11 February 2010

Things are almost as good as they never were, and even worse than they haven't been.

The Economist | How broken is Britain?
It has become fashionable to say that British society is in a mess and getting worse. It isn’t

[...] The broken Britain of legend is one where danger stalks the streets as never before. In the real Britain, the police have just recorded the lowest number of murders for 19 years. In mythical broken Britain, children are especially at risk. Back in real life, child homicides have fallen by more than two-thirds since the 1970s. Britain used to be the third-biggest killer of children in the rich world; it is now the 17th. And more mundane crimes have fallen too: burglaries and car theft are about half as common now as they were 15 years ago. Even the onset of recession has not reversed that downward trend so far.


As for family breakdown, some commentators seem to think that sex really was invented in 1963. British grannies know differently. Teenage pregnancy is still too common, but it has been declining, with the odd hiccup, for ages. A girl aged between 15 and 19 today is about half as likely to have a baby in her teens as her grandmother was. Her partner will probably not marry her and he is less likely to stick with her than were men in previous generations, but he is also a lot less likely to beat her. In homing in on the cosier parts of the Britain of yesteryear, it is easy to ignore the horrors that have gone. Straight white men are especially vulnerable to this sort of amnesia.
You could write the same article about America.  People have thought society was better off back in the good old days since... I dunno, Solon?  There was no Golden Age.  Society has always been a beautiful mess.  Get over it.

(Full story available as a podcast here, or listen below.)

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