Free Markets, Free People

London rioting–are we seeing the death throes of the welfare state?

Buried deep in the New York Times story about the ongoing riots in London, the inability of the police to contain them and the fact that they’ve now spread to other cities is this paragraph:

For a society already under severe economic strain, the rioting raised new questions about the political sustainability of the Cameron government’s spending cuts, particularly the deep cutbacks in social programs. These have hit the country’s poor especially hard, including large numbers of the minority youths who have been at the forefront of the unrest.

The underlying cause of the riots had to do with the shooting, by police, of a popular activist in London.  The spread, however, is presumably now because of the “spending cuts” the Cameron government has made in an effort to address it’s very serious deficit problem.   This on the heels of the same sort of unrest and rioting in Greece when social programs were cut.

The paragraph is intriguing because of the way it approaches the problem.   It doesn’t stress the debt or deficit the UK has or the fact that the level of spending the UK is committed too in order to fund the social programs is unsustainable, it instead addresses the “political sustainability” of such cuts.

That’s a very telling point.   Substitute “political will” for “political sustainability” and you get the picture.  And frankly, that’s what it boils down too everywhere.   Do the politicians in charge actually have the political will to do what must to be done to right the financial ship of state?

What has been built by the welfare states everywhere is crumbling.  There are large irreparable cracks in their foundations.  All are showing signs of unsustainability and that is leading to internal instability.  The recipients of the largess taxed from the producers and borrowed on their behalf isn’t going to be there much longer. 

That’s the problem.  Even the rioters know that the gravy train, in relative terms, is pretty much over.  Reality, not politicians, have said so.  In fact the politicians mostly have no choice – they either have the means to continue as they have in the past or hey don’t.   And the more severely indebted welfare states are hitting that wall.

Add this to the mix though and you see how very horrific this is for the UK:

Beyond such social challenges is the crisis enveloping London’s Metropolitan Police. Even before the outbreak of violence, the police have been deeply demoralized by the government’s plan to cut about 9,000 of about 35,000 officers and by allegations that it badly mishandled protests against the government’s austerity program last winter and failed to properly investigate the phone-hacking scandal that has dominated the headlines here for much of the summer. The force now faces widespread allegations that it failed to act quickly and forcefully enough to quell the rioting at its outset over the weekend.

And of course, citizens there are left not only to fend for themselves in many cases, but have been disarmed by government to boot.

As for the poor “disadvantaged youth” at the center of the rioting?  Well it seems they may not be quite as poor or disadvantaged as one would think:

Despite a build-up in the number of riot police officers, many of them rushed to London from areas around the country, gangs of hooded young people appeared to be outmaneuvering the police for the third successive night. Communicating via BlackBerry instant-message technology that the police have struggled to monitor, as well as by social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, they repeatedly signaled fresh target areas to those caught up in the mayhem.

They coupled their grasp of digital technology with the ability to race through London’s clogged traffic on bicycles and mopeds, creating what amounted to flying squads that switched from one scene to another in the London districts of Hackney, Lewisham, Clapham, Peckham, Croydon, Woolwich and Enfield, among others — and even, late on Monday night, at least minor outbreaks in the mainly upscale neighborhood of Notting Hill and parts of Camden.

They’ve used technology to organize flash mobs of looters.   It’s anarchy and the police seemingly aren’t up to the job of stopping it.

The BBC and other British news organizations reported Tuesday that the police may be permitted to use rubber bullets for the first time as part of the government’s strengthened response to any resumption of the mayhem. David Lammy, Britain’s intellectual-property minister, also called for a suspension of Blackberry’s encrypted instant message service. Many rioters, exploiting that service, had been able to organize mobs and outmaneuver the police, who were ill-equipped to monitor it.

Rubber bullets, of course, only have an effect if police are where the rioters are.   And apparently, that’s not something they’ve been particularly successful in doing here lately.

Finally, harkening back to the fact that the UK has a serious debt and deficit problem and must cut spending, one has to wonder why it is involved spending money on things like this:

On Tuesday, the violence seemed to be having a ripple effect beyond its immediate focal points: news reports spoke of a dramatic upsurge in household burglaries; sports authorities said at least two major soccer matches in London — including an international fixture between England and the Netherlands — had been postponed because the police could not spare officers to guarantee crowd safety. The postponements offered a dramatic reminder of the pressures on Mr. Cameron and his colleagues to guarantee a peaceful environment for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.

That $15 billion extravaganza will have its centerpiece in a sprawling vista of new stadiums and an athletes’ village that lie only miles from the neighborhoods where much of the violence in the last three days has taken place.

