2005 April 11 Monday
Steve Sailer On Why White Working Class Worse In Britain Than America

In case you are unaware the white working class in Britain has deterioriated into crime, illegitimacy, poor school performance, and other indicators of social pathology a lot further than the American white working class. Whereas once upon a time (about a century ago) the British lower classes were amazingly law-abiding and crime was extremely rare in Britain now the British suffer from a crime wave that in almost all categories besides murder is worse than the United States. This brings up the very important question of why? Steve Sailer lists a number of reasons for the worse performance of lower class whites in Britain including cultural factors.

Culture. The ongoing collapse of Britain's white males into neo-Hogarthian laddishness points out the importance of country music in persuading white working class American males to stay on the straight and narrow. A remarkable fraction of country lyrics are devoted to making guys with fairly crummy jobs, like truckdrivers, feel proud that they work hard to bring home the bacon to their wife and kids. Likewise, many country love songs are about being married, which helps make that crucial institution seem cool to young country fans.

Or compare favorite spectator sports. Stock car racing is wholly lacking in soccer's affiliated subculture of hooliganism (see Bill Buford's memoir of running with English soccer fans, aptly titled Among the Thugs). NASCAR markets itself with vast success as wholesome entertainment for the entire family.


The U.S. Republican Party, for all its sins, at least pays lip service to social conservatism. Many white working class families ask for self-sacrificingly little from their elected leaders. But they do want them to provide good role models for their children. And, in contrast to Clinton's embarrassing philandering, Bush's apparently faultless marriage accounts for more than a little of his otherwise inexplicable popularity.

In Britain, however, the Conservative Party has been riddled by sex scandals.

Culture matters. Art forms can have deleterious or beneficial effects on societies. Black rap music encourages destructive behavior. White country music encourages hard work, marriage, and honesty. But do not expect to hear that from left-liberals. They will shout "racism" and other pathetic nonsense.

Of course part of the cultural difference is due to a difference in prevalence of Christian reliigous belief. Steve covers that too.

Note that to the extent that Hollywood culture permeates American culture the working class will become more pathological in their behavior. Sex and drugs and rock and roll are not a formula for safe streets, monogamous marriages, and hard work.

Speed. Remember the tale of how to boil a frog? Just keep raising the temperature imperceptibly so the frog never notices it's being boiled alive. (Don't try this at home, kids.) Something similar happened in England, where society fell apart so slowly that elite opinion had time to get used to each new outrage.

In contrast, the U.S. murder rate doubled in just ten years—from 1964 to 1974. African-Americans served not as the frog in the pot but as the canary in the coalmine.

The welfare state took decades after its introduction in 1945 to corrupt the English. But the American liberal innovations of the 1960s, such as generous welfare for single mothers and shorter prison sentences, had such an immediately catastrophic on black morals that within a decade and a half, "liberal" had permanently become a term of abuse in American politics.

I also suspect that elite opinion simply has less weight in America than in Britain. But Steve addresses that at least partially when he points out that in America the direct election of many more lower level officials and the greater power in the hands of state and local officlals effectively allows the masses to vote in politicians who will crack down on crime and cut down the welfare state. Therefore the elites in America have a more difficult time preventing the masses from getting their way. Though the corruption of the American judiciary where the judges act more like legislatures and change policies has certainly created a method whereby the elites can defeat the will of the masses in America.

Steve covers a lot of other reasons why the white working class in Britain has morally deteriorated so much more than the white working class in America. Read the whole essay.

Joyce Lee Malcolm, historian and scholar of British and American history of crime, argues that part of the increase in crime rates in Britain is due to restrictions on handgun ownership.

When guns were freely available, England had an astonishingly low level of violent crime. A government study for the years 1890-1892, for example, found only three handgun homicides, an average of one a year, in a population of 30 million. In 1904 there were only four armed robberies in London, then the largest city in the world. One century and many gun laws later, the British Broadcasting Corp. reports that England's firearms restrictions and 1997 ban on handguns ''have had little impact in the criminal underworld.'' Guns are virtually outlawed, and, as the old slogan predicted, only outlaws have guns. And what is worse, they are increasingly ready to use them.

