10 August 2011

Whatever the precipitating event, the breakdown of order in a number of English cities over the last few days must reflect a failure of good government. It seems improbable that any community that has confidence in the proper exercise of the power of the state will tolerate its young men attacking the infrastructure of that community. Societies which have trust and confidence in agencies of government do not engage in the rioting, theft and arson reported by the British media.

State servants must be conscious always of the importance of the spirit of service.  It is the fair, impartial, responsible and trustworthy exercise of official functions which strengthens social commitment and participation. Orderly and contented communities reflect good government  Burning bits of Britain demonstrate what may otherwise happen.  In Norway the disaffection of one man had a devastating effect, but Norwegians appeared to coalesce in the face of the attack.  In contrast, Britons do not seem to be united in the face of the assault on their communities. 

The causes of the English social meltdown will receive much attention over the next few months.  Inevitably research will be found that predicted trouble but was disregarded.   One source that did not forecast any breakdown of law and order is the Peace Index.  In 2010 the UK was rated in 36th place on the World Peace Index. The 2011 Index published in May dramatically reassessed that position. UK moved up to 14th place.  This continued an improvement from the 2007 and 2008 indexes when the UK was in 49th place.  These assessments are based on a range of values . Ironically, considering the English experience, major characteristics are the absence of conflict, the rejection of violence and the promotion of dialogue. Perhaps the UK score reflected responses in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland!

New Zealand which was in top spot in the 2010 Index slipped this year to second place behind Iceland. New Zealand has always been in the top 4 places since the Peace Index was first published in 2006.  The results cover 153 countries, which encompass 99% of the world’s population.