Bread and circuses?  The UK is laying off policemen and cutting defense spending, but has $15 bil to throw at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games?  One has to wonder about priorities.

All-in-all a very volatile situation which could, given the method being used by the criminals, get worse.  In the meantime expect the liberals on both sides of the Atlantic to denounce the cut backs in social spending and demand the rioting “youths” be placated.  Political will is a scarce commodity in this world.   It may indeed end up the the “political sustainability” of the cuts fall before the desire of politicians to maintain power.   Of course that won’t change the fact that the unsustainable spending bill will come due whether they or the rioters like it or not.   But perhaps, just perhaps, they can kick the can down the road just enough for them to escape the wrath and blame that will come when that can can’t be kicked anywhere any longer.


Twitter: @McQandO

21 Responses to London rioting–are we seeing the death throes of the welfare state?

  • Urban yoots aren’t the only ones who know how to use instant communication.  The US establishment should be paying attention to this.

  • Since no police force has the numbers to be everywhere at once, it maintains order through the force of its name, the power of the uniform. This was once known as ‘prestige’; today it is better known as ‘legitimacy’.  Although as insubstantial as air it is as vital as oxygen. Without it things become very difficult. Once the authorities begin lose their prestige they must rely ever more heavily on force, of which there is never, ever enough.–Richard Fernandez
    The death throes are larger than the Welfare State.  They eclipse the entire result of the Frankfurt School’s destruction of a culture.

  • ” It may indeed end up the the “political sustainability” of the cuts fall before the desire of politicians to maintain power.  ”
    The premise is sound – they’ll go back to taxing the producers to the benefit of the non-producers who are being bought off to stay peaceful.
    Why?  Because the producers are too busy producing and trying to hang on to their standard of living to riot, even if more and more of their wealth is taken.  The non-producers, have only themselves to lose, and until their lives become the price of their rioting, they will continue.
    Historically speaking, it’s interesting that the ‘riot act’ you always hear of people getting read, is an act of law from the bygone British Empire.
    “Our Soverign Lord the King chargeth and commandeth all persons, being assembled, immediately to disperse themselves, and peaceably depart to their habitations, or to their lawful business, upon the pains contained in the Act made in the first year of King George the First for preventing tumults and riotous assemblies”.

  • Ahh yes….The immature, childish, irrelevant threat of violence has you all wiggly. Talking about your weapons and the damage they can cause. You folks will take advantage of any and every government program you can – while calling others names for doing the very same thing – are you going to turn away your SS payment or your disability payments? (of course not).

    Your small, lonely lives must be just great if all your energies go towards pointing a weapon at others. There is a reason your pitiful lives are lame. Lack of education, marrying too early (to prove your manhood), making babies with the ugly spouse (again to show others your ‘little fella’ works as advertised). Seems you are one step up from the caveman. In 35 years, being a conservative will be cause to have you arrested and held for mental instability.

    • Classic projection…

    • a hanky to wipe the foam from around your mouth might be appropriate at this point.

    • Wow … I do love it when someone can erect a straw man so completely and pummel it that unmercifully without a clue that’s what he’s doing. It does lend a certain air of entertainment to the discussion.

      Now, Jimbo, let the adults get back to discussing this world and you go back to playing in yours, hmmm?

        What’s entertaining is he doesn’t seem terribly concerned with the looting and burning by the rioters, but more concerned with someone implying that sort of thing might be met with force if it came to their neighborhood.
        Or perhaps he thinks the free lunch should continue unabated and resents the implication we think not.
        Alas I should have hobbled by on my Medicare subsidized crutches first, and then trotted my 12 inbred government supported children and my trollish wife/sister by, maybe he’d have had a little sympathy for my humanitarian plight in contemplating defense of my property and life.
        Or maybe he’s just jealous of the shiny 6lb field gun.

    • Jimbo?!?!
      Or is this Erb telling us what he really thinks?

  • Jimbo… WTF?

  • McQLondon rioting–are we seeing the death throes of the welfare state?

    I fear not.  I’m thinking more along the lines of the street fighting that lead variously to the rise of the bolsheviks in Russia, the fascists in Italy, the nazis in Germany, the ayatollahs in Iran, etc.

    These hoodlums have no love for Britain as it exists.  They will follow anybody who’ll promise to keep the gravy train running.  Until such a leader appears, they’re content just to bust up the joint.

  • A little dark humor from the English rioting…

    “That awkward moment when your cousin in Mogadishu sends you a FB message and asks you if you are safe”
    –Small Dead Animals
    “What’s the cause of the riot? I’m guessing lack of incoming fire.”
    –Say Uncle blog

    Oh, and go to the link to see what England’s big movers are in Sports Equipment…