Five centuries of growing civility in England ended in 1954. Violent crime there has been climbing ever since, and armed crime - with banned handguns the weapon of choice - is described as rocketing. Between April and November 2001, the number of people robbed at gunpoint in London rose by 53 percent. Last summer, in the course of a few days, gun-toting men burst into an English court and freed two defendants; a shooting outside a London nightclub left five women and three men wounded; and two men were machine-gunned to death in a residential neighborhood of North London.

Gun crime is just part of an increasingly lawless environment. Your chances of being mugged in London are now six times greater than in New York. England's rates of robbery and burglary are far higher than America's, and 53 percent of burglaries in England occur while occupants are at home, compared with 13 percent in the United States, where burglars admit to fearing armed homeowners more than the police.

Any reader who is old enough can remember the stereotypes of the British as incredibly civilized people compared to Americans and most other countries. Well, not any more. But if you want to visit a place with extremely low crime rates Japan and Singapore are still available for that purpose. Just don't go to London expecting you'll be safe.

Malcolm argues British and American murder rates are on a path toward convergence.

When guns were available in England they were seldom used in crime. A government study for 1890-1892 found an average of one handgun homicide a year in a population of 30 million. But murder rates for both countries are now changing. In 1981 the American rate was 8.7 times the English rate, in 1995 it was 5.7 times the English rate, and by last year it was 3.5 times. With American rates described as "in startling free-fall" and British rates as of October 2002 the highest for 100 years the two are on a path to converge.

While Malcolm's work revolves around crime and gun control she is interesting for another reason because she brings out a lot of statistics about the history of crime in England. Also, she has found that Official British government crime statistics greatly understate the extent of crime and victimization surveys offer a far gloomier picture.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2005 April 11 02:35 PM  Civilizations Decay

GUYK said at April 11, 2005 2:59 PM:

I love it! Country music is goood for the working class because it teaches morality. Damn right. There's a tear in my beer because I'm crying over Betty's Got A Bass Boat. At least modern country music is not the torure of RAP. Put me in a room for two hours of RAP and I'll tell you all my passwords and pin numbers and where the treasure is buried.

It was interesting about gun control and crime in Brittian. I have seen some of the same statistics about parts of the USA also but I don't give a lot of credence to statistics unless they are backed by other supporting data. That said I do believe that every law abiding adult should have the option to own and carry a weapon provided they can prove they know how to use it. The state of Florida has now provided that option. I'm still trusting my attack poodle and baseball bat.

Ignacio said at April 11, 2005 3:58 PM:

I found laughable a comparison between music genres, and particularly citing it as a cause for behaviour. Like stereotyping? I know this one: "What happens when you play a country song backwards? Your dog comes back to life, your pickup truck is driveable again and you are not in jail for killing your wife after she ran away with your best buddy". Seriously, start listen to "Flamenco" or "Norwegian Folk", for Spain and Norway used to have some really low crime rates. Or at least, until massive immigration changed things. There is something to be said about "life imitating art", but in my limited experience, it tends to be the other way around.

On the other hand, I do believe that an armed society is a polite society, though. But I don't know if we are ready for that just yet...

John S Bolton said at April 11, 2005 4:51 PM:

Another reason for this divergence might be the way welfare projects and related services are essentially reserved for minorities in the US. Consider what happens to whites who try to live in such circumstances here; where minority territorial considerations come into play. Britain teaches class war; and this has effects. Britain doesn't allow the multitude to spread out into the countryside as America has; thus, minority crime rates are less escapable for the majority. Every population has the potential to become much more violent under extreme provocation and exposure to escalating cycles of violence initiated and kept moving up by the most violent minorities. Diversity itself causes interracial violence to increase; as Joanna Shepherd at Clemson U. has given the statistical evidence of.

PacRim Jim said at April 11, 2005 5:40 PM:

To left-wingers, common sense is an obstacle to perfection.

Daveg said at April 11, 2005 6:04 PM:

I agree that bad country music is probably not a major factor in the overall behavior of whites, but I think the point still stands: culture, of which music is one small part, matters.

