The Economist points out that people have been bemoaning moral decline for a long time. Therefore they must be imagining it, right?
Things have gotten worse and we have the stats to prove it:
2011: "Britain: Prison Population Hits Record"
Reported crime increased 37 times between 1900 and 1997. We have more police than ever before. It is the sentencing that is too lenient.
Jose Harris: Private Lives, Public Spirit: Britain 1870-1914:
"A very high proportion of Edwardian convicts were in prison for offences that would have been much more lightly treated or wholly disregarded by law enforcers in the late twentieth century. In 1912-13, for example, one quarter of males aged 16 to 21 who were imprisoned in the metropolitan area of London were serving seven-day sentences for offences which included drunkenness, 'playing games in the street,' riding a bicycle without lights, gaming, obscene language and sleeping rough. If late twentieth-century standards of policing and sentencing had been applied in Edwardian Britain, the prisons would have been virtually empty; conversely, if Edwardian standards were applied in the 1990s then most of the youth of Britain would be in gaol."