The political era of the USA and the UK that gave us Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan also gave us the New Right. In looking at the international roots of the New Right, we have to consider how the term was coined. David Collard, a member of the Fabian Society, used the name in a pamphlet about new liberals and was one of the first to use the term here in the UK (Green, 1988:2). It has been written by many authors that there is not a unified view held by the New Right, as there are several stances which might be taken by those on the right wing.
Moore, describes how right wing theories appear to have a root in liberalism (1997: 10) and shows us at least five types of right wing perspectives – Realism, Libertarianism, Rational Choice, Administrative and Paternalism (1997: 140). Whilst these can be considered part of the New Right ideas they are also separate, as the New Right are not in equal agreement over all the topics. “The radical right, libertarianism, supply-side economics, the taxpayers’ revolt, monetarism, Thatcherism, Reagan-omics, the new right – these are some of the labels given to the body of argument offered in recent years as a challenge to the post-war consensus. (David Green, 1988:1).The New Right stands for a political view that tries to minimise state intervention in ordinary lives. It holds the belief that society is primarily to blame for any problems for the individual. In terms of crime, the New Right advocates the Rational Choice Theory, saying that criminals weigh up the benefits in relation to the costs of their actions and decide whether to commit the offence.
This can be for material gain or some sort of amusement or pleasure (Moore, 1997:145). Rational choice does not look at why the crime is being committed, but rather at ways of managing and dealing with the problem.The assumed rationality of the person can also account for limits – mental illness or deficiencies for example (Walklate, 2000:40). Walklate also goes on to quote Gibbons (1994:125): “If many offenders…
weigh at least some of the potential risks against the gains they anticipate from law-breaking, criminal acts may often be deterred by making them riskier or harder to carry out. ” In deterring the individual, you therefore have to make the consequences harsher to make them think twice about their actions. If people have more to lose, they are likely to commit either a lesser offence or no offence at all, hence crime control.This was an idea prevalent in the 1970’s, when we began to see a political leaning-away from the post-war Welfare State and a focus on prevention of crime and deterrence instead: “The New Right colonisation of almost the whole terrain of law and order politics in the late 1970s also forced sections of the Left to rethink their position.
.. ” (Muncie, McLaughlin and Langan, 2000:xxi). Despite the sudden shift in policy by the Labour government, Margaret Thatcher who became party leader of the Conservatives in 1975, led the Conservatives power in the 1979 election (Gamble, 1999:42).They won the election on the back of their well-known ‘law and order’ campaign (Jones, 1998:19). Thatcher was working on the principles of Conservative traditionalism to enforce her politics – nuclear families, self-sufficiency and other topics for debate (Fielding, 2000:16).
Jones and Kavanagh describe Thatcher’s ideals for the UK as an “enterprise culture” (1998: 26). This involved a new emphasis encouraging people to work hard and to use their initiative, so the individual and their families (not society) might become self-sufficient. This in turn would remove the need for the State to intervene in their lives (1998: 27).
Margaret Thatcher famously said: “There is no such thing as society… there are families and there are individuals. ” (Fionda, 2000:122/Hobsbawm, 1998:337). This summarises the prime reasoning of the New Right about the problems in the UK with crime and welfare. Ronald Reagan who won the USA Presidency campaign in 1980 said: “Government is not the solution but the problem.
” (Hobsbawm, 1998:412). These show how their policies overlapped on both sides of the Atlantic – “The Reagan-Thatcher Decade” (Jones, 1998:230) as it has been called.In confirmation of Reagan’s statement we saw the UK deliberately kept its Welfare State spending at a lower level than that of the rest of Europe during the 1980s by keeping its increases lower than anyone else (Gamble, 1999:42).
It was this belief in self-help that led both the UK and the USA to try to minimise or ‘roll-back’ the State, hence the appearance of privatisation. Perhaps some of this was because: “The State is not omniscient and enlightened ..
. but rather is made up of politicians, bureaucrats and lobby groups, all of them pursuing their own self-interest under the cloak of public interest” Gamble , 1999:23). The New Right criticism of the Welfare State is that it provides too much support in the lives of its citizens who then become complacent and reliant upon the State.
This can be described as ‘dependency culture’. This is seen as a prime cause of crime as people who become complacent are believed to turn to crime – as a result of boredom, laziness and low incomes (Rawlings, 1999:143). Quoted in Rawlings’ book (1999:143) is R. Boyson, who said the British welfare State and its effects on the people left them weak and ‘lacking in moral fibre’.He claimed that helping people too much meant they were less likely to save money, or actively seek employment. The cost of welfare and the seeming failure of its attempts to curb crime won over many social scientists, who called for a more punitive system of criminal justice. A name that appears repeatedly in literature about the New Right is that of James Q.
Wilson. Wilson was a policy advisor to Reagan and Nixon during their terms as President (Young, 1998:281), and has written extensively on criminological theories.The stances of his writings are that: “… criminal law is defined by the State and its composition is no-problematic; and ‘street crime’ (including burglary) is by far the most important area to study” (Jones, 1998:231) There are two conflicting schools of thought on Wilson’s work.