Mr. Bolton, do you have link to the Joanna Shepherd material(s)?

Stephen said at April 11, 2005 6:55 PM:

I giggled all the way through the culture discussion while waiting for the punch line, but I think Randall might be being serious. Please tell me it isn't so! The music inference is a classic - you know you're getting old when you complain about music undermining society. I say, bring back the madrigal, all music since then has only undermined society.

Then Randall got on to the gun 'debate'. However, while the debate in the US appears to have cultural resonance, it doesn't similarly resonate in the UK and Europe - perhaps its akin to not missing what you've never had. In fact, my guess is that in the UK, if criminals were asked the factors they take into account in determining whether to rob someone, barely any would rank "are they armed?" as a factor - hand guns are, and always have been, so very rare that its just not an issue. In that light, I doubt that an increase in crime can be attributed to people being disarmed because that variable didn't change in any way during the period.

Also, I started to become a bit more suspicious of the cited Prof Marshall's objectivity when she started wanking on about people needing guns in case they want to rise up against the government. Comments of that kind are very unenglish. Then I looked closer, and sure enough, she's in the USA and is likely less objective researcher and more a shill for the I-want-more-guns lobby.

I say lets not stop at mere guns, I want to take my flame thrower on the bus. People would be real polite to me then, and I might even get a seat to myself. Oh, and children are the most vulnerable, so lets arm them all with Uzi's for their own protection. And that's not to mention how much safer we'd all feel if every hormone filled teenager was wandering around with an HK.

As for the UN 'victimisation' report quoted at the end of the article, well, lets see what its summary says about the perceived seriousness of crimes:

"Victims were asked to assess the seriousness of what happened. Mean seriousness scores were computed for different offence types. Car thefts where the car was not recovered were viewed most seriously. Next most serious were sexual assaults, then car thefts even if the car was recovered, and robbery involving a weapon. Assaults with force were scored much on a par with burglaries with entry. The least serious crimes were car vandalism, theft from cars, and bicycle theft."

So, according to the survey, more people reported that having their car stolen was more serious than being sexually assaulted (I have trouble imagining a victim facing a car thief and desperately pleading to be buggered senseless rather than lose that $1500 bomb they drive about in). Then there's the other finding, that Wales is a hotbed of crime! My guess is that the Welsh must be including being spat on while trying to pronounce welsh place names. The results reveal more about the nature of the survey than it does about the population being surveyed.

Randall Parker said at April 11, 2005 8:01 PM:


No, you know you are getting more sophisticated when you argue that different types of music encourage different sets of beliefs and behaviors.

Serious crimes ratings: You are missing the obvious point that about half the population is male. Some men probably didn't rate sexual assault as being as important as women did. Doesn't speak well of those men. But there it is.

Shills and researchers: I take it, then, that you are not familiar with Malcolm's work. Best just to dismiss her and not learn about just how serious a researcher she is. Got it. I won't trouble you with any more links to her writings. Gotta keep your beliefs intact.

chris w said at April 11, 2005 8:46 PM:

Country music hardly has a monopoly upon the aesthetic tastes of our white underclass. It is no less common for them to listen to gangsta rap, metal, classic rock, or "nu-metal." In the poor white neighborhoods I've been in, you're just as likely to hear Slayer blaring from the speakers of a Camero as you are to hear Garth Brooks blaring from the speakers of a pick-up truck.

Also, intact families and sex within the bounds of wedlock aren't really strong suits of the sector of our population that we so lovingly refer to as "white trash."

Stephen said at April 11, 2005 10:02 PM:

I didn't mean anything personal by it Randall, though I agree that I did come across rather sarcastic. Please be assured that I was aiming at the message and not the messenger.

As for the good Professor, my entire experience of her is based on the three links in the article. It was the bit about guns and being able to "force a redressing of grievances upon their government" (just before the 'conclusion' heading) that really made me suspicious. However, on a closer reading, the writer closes the professor's quote and then starts the rant before adding the conclusion heading, so its likely that the writer is expressing his own paranoia.

