My thanks to Derek Turner for his generous and insightful review (“The Decivilizing Century”) of my book The Strange Death of Moral Britain in the June 2007 issue of Chronicles.  There are, however, two minor points that need to be corrected.

First, Mr. Turner suggests that I avoided ascribing the extremely large rise in crime, illegitimacy, and drink and drug abuse in Britain between 1955 and 1995 to immigration because of a squeamishness about mentioning race.  The reason I did not do so was because any such effect was far less important than the factors I do discuss—namely, the decline of a Protestant-based moral culture and the creation of a centralized welfare state.  As I document in the text, the rise and subsequent fall of “moral Britain” followed essentially the same trajectory in Wales and in the northeast of England, which have received very few new immigrants, as it did in the rest of England, where they have settled in large numbers.  In any case, although some groups among the new immigrants, such as the Jamaicans, do have very high crime rates, other substantial groups, such as the Hindus and Sikhs, are far more law-abiding, have greater family stability, and are far less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol than the indigenous Anglo-Celtic population.

The second point relates to male homosexuals, the family, and demography.  Before the 1980’s, many arguments were used in Britain to justify the legal constraints on the behavior of male homosexuals, but it was never claimed that they were a threat to family life or to the birthrate.  The collapse of family life in Britain in the last half of the 20th century had many causes, including liberalism, welfarism, and feminism; homosexuality was not one of them.  The fall in the birthrate in Britain, Spain, and Italy is because heterosexual couples have too few children; in Denmark, where homosexuality is well tolerated, couples have larger families.  My very recent research on why royal dynasties (whose lineage is vital) die out does not indicate that male homosexuality has been an important factor.  For royalty, the bottom of the page does not mean the end of the line.

Finally, let me add that the reason that I do not provide solutions in my book to the social problems that I have described is that I do not know what the solutions are.  The “moral Britain” of the late 19th and the first half of the 20th centuries was created not by design but by the independent actions of many individuals and groups who took it for granted that men and women are autonomous moral beings responsible for their own behavior.  Unless and until those assumptions again pervade British society, no significant improvement will take place.  The great curse of our time in Britain, as in America, is the pursuit of social justice instead of justice, and the emphasis on equality rather than desert.  How do you change that?

The only positive government interventions in modern Britain that have ever led to a fall in crime have been the heavy taxing of, and the drastic restrictions on, the sale of alcohol that took place during and after World War I.  The relative fall in the price of alcohol and the dismantling of the restrictions on its sale are probably the single biggest factor that has once again made England—and, even more so, Scotland—a very violent society.  It is up to the British to decide whether they want a low rate of violent crime or a free market in alcohol.

        —Christie Davies
Reading, England

Mr. Turner Replies:

It is pleasant to have one’s arguments treated seriously by so impressive a person as Professor Davies.  However, I did not actually ascribe “the extremely large rise in crime, illegitimacy, and drink and drug abuse in Britain between 1955 and 1995 to immigration”; I merely said that it is an important factor that he had not discussed.  I did not even suggest it was a more powerful factor than the decline in religious belief, the advent of the welfare state, or the rise of antinomian popular culture.  But it is an important factor—not just because of the high crime rates associated with certain ethnic minorities, but because the unrequested presence of millions of immigrants and their descendants in Britain has, in my view, been a major factor in causing lasting resentment and destroying “the identification with religion and country” that Professor Davies correctly views as so important.  Successive governments, whether nominally Conservative or theoretically interested in social harmony, have presided over an enormous and probably permanent demographic change, without ever bothering to consult the electorate whose world they were altering.  In this great and avoidable betrayal, they have been aided by all the agencies of the “establishment,” which has, in turn, helped to engender distrust of the powers that be.  That this was more because of myopia than of malice is irrelevant; the point is that the Britain that fought and won World War II has been made unrecognizable.  Patriotism is an elemental emotion, based largely on atavistic notions of commonalty through consanguinity and shared culture; mass immigration has helped to break a quasi-mystical link between past and present.

I fear I must not have made myself clear regarding homosexuality.  I have a relaxed view on the subject: Homosexuals are “born that way,” so it would be unjust to persecute them.  However, it is not difficult to see why patriarchs (or matriarchs—but matriarchs are always more willing to overlook children’s peccadilloes) of families would not exactly be delighted to have homosexual children, because it means that their line is likelier to become extinct.  “Family values”—if that vague and clichéd term means anything at all—concern future generations as much as the present one.  Family life, like national life, is a line stretching back into the dim but somehow specific past and onward into an unknowable but somehow specific future.  Responsible mothers and fathers want to bring up their children well, not just so they can contribute positively to society, but so they, too, can have healthy and useful children.

Lastly, Professor Davies says that he does not provide answers because he does not know what those answers are.  Whilst admiring his candor and distaste for easy answers, I must nonetheless reprehend his metaphorical shrug of the shoulders.  Mainstream conservatism has failed in the postwar period because of its unwillingness to provide positive answers to serious questions.  It is not enough simply to cry “Après moi la déluge!” and luxuriate in the feeling that they shall not see our like again.

The problem lies with Professor Davies’ understandable distrust of government.  Yet in this age of religious disbelief, what other regulating mechanism can there be?  He knows that governments could make a positive difference in regard to antisocial behavior—and says alcohol should be more tightly controlled.  (Who could disagree?)  Someone of his keen intellect must also be able to comprehend that tax breaks for families and the proper punishment of criminals would make an enormous and almost instantaneous difference—and would, furthermore, be electorally popular.  If only we had a Conservative Party willing to face up to the moral-relativist mafia!