“The last quarter of the twentieth century saw a very big shift,” said David Blunkett, the British Home Secretary, in September 2003, “where rights were predominant but duties were secondary. There has to be a balance restored to the two.” The remark, by the cabinet minister responsible for police and prisons, among other things, can be seen in retrospect as a precursor to one last July by the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, to the effect that the 1960s-era “liberal and social consensus on law and order” had led to crime and social disorder. Blair was historically more precise but substantively more vague than his minister about what was the pernicious and socially destructive element in the 1960s “consensus,” but I fancy he would not have disagreed with Mr. Blunkett that it was the spirit of individualism which led people to put their own gratification above the good of others, or perhaps even of...

 
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