Randall Parker said at April 11, 2005 11:02 PM:


I have read other pieces by Malcolm but could not find one piece of hers' I wanted to link to which I've read in the past which had more on historical data on crime rates. I recall being amazed at just how low crime rates were in late 19th century Britain.

As for your misreading of her interview: I was puzzled at first when I read that page because I know her style of writing and those comments didn't sound like her. So I scanned it trying to figure out what part was her and what part was the interviewer's editorial comment. The double quotes are easy to miss. Since youare not familiar with her I can understand why you would have misread that page the first time thru.

ziel said at April 12, 2005 7:55 AM:

Also, intact families and sex within the bounds of wedlock aren't really strong suits of the sector of our population that we so lovingly refer to as "white trash."

I think it's amazing how well behaved our "white trash" are, all things considered. In Albion's Seed we learned how the "white trash" are the ancestors of the Scotch-Irish who had these behaviors in the border region in Britain and continued to have them here when they emigrated. I don't think it's provable that the strong tradition of evangelical christianity has kept this group from falling to pieces over the years and instead formed the backbone of the relatively stable and valuable group of people we now euphemistically refer to as "NASCAR Dads" - but I'm pretty sure that's the reason.

Proborders said at April 12, 2005 8:33 AM:

Randall, perhaps Britain’s white working class has been negatively affected by immigration. Also Britain’s economic position in the world is comparatively lower than it was during the first half of the twentieth century.

Perhaps there are proportionately fewer good jobs for working class people in Britain in 2005 than in 1950 or 1960.

Rick Darby said at April 12, 2005 9:42 AM:

Interesting idea about the influence of country music on the behavior of America's working class; probably unprovable, but provocative.

The sad story of the decline of English restraint and decency, not only but primarily in the working class, has its roots in 30 years of Socialism beginning with the Atlee government after World War II. This enormously strengthened the labor unions, not a bad thing in itself, but the unions' enormous power soon became irresponsible. Workers were constantly going on strike and shutting down the country's services in the process, all in aid of getting ever more money for doing ever less work. The cynicism thus bred among the working class has only been reinforced ever since.

True, Maggie Thatcher's era put the brakes on union domination of the economy and emphasized the virtues of the profit motive and entrepreneurial spirit (not an unmixed blessing either), but the welfare state created during the Socialist period didn't even pause for breath.

It became institutionalized in the national government bureaucracy (whose power of course is untempered by any local authority in the U.K.) and its values -- nonjudgmentalism, political correctness, and extreme egalitarianism -- came to permeate the working-class culture. Among other results has been the debasement of the state education system, lowering its standards again and again so no one would fail and everyone would be equal (in ignorance), and a left-wing judiciary that has turned the police forces into social workers whose primary job is to show how un-racist they are, even if it means letting criminals among protected ethnic groups alone.

Add to that the Labour government of Tony Blair issuing what amounted to an open invitation to immigration, which has turned former factory towns like Bradford into Muslim enclaves and further eroded any sense of traditional English values, and you've got a recipe for social disaster.

For a detailed picture of the drastic downfall of a culture that was once remarkable for its integrity, safety, and productivity, I recommend the collected newspaper columns of Melanie Phillips .

David Govett said at April 12, 2005 10:25 AM:

Silly thesis, that country music causes morality. Red-state morality is taught in childhood by the parents and churches. It's more accurate to view country music as an effect.

Daveg said at April 12, 2005 2:35 PM:

People are getting very hung up on the music issue.

David, I think it is more of a feedback loop. Morality is taught, which results in certain themes in the music, which reinforces the morality.

GUYK said at April 12, 2005 2:46 PM:

I forgot to add on my post that country music is fairly popular in Great Brittian. Probably not Betty Got a Bass Boat type C&W but Slim Whitman sold about a million copies of Linesome Cattle Call in England.

Dan Morgan said at April 12, 2005 7:22 PM:

Of all of these factors none is more destructive than the anti-poverty welfare state. As Charles Murray pointed out 20 years ago, there is a guilt by association here. If right when the US massively expanded its welfare state - all the social indicators regarding the poor got worse - what does that tell you? If you put in place programs, and you get the opposite of intended results, it is time to think seriously about whether these programs should exist at all.

