Last call in merrie olde England
May 26, 2015 7 Comments
You know, I look back over a fairly full life, No, I’m not (God willing) going to die anytime soon but, I am arguably on the downhill side, and I seem to see a society going to hell in a handbasket all over the place. Why?
I wonder if we haven’t infantilized it so much that our people no longer have the room to grow up. I, like you, read reports every week of people being reported to Family Services for allowing their kids to play in the park (or the front yard). Kids play, they take risks, they get hurt (hopefully not seriously). That’s how we learn our limits and how things work, through experience.
I had a wonderful childhood, although it would really horrify many parents these days. I managed to remove a tire and rim from an old car when I was four, I started running power equipment at five, and using bucket trucks by the time I was ten, by then it was my responsibility to keep the yard (all five acres of it) mown, with professional style equipment. At ten, I also got my first real rifle, a .22.
What’s the difference here? I was allowed to test and extend my limits, always having impressed on me that I was responsible for what I did, the good stuff, but especially the bad stuff.
I was reminded of that last night, as I watched a biography of Douglas Baden of the RAF, one of the main heroes of the Battle of Britain. He flew that Spitfire like few others and was one of the greatest leaders ever. He also had no legs. He lost them in an aircraft accident, in the early thirties, his comment was that he screwed up (it was actually a British construction that escapes me at the moment). His responsibility, without question.
That’s how you develop responsible citizens and leaders, you give them responsibility, a bit more than you think they can handle, and you trust them, and you allow them the benefits of succeeding, and allow them to pay the costs of failing.
And you know what, it works, even with adults. I’ve found in business, that if I tell someone, to get something done, and give him the needed stuff to do it, and go away, often he (or she) will do so, although not always as I would have (often better, in fact). If he doesn’t, well he’ll pay a price, and if he keeps making the same mistakes, that price goes up, quickly. And soon, he won’t be working for me.
Along that same line Daniel Hannan, MEP had some reflections of the end of ‘Last Call’ in England ten years ago. You might be surprised what happened although I wasn’t. Here’s Dan.
Moralists feared the worst. The typical Englishman, after all, is altogether too fond of booze. As Shakespeare’s Iago puts it, “Your Dane, your German, and your swag-bellied Hollander … are nothing to your English … [H]e drinks you with facility your Dane dead drunk; he sweats not to overthrow your Almain. He gives your Hollander a vomit ere the next pottle can be filled.”
England accordingly braced itself for a societal breakdown. The Daily Mail warned against the “unbridled hedonism … with all the ghastly consequences that will follow.” The Sun prophesied a “swarm of drunken youngsters.” The police prepared for “an increase in the number of investigations of drink related crimes, such as rape, assault, homicide and domestic violence.” The Royal College of Physicians predicted that “24-hour pub opening will lead to more excess and binge drinking, especially among young people.”
Ten years on, we can see that each of these predictions were 180 degrees wrong.
When I was in my late teens, it was quite normal for young British men to spend Friday and Saturday nights drinking ’til they were comatose. By my early thirties, it was no longer just men. I remember feeling mildly annoyed that the phenomenon of public female inebriation had emerged at precisely the wrong moment for me: too late to enjoy as a teenage boy, just in time to hit me as a father of daughters.
As it turns out, I needn’t have worried. The lifting of restrictions was followed by a drastic drop in consumption. Binge drinking among 16 to 24-year-olds sank from 29 to 18 percent. Overall alcohol sales declined by 17 percent. Alcohol-related hospital admissions fell sharply, as did alcohol-fueled crimes. As Christopher Snowdon put it in a paper for the Institute of Economic Affairs, deregulation “made the country a better place to live by treating people as adults and allowing businesses to meet demand.”
Which is, if you think about it, the essential case for conservatism. Give people more responsibility and they will behave more responsibly. Not all of them; but enough to make freedom worthwhile.
To be honest, I’ve always thought that a lot of the problem in the US with college kids and their binge drinking is simply because they’ve never been trusted with booze before, and besides, it’s always more fun to do things we’re not supposed to, especially if we think we can evade responsibility. That’s true for me, and you, and has always been true, everywhere. I think if we let our kids have a beer or two with dinner in the evening, much of that problem would disappear, in a very short period of time. Church said, “If you would create a black market, destroy a free market”. He’s right, and it doesn’t only apply to governments.