Something strange is happening in England: citizens are drinking less. The Economist reports on the decline in drinking and the rise of “dry pubs” in the land of Churchill and Kingsley Amis:
Yet Britain is in many ways becoming more abstemious. In 2001 the average household consumed 1.5 litres of alcoholic drinks a week; by 2011, the latest year for which figures are available, that had fallen to 1.1 litres. The young in particular seem to be giving up boozing: over the same period, the number of 18- to 24-year-old men admitting to drinking heavily at least once a week fell from 37% to 22%; women became less sozzled, too. This year four times as many people gave up booze for “dry January” as did so last year, says Emily Robinson of Alcohol Concern, a charity. Dry bars benefit from this fad: Redemption’s customers quadrupled between December and January.
Drinking isn’t the only place where temperance and re-moralization are gaining ground. Abortion rates in the United States have dropped, reaching their lowest point since Roe v. Wade and falling by one-third in the past decade. Teen pregnancies have similarly dropped by half. A Pew analysis of marriage rates found that U.S. marriages increased by three percent between 2011 and 2012 (for the three years prior to 2012, rates had been declining).An additional factoid shouldn’t surprise anyone who has read or followed the discussion over Charles Murray’s Coming Apart: 87 percent of the increase in the marriage rate comes from nuptials between the college educated. And while abortion is dropping dramatically, it’s becoming increasingly common among the poor and minorities. What we’re seeing is a broadly re-moralized upper class and an increasingly Dickensian lower class, crushed by poverty, family breakdown, and drug/alcohol use. The re-moralization of the upper class is nothing new historically; Anglo-American culture frequently swings between bacchanalian excess and restrained respectability. The first Victorians, for example, were preceded by the decadents of the Regency Period.The question that remains, though, is whether our neo-Victorians will dedicate themselves to reaching out to lower classes. In the past, domestic Christian missions would call people both to religious repentance and to the habits that would make their lives better. For the horror of every Grandgrind type, there were many earnest Victorians who spearheaded successful reforms focused on personal responsibility. Will today’s elites do the same?