Free Markets, Free People
The New York Times published an editorial today that reminds one how liberally biased the paper’s editorial board is. In its editorial it claims that all of the problems the UK has recently undergone are the result of the current administration and their austerity measures.
Cameron has been talking tough, suggesting that perhaps eviction or cutting off benefits to looters who are on the public dole might be one means of punishing offenders and making others think twice about committing such crimes again. He’s even talked about cutting off internet service in areas hit by flash looting mobs to cut their communication links.
The Times finds all of that an abhorrent over-reaction, and there are some good arguments against such moves by government. But that’s not where the NYT editorial board gets it wrong. It is here:
Such draconian proposals often win public applause in the traumatized aftermath of riots. But Mr. Cameron, and his Liberal Democrat coalition partners, should know better. They risk long-term damage to Britain’s already fraying social compact.
Making poor people poorer will not make them less likely to steal. Making them, or their families, homeless will not promote respect for the law. Trying to shut down the Internet in neighborhoods would be an appalling violation of civil liberties and a threat to public safety, denying vital real-time information to frightened residents.
Britain’s urban wastelands need constructive attention from the Cameron government, not just punishment. His government’s wrongheaded austerity policies have meant fewer public sector jobs and social services. Even police strength is scheduled to be cut. The poor are generally more dependent on government than the affluent, so they have been hit the hardest.
What Britain’s sputtering economy really needs is short-term stimulus, not more budget cutting. Unfortunately, there is no sign that Mr. Cameron has figured that out. But, at a minimum, burdens need to be more fairly shared between rich and poor — not as a reward to anyone, but because it is right.
This is utter nonsense. As with most on the left the Times prefers to cast blame at those who they disagree with ideologically instead of actually analyzing the problem and admitting that perhaps it is their ideology which has led to these problems.
Point one – these riots weren’t a result of several months or even several years of austerity. They are the culmination of a decades long social engineering project that has created a culture and is dependent upon government for everything. It has coddled it, excused its behavior and now finds it can’t afford it. The socialists have finally run out of other people’s money and are now paying the price for such foolhardy social engineering.
Point two – the answer to the problem isn’t now nor has it ever been more “public sector jobs and social services”. Instead the answer is to entice the private sector into these areas and have them produce productive jobs. Of course, if the benefits program, i.e. the dole or “the game”, continue as it has, there’s absolutely no incentive for anyone to take a job. One of the standing jokes is about an government appeal for businesses in the UK to hire Brits instead of Eastern Europeans. But British businesses know that Eastern Europeans will actually show up, on time and work, whereas Brits won’t. That is a cultural problem – not an austerity problem. And it is a cultural problem that has been caused and nurtured by the likes of those who write editorials for the New York Times.
Point three – it won’t get better by doing the same thing again. As has been said by many, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting different results. This is a social engineering project that has failed. Committing money they don’t have to recreate it is the height of idiocy.
The Times also stoops to a bit of class warfare by claiming David Cameron is a product of “Britain’s upper classes and schools”. The implication being he has no concept of the problem, being so far removed by class, and thus “he has blamed the looting and burning on a compound of national moral decline, bad parenting and perverse inner-city subculture”.
Janet Daley at the UK’s Telegraph rips into that premise and calls the Times on its hypocrisy:
Yes indeed he has, thus putting himself in agreement with about 90 per cent of the British population. But the New York Times in as uninterested in the overwhelming majority of British public opinion as it is in the great mass of American public opinion. It is as smugly and narrowly orthodox in its Left-liberal posturing as its counterparts in Britain. (If the BBC were to be reincarnated as an American newspaper, it would be the New York Times.) So it carries on in class war mode with accusations about Mr Cameron’s blithe imperiousness: “Would he find similar blame – this time in the culture of the well housed and well-off – for Britain’s recent tabloid phone hacking scandals or the egregious abuse of expense accounts by members of Parliament?”
