correct in saying that in South Africa they are currently at around 20% chance of violent crime, and SA is very bad esp in and around Durban, its not a place I would want to live in, but at least you can like my uncle sleep with a shotgun by your bed.

    Personally I am for the moral panic, violence should not be excused or tolerated at all, its says a good deal about the human spirit that we are appalled by it, not enough in my opinion.

  8. The argument is doubly idiotic since it shows an ignorance of UK history. In the late 18th century and early 19th, London, for example, had areas that would have been calld “no go” zones today. it was not until the changes in policing and other social reforms of the middle Victorian period that Britain enjoyed the sort of tranquility that made the country an emblem of relative social peace. This process lasted until the 1950s and has been slowly but surely fraying ever since.

  9. john b, the long term trend is higher.

    number of violence against the person per 100k

    1950>14
    1960>34
    1970>84
    1980>196
    1990>365
    2000>1140
    2005>1930

  10. this went under the radar a bit

    Hospital admissions for violent attacks up 30 per cent in four years
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2300782/Hospital-admissions-for-violent-attacks-up-30-per-cent-in-four-years.html

    I Like this, “Although the number of admissions to hospital as a result of assault increased sharply, the number attending A&E but not being admitted dropped by 13 per cent. ”

    Having yobs their gangs and strange families fight it out on the wards, is not something anyone is looking to for. we have to take into account the well being of our other “clients”

  11. Yes I’d rewind the clock to the 1950’s.

    Just consider what teenagers today are having to rebel against. What society?

  12. I agree with Ed too.
    The Welfare State has atomized society and done far more harm than good.
    Judged purely by its intentions it is magnificent; judged by its results (as all things should be), even the lefties should now have the courage to admit it has been a disaster.

  13. I think that you are making an argument for ‘Either/Or’ that is actually irrelevant. You can have both.

  14. Yes, the ’50s for me as well!

    Just think, a short period of skiffle, and then you get the ’60s, and ROCK AND ROLL!!!

    Oh, and you were blessedly free of state interference in most things you did.

    In fact, what was bad about the 1950s? Slower communications? Simpler technology? Less advanced medical capability? True, but if you have a choice on those things you might as well plump for 2950.

  15. So Much For Subtlety

    Dodgy Geezer – “In fact, what was bad about the 1950s? Slower communications? Simpler technology? Less advanced medical capability? True, but if you have a choice on those things you might as well plump for 2950.”

    Communications may have been slower and far more expensive (not to mention no more internet) but the rest? As someone else I forget has pointed out, the vast majority of technology was invented in WW2. It has just been slowly improved since. There haven’t been that many new breakthroughs. So we have better jet enginers and computers – and TVs, but not much that is radically new. As for medical technolgy, the main breakthroughs came in the twenty or thirty years from 1930 to 1960. Again with WW2 playing a big role in things like antibiotics and sulphur drugs – manufacturing them cheaply for one thing. I wonder if Western life spans has risen much since 1960 and if so whether that is due to anything other than rolling out services to formerly deprived areas.

    I think that the 1950s were not perfect (and I meant “living”, not the obviously Fruedian “loving” in the post above) but they were pretty good. The only real problem is that I think the Communists came so close to winning in the 1960s that if we had to do it again we would probably lose this time.

  16. “the Communists came so close to winning in the 1960s”

    See, this is what I don’t get about hard-right-wingers.

    It’s completely obvious that communism was never going to win, because western capitalism was so good at producing hardcore weaponry that the communists couldn’t afford to keep up with – not to mention all of the other stuff that the communists couldn’t afford, from nice things to keep people happy on the home front through to bribes for non-aligned developing countries.

    Given that the “we nearly lost and now we’re so decadent we would lose” brigade are almost all even stronger supporters of market capitalism than me, I have literally no comprehension of why they’d believe something so bizarre…

  17. So Much For Subtlety

    john b – “See, this is what I don’t get about hard-right-wingers.”

