Leftists are lining up to blame the riots that began in London last week after the fatal shooting of a man by police but quickly spread to other parts of Great Britain in the days thereafter on the austerity measures that have supposedly been implemented by the Liberal-Conservative Government. That is “supposedly” because whereas cuts have been planned, most have yet to be enacted.
Writing for Foreign Affairs, Matthias Matthijs observes that the London riots are “set against the backdrop of Britain’s ongoing fiscal and sovereign debt crisis and the coalition government’s politics of austerity. They illustrate the critical connection between class politics and fiscal retrenchment,” he suggests.
The problem with [slashing public expenditure] is the unequal burden that such cuts put on various parts of the United Kingdom’s income distribution.
Whereas the country’s top earners can afford alternatives to state largesse and thus do not feel the weight of fiscal austerity, fiscal retrenchment hurts those at the bottom who directly rely on government services such as welfare, public education and transportation.
Nowhere throughout his article does Matthijs bother to mount an intellectual defense of the welfare state that has so obviously failed in Britain. Nowhere does he suggest how the country might otherwise emerge from fiscal ruin if not by spending cuts that “hurt” the poor. Nor does he offer any evidence for his preposterous claim that somehow, budget policy compelled the dissatisfied youth of London to riot and plunder.
Time’s Tony Karon similarly blames a retrenchment of the state for the unrest without backing up his claim. He believes that “an Austerity Intifada is sweeping Europe” because “neoliberal economic policies have funneled most of the wealth created in recent decades to a small, already wealthy elite, while shrinking the middle class.”
Whether they respond with disciplined protest or nihilism and criminality, millions of young people in Europe today see playing by the rules of the socioeconomic and political status quo as offering them no decent future.
Karon even comes close to apologizing for the widespread looting, noting that demonstrators “accuse the Western world’s bankers of doing the same to the state, demanding bailouts to save them from the consequences of their catastrophic mistakes.” Right. They did it too!
Both authors completely ignore what’s at the root of London’s riots which is an utter lack of self-esteem that the very welfarism that they insist be perpetuated has fostered over decades.
Prime Minister David Cameron hinted at this on Wednesday when he pointed out that “people [were] allowed to feel that the world owes them something” in the desolate neighborhoods that have recently been stricken with violence. The conservative leader added that a country has a “moral problem” when a “sick” part of its society believes that it has only rights and no responsibilities.
He’s right. The British rioters aren’t guided by any particular ideology or well defined frustration. Their anger has nothing to do with austerity measures that haven’t even come into effect yet! Their anxiety reflects an entitlement mentality that is under threat. They and their parents were told by generations of politicians that they had a “right” to welfare provisions paid for by the productive segments of society and now that promise is falling apart. They were never taught to take care of themselves and soon, they might be forced to.
It’s tough adjusting to reality. But that’s not an excuse to take it out on your neighbors who always did just try to make a living.