The state has only aided our seasonal spates of thuggery

The state has only aided our seasonal spates of thuggery


Simon Jenkins
The Guardian

My favourite culprit for the apparent rise in social anarchy is the stripping out of familiar leadership from communities. When a place is caught up in some catastrophe, no elected leader appears to speak for it. In France, Germany or the US, the mayor is first on the scene and first on the screen. In Britain the best on offer is a chief constable, a vicar or a headteacher. It is rarely someone known to the community, let alone accountable to it.

Britain has achieved precisely the state against which de Tocqueville warned, of democracy degenerating into an atomised society devoid of local bonds, where everyone hides behind the walls of house and family and senses no responsibility for communal wellbeing. There are no municipal mayors, block associations and village elders with money and power at their disposal to whom communities have customarily turned in time of trouble. Britons leave it to heroes to ‘have a go’, in every sense of the phrase. More formally they expect central government to ‘do something’ about everything, however trivial.

This is fool’s gold. Governments have dismantled the conduits of leadership and thus of control that offered a framework of local discipline in British communities, as they do abroad. We can bemoan the resulting loss of authority among the young, but we can hardly be surprised. It is government policy.

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