    I kind of like being a hard-right-winger. Like Jim Hacker being called authoritarian. I get all tingly.

    john b – “It’s completely obvious that communism was never going to win, because western capitalism was so good at producing hardcore weaponry that the communists couldn’t afford to keep up with”

    Well I don’t think weaponry was the issue, but I still think your point is wrong. The truth is that the Soviets outdesigned us all the way. We were only saved by the weakness of their technical base. Just compare the AK-47 with the M-1. Their tanks and their planes were brilliant considering what resources they had available. The West was constantly catching up – in fact it is hard to think of anything relating to tanks that the West did first. Anything that worked anyway.

    john b – “not to mention all of the other stuff that the communists couldn’t afford, from nice things to keep people happy on the home front through to bribes for non-aligned developing countries.”

    Sure. But did it matter? Yugoslavia fielded more divisions than NATO. Repression worked so well that the people on their home front barely complained – and even then only when their own government was weak. Look at Zimbabwe for how good the Soviet-style State is as repression – 2 million percent inflation! The West suffered massive public disaffection, not the Soviets right to the end. As for the Third World, despite their lack of goodies to bribe the NAM, in fact the NAM and the UN was their allies. Still are really. The West had no friends there at all by 1975. None worth mentioning anyway.

    john b – “Given that the “we nearly lost and now we’re so decadent we would lose” brigade are almost all even stronger supporters of market capitalism than me, I have literally no comprehension of why they’d believe something so bizarre…”

    Because ultimately capitalism produces couch potatoes. It does not produce people willing to suffer like the Vietnamese did. The North Koreans do. It produces intellectuals who openly prefer the heroism of the totalitarian movements as the BBC and the rest of the media prove every day. In the end, mobilising the material base of the West takes time which we would not have had. The Soviets were already mobilised. Their young men went into the Army for two years of extreme discomfort without much of a complaint. Ours would not do 18 months in luxury. Only MAD saved us – and the Left did their best to destroy that.

    I think that the Left will succeed in the end. In fact probably soon. A lot of them want to destroy the West and they are succeeding. It is bizarre when I say it, I know. But it is also clearly true.

  18. “The truth is that the Soviets outdesigned us all the way. “
    They merely ripped off Western technology. MiG-15 = Rolls Royce engine copy plus German airframe design. AK-47 = derivative of the first assault rifle, German SturmGewehr 44. Etc. We gave them vast quantities of materiel that provided not just the wherewithal to fend off the Wehrmacht, but which formed the basis of their post-war arms industry.

  19. “Their tanks and their planes were brilliant considering what resources they had available.”

    But the resources they had available were rubbish, which is the point. And as Malcolm says, the designs were generally nicked off the west anyway, primarily based on WWII kit.

  20. So Much For Subtlety

    Malcolm Stevas – “They merely ripped off Western technology. MiG-15 = Rolls Royce engine copy plus German airframe design. AK-47 = derivative of the first assault rifle, German SturmGewehr 44. Etc. We gave them vast quantities of materiel that provided not just the wherewithal to fend off the Wehrmacht, but which formed the basis of their post-war arms industry.”

    The Soviets did not merely rip off Western technology. OK, the British gave them the Nene engine. But what did Britain do with it? The US and the UK got those German guns. What did we do with them? A lot of ideas and designs were floating about. The Soviets didn’t always pick the right ones, but by and large they did. While the West, with much better resources and far better access to those ideas, did badly. Had it not been for the nuclear deterrent, the Soviet Army would have “liberated” Western Europe in the 1950s. And a lot of Western intellectuals would have welcomes them with open arms.

    john b – “But the resources they had available were rubbish, which is the point. And as Malcolm says, the designs were generally nicked off the west anyway, primarily based on WWII kit.”

