Janice Turner provides some evidence for the miserabilists (for those new to this, I’ve had a running conversation with the followers of Theodore Dalrymple, about whether Britain is irrevocably worse than 30 years ago/20 years ago/10 years ago/ever).
“Matthew, Natalie and Carl are everything that David Cameron thinks is wrong with modern Britain. Natalie, 25, is a single mother: I ask if she regrets having her son, now 5, so early. “I do, because it’s hard. But the thing is, I left it late. All my friends had their babies at 15, 16. . . . I grew up just a few miles from here, in the 1970s on another estate. But I never knew kids like these. Memory blurs and nostalgia gilds and mostly I was looking at books or boys or in the mirror, not monitoring my community’s socioeconomic indices. But I don’t recall anyone whose father was unemployed. I can name the three kids whose parents were divorced and, although we all drank — in town centre pubs from 14, my dad’s home-made wine outside youth-club discos — I never once encountered drugs. One girl got pregnant.”
It’s strange, because I read on the Wikipedia page that “Births to teenagers increased during the 1960s and peaked in 1971 at 50.6 per thousand of the population. Since 1971 they have gradually fallen to their lowest level since the mid Fifties.” As I’ve reflected earlier, some impressions of a happy past are Bad History. What has really changed is “The proportion occurring outside marriage has increased from around one in six in the 1950s to nine in every ten in 2006. Teenage abortion rates are currently at their highest rate since legalisation in 1968. Although the number of conceptions are falling the proportion ending in abortion has increased over the last ten years”.
Doncaster seems unusually bad. Here is the English Democrat view:
The Mayor of Doncaster, Peter Davies, an English Democrat with tap-room views on immigrants and gay pride marches, also bemoans the skill shortages. But he blames social breakdown on “the liberal agenda”, a decline in moral standards. Which is the Tory view too, although David Cameron may balk at Mr Davies’s recent praise for the Taleban and its “ordered system of family life”.
She also has an interesting column about what being a poor northerner does to Green attitudes:
While in London, we’ve grown accustomed to damning car-use as selfish ecocide, in Doncaster it is an indicator of economic hope. To a struggling community, cars bring cash, customers and trade. Doncaster parking costs buttons if you’re used to being fleeced in Camden or Westminster; fees are often waived for Christmas shopping days; acres of town centre are turned over to ugly parking lots; and strip malls encircle the town like in some soulless American burg.
The long term problem: an inability to cope with the social consequences of deindustrialisation.
In other news
Least surprising fact of the day: Republicans Spank
More surprising fact: who’s expecting 2,200 Sony Playstations for Christmas?
Richard Koo sees a double-dip in the UK. He favours fiscal action, always.
Quick quiz: how much wealth do you think is there in the UK? Finally, we have a regular survey reporting on this. Unsurprisingly it is far more than our debts.
Scott Sumner is vindicated. His approach seems to be adopted by Paul Krugman without much attribution.