Of course the left has a knee-jerk defense of the welfare state. Scaling it back is one of the great challenges of the early 21st century. How come no national leaders are talking about this?

Steve Sailer said at April 13, 2005 1:36 AM:

I intended to say that the relatively pro-social lyrics of country songs are probably a reflection of the relatively healthy, largely Christian American white working class culture, just as the family orientation of American stock car racing fans versus the thuggishness of many English soccer fans likewise reflects the moral superiority of the American working class. But, there's also feedback effect whereby songs about the nobility of working hard for your wife and kids encourage men to do exactly that.

It seems bizarre for somebody of my advanced years to hear people claim that popular music can't have any effect on social behavior. They must not have heard of the 1960s. For that matter, gangsta rap, such as NWA, helped spread the crack dealer's code from the West and East Coasts to the hinterlands from 1988 onward.

Mark said at April 13, 2005 5:45 AM:

Sounds like a little back-tracking by Mr. Sailor. In the article, the music was "persuasive." Now it's simply "probably a reflection." To quote the article:

"The ongoing collapse of Britain's white males into neo-Hogarthian laddishness points out the importance of country music in persuading white working class American males to stay on the straight and narrow."

I can think of plenty of country songs about punching a jukebox, getting drunk, shooting a man in Reno, etc. I can't think of any country song that tells me how great it is to be married. But regardless, the postulate that Mr. Sailor proposes I thought was exactly the kind of East Coast "elitism" that is loathed in today's conservatism. He's implying (or basically, stating) that the "great unwashed" merely have to be brainwashed by some feel-good songs and they'll stay on the right track.

You may be interested to know that NASCAR actually has its roots in whiskey runners Sunday racing their "souped-up" cars that they used to outrun the police during the rest of the week.

I've enjoyed this blog for quite a while but now I think it's time to move on. Ideas are running thin when country music cause-and-effects are debated.

ziel said at April 13, 2005 5:57 AM:

Looks like Mr. Parker has just lost a reader who can't spell Mr. Sailer's last name.

Randall Parker said at April 13, 2005 10:18 AM:


Steve says music "encourages" people to do different things. He says it can effect "social behavior". This is a backtracking on saying it is persuasive? If something changes your behavior then it obviously has persuaded you in some fashion.

You seem to be saying that it is condescending to say that environment changes behavior. Am I missing something here?

Mark said at April 13, 2005 6:28 PM:

I felt his post here in the Comments was backtracking because in the post he says that the music is "a reflection" of the values (which I would deem accurate), whereas in the article he says the music is "persuasive." To me, that's much different. One is an effect (reflection), one is a cause (persuasion).

I didn't find Mr. Sailor's statement condescending, but rather somewhat elitist. Would you like proof? Go into any country bar in Texas and ask the following to the bartender:

"Do you feel the ongoing collapse of Britain's white males into neo-Hogarthian laddishness points out the importance of country music in persuading white working class American males to stay on the straight and narrow?"


Kenelm Digby said at April 14, 2005 4:36 AM:

Britain in the early 19th century was distinguished above all other nations in the World (even Russia, Turkey and other "eastern" nations), by an extremely harsh and punitive legal code that imposed sentences ranging from death (on literally hundreds of offences from murder to horse stealling, rabbit poaching,unauthorised chopping down of trees, damaging fences, theft of a few shillings' worth of property, cattle rustling, sodomy, forgery, "uttering unauthorised oaths etc etc). The death penalty WAS imposed on what we now call "trivial" offences (eg steallining a sheep).Customarily the body of the offender was handed over to a medical school, for dissection as part of the punishment.
Other punishments included beating with the cat o'nine tails, transportation for life and very heavy jail sentences, which amounted to a death penalty in the wretched diseased prisons of the time.
The savagery of the criminal justice system in 18th and early 19th century Britain, makes current Saudi sharia law look liberal.
Incidentally, most of the laws were enforced to protect the property of the upper classes from the wretched poor.Crimes against the person, involving the poor, were ignored.
It was the folk memory of harsh English justice, combined with its swift, sure and merciless execution that was largely responsible for Britain having one of the most "respectful" working class in the early 20th and 19th centuries.

crush41 said at April 14, 2005 9:31 AM:

One is an effect (reflection), one is a cause (persuasion).