    Sure. The only problem with the Soviet system was the economy. They couldn’t make it work. But that is not the point. They were not winning on economic grounds but intellectual ones. Even with their tiny economic base, they out built the West in weaponry. The designs were not nicked from the West. Many of the ideas and technologies were. The Soviets pulled the *right* ideas and technology out of the mix to produce very good designs. Compare the T-34 with the Sherman. The T-34 did nick Western ideas but the Americans did little with those ideas while the Soviets produced one of the best designs ever.

  21. This has gone way OT but:
    “The only problem with the Soviet system was the economy. They couldn’t make it work. But that is not the point. They were not winning on economic grounds but intellectual ones. Even with their tiny economic base, they out built the West in weaponry. The designs were not nicked from the West. Many of the ideas and technologies were. The Soviets pulled the *right* ideas and technology out of the mix to produce very good designs. Compare the T-34 with the Sherman.
    Can’t agree. Sure, some Soviet designs were bound to be good, since they had extremely able scientists and no qualms about spending a huge proportion of their ‘tiny economic base’ on weaponry. Winning on intellectual grounds? Surely not: the perverse attitudes of many Western bien pensants notwithstanding, both Marxism and its brutal Stalinist interpretation were refuted internationally from the word go. Re tanks, it is noteworthy that the pace of Soviet developments slackened drastically even as Western tank designs flourished, and when the latest Soviet tanks faced their Western equivalents the former fared badly. In the end, the USSR only produced some good weaponry (aircraft especially) by devoting a vast proportion of GDP to its production in the face of a cowed populace unable to demand washing machines instead, and making tanks etc in chronically inefficient production facilities. The economic results were inevitable, and a key factor in the Soviets’ collapse.

  22. So Much For Subtlety

    Malcolm Stevas – “Can’t agree. Sure, some Soviet designs were bound to be good, since they had extremely able scientists and no qualms about spending a huge proportion of their ‘tiny economic base’ on weaponry.”

    Compare that with the Americans who have yet to build a decent tank – even the M1 which is half German anyway. They did have some able scientists – and yet so did Britain and America. But our best were designing MP-3 players while theirs were building tanks.

    The point about spending up to half their economy on the military is that the Western public would not tolerant 5% for long, or 10% at all. That is the difference right there.

    Malcolm Stevas – “Winning on intellectual grounds? Surely not: the perverse attitudes of many Western bien pensants notwithstanding, both Marxism and its brutal Stalinist interpretation were refuted internationally from the word go.”

    Refuted? How so? The Soviets had periods of massive influence in the West – the 1930s and the 1960s and 70s in particular. They always had a strong influence. The intellectuals are what count and by and large they tended to be pro-Soviet from the 1960s onwards. Even today you are more likely to be persecuted in a UK university if you criticise Lenin than Churchill.

    Malcolm Stevas – “Re tanks, it is noteworthy that the pace of Soviet developments slackened drastically even as Western tank designs flourished”

    Sorry? The Germans produced consistently quite good tanks. The British produced some early good defensive designs. The Americans and French uniformly crap. The Soviets produced long production runs of good low-tech tanks with a new design every 10 years or so.

    Malcolm Stevas – “and when the latest Soviet tanks faced their Western equivalents the former fared badly.”

    It is hard to lift specific performances out of the over-all battle. I disagree. The West did have some specific areas of expertise – optics for instance. But it is telling that the West tended to copy the USSR. Smooth bore guns for instance. Perhaps even Chobham-type armour. The T-62 had both – when did an American tank?

    Malcolm Stevas – “In the end, the USSR only produced some good weaponry (aircraft especially) by devoting a vast proportion of GDP to its production in the face of a cowed populace unable to demand washing machines instead, and making tanks etc in chronically inefficient production facilities.”

    Sure. A measure of their success. In any other circumstance except the one that eventuated – a long Cold War with the West holding its unity and its nerve – the Soviets would have won. They could demand this from their population and the West, despite the superiority of freedom democracy and capitalism could not ask anywhere near the same from its people.

  23. “Even today you are more likely to be persecuted in a UK university if you criticise Lenin than Churchill.”

    Absolute bollocks. Marx rather than Friedman, perhaps.

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