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Leader: the world movement towards collectivism

The first New Statesman leader, published on 12 April 1913.

12 April 1913

We present today the first number of a new paper which is going, we hope, to occupy a place in periodical literature which hitherto has been left unfilled. As far as the mere externals of scope, arrangement, and general format are concerned, we do not propose, as the reader will observe for himself, to ignore the traditions long associated with English weekly reviews; but our critical standpoint will be fresh. We shall deal with all current political, social, religious, and intellectual questions; but in doing so we shall be bound by no ties of party, class, or creed.

Naturally, like everyone else, we have certain prepossessions of our own, a definite point from which we view each new issue as it arises. Indeed, we have more than that: we have a definite ideal at which we are consciously aiming. We believe that the steps which this country and all the other foremost communities in the world have lately been taking in the direction of a greater corporate responsibility, a greater corporate activity, and a greater corporate control of the resources and the social conditions of the nation are steps in the right direction, and we look forward to a time when this growing corporate life will be developed to a point far beyond anything that has yet been carried out or even planned in any part of the world.

In common with every thinking man and woman of to-day, we recognise that vast social changes are imminent, and for our own part we welcome them. That we welcome them is our bias. But it is not in any sense whatever a party bias. The world movement towards collectivism is altogether beyond and above party, and our belief in it rests neither upon dogma nor upon a desire to support any sectional interest, but simply upon a process of reasoning applied to the known facts of modern industrial organisation and political democracy. We have no axe to grind, no panacea to advertise, no theory which we should abandon with regret. We shall strive to face and examine social and political issues in the same spirit in which the chemist or the biologist faces and examines his test-tubes or his specimens, ignoring none of the factors, seeking to demonstrate no preconceived proposition, but trying only to find out and spread abroad the truth whatever it may turn out to be. Social problems may not be – indeed, are not – susceptible of scientific analysis in the popular acceptation of that term, since human beings are not to be weighed in balances nor measured with micrometers; but unless there can be applied to them something at least of the detachment of the scientific spirit, they will never be satisfactorily solved. The cultivation of such a spirit and its deliberate application to matters of current controversy is the task which the New Statesman has set for itself.

The remedying of the social defects of which we are all so painfully aware depends no doubt primarily upon the existence of a determination to remedy them; but it depends also, and no less emphatically, upon our knowing exactly how to set about it. The development of social science is of equal importance with the development of public spirit. Deprived of the one, the other can be but a voice crying in the wilderness – not entirely worthless, perhaps, but for the most part lost. In saying this we are, of course, only repeating a truism, but it is a truism which is still far from securing the universal recognition which it must have.

We need not undertake to define the ideal state which we conceive as the goal of our search, for doubtless it is identical with that of all other people who are honestly and whole-heartedly seeking it. It is enough to say that it is a state in which health, comfort, culture, and personal freedom are the rules instead of the exceptions. To carry the definition further by discussing the conditions under which these things may be secured for everyone would take us beyond the limits of our space and of our present intention. We have put our cards on the table. We have said enough to show our readers where we stand and to convince them, we hope, that we really intend the New Statesman to be an independent journal in the fullest sense of the word. It only remains for us to invite their support, not merely as readers, but as critics, correspondents, and collaborators in the task which we have undertaken.

You can read the New Statesman leader from 12 April 2013 here

This article first appeared in the 12 April 2013 issue of the New Statesman, Centenary Special Issue

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The strange death of boozy Britain: why are young people drinking less?

Ditching alcohol for work.

Whenever horrific tales of the drunken escapades of the youth are reported, one photo reliably gets wheeled out: "bench girl", a young woman lying passed out on a public bench above bottles of booze in Bristol. The image is in urgent need of updating: it is now a decade old. Britain has spent that time moving away from booze.

Individual alcohol consumption in Britain has declined sharply. In 2013, the average person over 15 consumed 9.4 litres of alcohol, 19 per cent less than 2004. As with drugs, the decline in use among the young is particularly notable: the proportion of young adults who are teetotal increased by 40 per cent between 2005 and 2013. But decreased drinking is not only apparent among the young fogeys: 80 per cent of adults are making some effort to drink less, according to a new study by consumer trends agency Future Foundation. No wonder that half of all nightclubs have closed in the last decade. Pubs are also closing down: there are 13 per cent fewer pubs in the UK than in 2002. 

People are too busy vying to get ahead at work to indulge in drinking. A combination of the recession, globalisation and technology has combined to make the work of work more competitive than ever: bad news for alcohol companies. “The cost-benefit analysis for people of going out and getting hammered starts to go out of favour,” says Will Seymour of Future Foundation.

Vincent Dignan is the founder of Magnific, a company that helps tech start-ups. He identifies ditching regular boozing as a turning point in his career. “I noticed a trend of other entrepreneurs drinking three, four or five times a week at different events, while their companies went nowhere,” he says. “I realised I couldn't be just another British guy getting pissed and being mildly hungover while trying to scale a website to a million visitors a month. I feel I have a very slight edge on everyone else. While they're sleeping in, I'm working.” Dignan now only drinks occasionally; he went three months without having a drop of alcohol earlier in the year.

But the decline in booze consumption isn’t only about people becoming more work-driven. There have never been more alternate ways to be entertained than resorting to the bottle. The rise of digital TV, BBC iPlayer and Netflix means most people means that most people have almost limitless choice about what to watch.

Some social lives have also partly migrated online. In many ways this is an unfortunate development, but one upshot has been to reduce alcohol intake. “You don’t need to drink to hang out online,” says Dr James Nicholls, the author of The Politics of Alcohol who now works for Alcohol Concern. 

The sheer cost of boozing also puts people off. Although minimum pricing on booze has not been introduced, a series of taxes have made alcohol more expensive, while a ban on below-cost selling was introduced last year. Across the 28 countries of the EU, only Ireland has higher alcohol and tobacco prices than the UK today; in 1998 prices in the UK were only the fourth most expensive in the EU.

Immigration has also contributed to weaning Britain off booze. The decrease in alcohol consumption “is linked partly to demographic trends: the fall is largest in areas with greater ethnic diversity,” Nicholls says. A third of adults in London, where 37 per cent of the population is foreign born, do not drink alcohol at all, easily the highest of any region in Britain.

The alcohol industry is nothing if not resilient. “By lobbying for lower duty rates, ramping up their marketing and developing new products the big producers are doing their best to make sure the last ten years turn out to be a blip rather than a long term change in culture,” Nicholls says.

But whatever alcohol companies do to fight back against the declining popularity of booze, deep changes in British culture have made booze less attractive. Forget the horrific tales of drunken escapades from Magaluf to the Bullingdon Club. The real story is of the strange death of boozy Britain. 

Tim Wigmore is a contributing writer to the New Statesman and the author of Second XI: Cricket In Its Outposts.