How do you surmise that it is so dichotomous? The reinforcement of a value system is both a reflection of its adherent's beliefs as well as a means of persuasion to increase that belief base. In context of the piece, music is a form of propagating beliefs (propaganda) and functions as such. It may begin as purely a reflection of the artist (though persuasion is realistically intended), but the popularity of the artist's work will of course have a pressure effect and thus become persuasive as well.

What you seem to be saying is that any outward response is merely a reflection of something internal that is not influenced by the external. Thus, the projections of others have no effect on the individual. So do all things, like law, religion, entertainment fit into this category? Doubtfully. Why is music exempt then?

On the flip, would you also say that the hip-hop culture plays no part in sustaining urban pathology and decadance, but is only, as the rap-mongols consistently use to shield themselves from personal responsibilty, "an expression of life in the hood"?

"Do you feel the ongoing collapse of Britain's white males into neo-Hogarthian laddishness points out the importance of country music in persuading white working class American males to stay on the straight and narrow?"

As if to say that everyone is shrewdly aware of why things are happening around them? I guess sociology is out the window. And science in general, since we've figured it all out.

crush41 said at April 14, 2005 2:27 PM:


Jay Z said at April 14, 2005 7:30 PM:

Steve Sailer is correct about the atonishing decline of the character of the English working class in recent years.

The English working class was once respected throughout the world for its civility, industriousness, orderliness, and good manners. That's no longer true. Crime, illegitimacy, labor force dropout, welfare usage, drug abuse, alcoholism, domestic violence, low educational attainment, and public disorderliness are all apart of life today in much of England. There are many white working class areas in London that are more dangerous than the black ghettos of Detroit or Atlanta. Even worse is that this type of anti-social behavior is becoming more common among middle-class whites in Engand.

The breakdown of the family, a decline in traditional values, welfare, and foolish social policies are probably the main factors behind this unfortunate trend in England.

If this trend continues for the next few decades, it eventually will affect England's competitiveness in the world.

People that want to know why the Roman empire collapsed should pay close attention to what's happening in England.

SLR said at April 19, 2005 4:15 AM:

"...hand guns are, and always have been, so very rare that its just not an issue."
Are, yes. Have been since 1945 at leasr, yes. Always, maybe not.
I can't find any figures for UK handgun owneship levels before 1920 (probably none were kept; best indicators might be sales of revolvers by amunfactures) but anecdotal evidence indicates they were not uncommon.
e.g. - "In 1909 two Russian anarchists robbed a bank in Tottenham they were chased across North London by an impromptu posse of police and armed citizens. The police, not all of whom were at that moment armed, borrowed at least four revolvers at random from passers-by."
- I have heard that Beatrix Potter's journal records a discussion at a small country hotel in Yorkshire, where it turned out that only one of the eight or nine guests was not carrying a revolver (no link; anyone aware of the verity of this?).
- In my family alone at least one grandfather and two great-great fathers (ordinary lower-middle class types) owned revolvers that I know of.

I would dispute Steve Sailer's argument to some extent though. There HAS been a degradation of behaviour, and (likely associated) rise in crime in Britain. But I do not think this is necessarily a generalized breakdown of civic responsibility and law abiding behaviour.
The vast majority of burglary, assualt, theft etc. is caused by a small minority of the white working class, and a rather larger minority of the racial minorities. Most often by distinct and well known criminal families (very often chaotic extended family 'clans' including their single-parent units within the 'clan' network).

A mid-ranking policeman of my acquaintance asserted (privately) that he could cut crime figures in a county town by at least 70% IF - he were allowed to target and harass a few hundred individuals and key families; as was done prior to the 1980's
- courts followed this up by jailing those persons such a campaign gained evidence against for prolonged periods for relatively minor offences; again, as courts routinely used to do with criminals that police indicated to judges and magistrates were "bad uns" before todays 'enlightened' justice system was in place.

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