Well as it happens, the MPs’ expenses scandal is pretty small beer by comparison to the “pork barrel” and lobbying scandals which have dogged the US Congress for generations. Would the New York Times like to opine on how much relevance the class backgrounds of Washington legislators have to those problems?
If the Times could find an angle that would help it push its outmoded ideological argument, probably so, but her point is well taken. Dailey concludes with the real reason for the editorial, fact free as it is – it’s all about certain politics:
The remedies which it criticises Mr Cameron for adopting are, in fact, not within his personal power at all: evicting tenants from council housing is a matter for local councils not for the Westminister government. And he has not proposed “shutting down the internet in neighbourhoods [where there is civil disorder]“. As far as the New York Times is concerned, the riots of last week were all about the state of the economy and the Government’s spending cuts: an argument so untenable that even the Labour party does not advance it. In its pious conclusion, the editorial states unequivocally that “what Britain’s sputtering economy really needs is short-term stimulus, not more budget cutting.” Barack Obama couldn’t have asked for a more generous endorsement. And that, one assumes, is what this ludicrous exercise in Schadenfreude was all about.
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Children are widely believed to be a blessing, and I suppose, in many ways, they are. But children are also a problem, in that each new generation of kids is a vertical invasion of barbarians. They have to be taught the details of how to behave in civilized society, to be instructed in its standards and norms. Moreover, those norms must be enforced, and violators must face the appropriate penalties for violating those norms. Doing all of this is an important charge, and you fail in it at your peril. Because, as the London riots show, the result of that failure is this:
The first line of defence against crime, the justice system, is not seen as sufficiently threatening to deter the youths. One of the group says this would be my first offence, "the prisons are over-crowded. What are they going to do? Give me an ASBO? I’ll live with that."
The government has failed to keep order, according to the group. They agree that their motivation is partially that "the government aren’t in control – because if they was we wouldn’t be able to do it could we?".
The low rate of arrest of looters is then also brought up as an incentive to loot, with one youth saying "they failed, innit? How many people have they arrested really, though? Ten." He then says "I’m not really bothered. I’ll keep doing this every day until I get caught."
The incentive to make money from their crime spree is clear: one of the youths says he has been looting because he didn’t want to "miss the opportunity to get free stuff that’s worth, like, loads of money".
Powerless families are also shown to be a major factor in allowing the looting to take place. One youth admits to warning his family he was going to be present at the riots, and then describes a subsequent telephone conversation with a family member: "He said ‘get home, you’re in trouble’ I said ‘no’ and just put the phone down. They can’t get into town, they can’t get me, and when I get home, nothing’s going to happen to me, I’m not going to get grounded or shouted at. I might get shouted at but that’s it, I’ll live with it and keep doing it."
These youths are not being irrational. Quite the opposite. They’ve quite fully absorbed the reality of modern life in the UK, a society that has largely abandoned the fundamental norms of civilization, giving them lip service, but without enforcing them.
Think of the very real shortcomings the attitudes above inculcate.
- The justice system is a farce, and no severe penalties need be feared.
- The government cannot effectively control lawlessness or protect property.
- The property of others can be taken without real fear of reprisal.
- Family discipline is toothless.
The larger society aids and abets these attitudes by defining self-defense as criminal vigilantism, and punishing the victims of crime for having the temerity to defend themselves, and perhaps injuring their assailants if attacked.
These youths in London and Manchester have learned their lessons well. Property owners cannot resist them, the police can’t control them, and if they are unlucky enough to get caught, sanctions will be minimal. These are not cultural attitudes that promote civilization. Quite the reverse, in fact. They are the attitudes of barbarism, in that they reduce all of society to victims—except for those that choose to be predators. The cultural message these youths have received is that predation pays and is relatively risk free.
They’re acting on that cultural message, in a perfectly understandable and rational manner, while authorities dither for days about whether the use of water cannons or rubber bullets are an appropriate response.
What these rioters need is the type of lesson that armed property owners convey with an immediacy that the police are unable or unwilling to provide. But, of course, in modern "civilized" Britain, that’s literally the last thing they have to fear.
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.