Jones and Young both believe he is a true right wing theorist whereas David Green places Wilson as a ‘neo-conservative’ which is similar to the New Right, but different enough to be excluded from his book entitled ‘The New Right’.This he says is because Wilson’s roots lie in collectivism and believes that this has an effect on his more recent writings on right wing criminology (David Green, 1988:5/6). However Wilson introduced some new ideas to the political arena about the actual causes of crime, and is cited by Young (1998) as describing a society that places an emphasis on self-expression.
People living in a dependency culture become weak, and so more likely to be offenders because they are more likely to give into impulses. Indeed Clarke (1980) says: “Eradicating poverty (is) no real solution… n that crime rates have continued to rise since the war despite great improvements in economic conditions.
” (Clarke, 1980:136)Therefore, if people in society are weak and commit crime by being too lazy to earn money, or through boredom because of a lack of achievement or pastime, crime should be controlled in a new way. This idea of crime control by other means than welfare opened up the idea of crime prevention. This became a topic for debate throughout the social sciences and different types of crime prevention strategies began to arise (Clarke, 1980:136). Wilson proposed several including policies about housing allocation.The idea being that children would then be less likely to vandalise property or to move onto other areas of ‘petty’ crime if properly supervised (Wilson 1978).
Moreover, if you look at the idea of zero-tolerance, the preoccupation is with exactly that – petty crime. Wilson and Kelling began this notion in 1982 when they published an article about their theory of ‘broken windows’ (Jones, 1998:119). A pilot project in New York by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, produced some very interesting statistics after the implementation of the scheme, and it was been attempted here in the UK in London for a short period (Jones, 1998:120/124).In implementing zero-tolerance, the police literally lower their tolerance of illegal behaviour such as prostitution; ‘victimless’ crimes, in the hope of driving all crime out of a particular region (Rawlings, 1999:166). Further attempts to curb crime were made using police powers, as implemented in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. Whilst this Act limited police practice, the slightly later Public Order Act 1986 in turn placed limitations on the public (Mowbray, 1997). There were now enforceable laws that prevented the public from holding certain types of public gathering or procession without police permission.
However, the POA 1986 also gave the police powers to control the public in relation to disorder, racism or trespass. These new laws were the Thatcherite way of controlling the masses and so hopefully, the crime rate by the use of deterrence. This came in response to the miners’ strikes and the resulting riots. As a direct result of the 1981 Scarman report, ‘community policing’ came into action as a way of reintegrating officers with the public and trying to restore confidence in the police force, which had dropped as a result of the rioting (Worrall, 1997:49).Neighbourhood Watch schemes seem to be fading now in the 21st Century, but the were popular during Thatcher’s rule. This was encouragement by the Conservatives for the people to police themselves.
Closed Circuit Television became more prevalent in the 1980s and is very common today. Braithwaite and Pettit (1990) advocate public shaming as another method of control; the belief is that they are less likely to reoffend (Jones, 1998:190). Other ways of reducing the likelihood of crime are rather different and often seem ambitious. New styles of architecture and environmental design are used.Techniques such as tagging reduce shoplifting in clothing stores: store redesign in others has helped as well. Malicious calls have reduced with the introduction of caller-identification telephones and tracing (Pease, 1997:970/3). Surveillance techniques vary dramatically, but they all seem to have a preventative effect whether to a lesser or greater degree. Fitting locks to homes, burglar alarms, movement- sensitive lighting systems and even dogs or geese are not uncommon in our society today – all ideas which primarily began with the Thatcher Britain and the Reagan USA.
Criminal opportunities are being reduced in the physical sense, but as technology races on ahead, we find that crime is following it. Incarceration is naturally a means of controlling crime as some people are deterred by the prospect of being imprisoned. However with a recent 73,195 prisoners in the UK (125 people per 100,000 of the population) there are a large number of people who are evidently not put off (Home Office, 2000). Crime is committed by individuals, whether a group of individuals or one person by themselves, and so crime control has had to be geared towards that idea.Thatcherite Britain gave us the first push in the direction of preventing crime, and now New Labour are trying to take us on a step. New Right politics are still evident today even in New Labour.
Tony Blair, PM, said: “Labour is the party of law and order today. Tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime. ” (Ratcliffe, 2001).
So did the New Right era of the UK work? Did the crime control strategies actually reduce crime? Unfortunately not, no.In the early 1990s, it was clear that the prison population numbers were increasing, despite a drive toward cheaper, rehabilitative community sentences (Rawlings, 1999:154). The individual has been deemed responsible for his/herself and the criminal justice system treats them as such.
However, for people to commit crime there must be an opportunity to do so, so by reducing opportunity, the New Right says, crime should reduce as well. In choosing to commit crime, the individual has overcome a rational choice and therefore accepts their punishment which is not outweighed by their gain – at least in their own opinion.