Riots, left and right

The critique of the riots and neoliberalism that Elias links to below reminds me quite a bit of Theodore Dalyrmple’s piece in City Journal, and this piece in The Australian.

Perhaps individualism cannot really come into its own in a society like modern Britain, where the welfare state is truly cradle-to-grave, taxes are abysmally high, and major portions of the population are at once disenfranchised and heavily subsidized.

Of course this is all just speculation. But what is at the heart of the disenfranchisement and despair among Britain’s youth? It’s not a lack of state-provided welfare. Education, healthcare, often housing are all either subsidized or free.

Perhaps it’s a lack of opportunity, leg room, something. What is crowding out the opportunity? Has the state gotten a bit too big? Advocates of a smart, effective welfare state should be just as worried about too much welfare as they are about too little.

Australia, on the other hand, has done an admirable job at providing a safety net while keeping government relatively small. Is life in Australia worse in some material way than life in Britain for the middle class?

P.S. I go into some greater depth on all of this at Forbes.

Please do be so kind as to share this post.
Share

13 thoughts on “Riots, left and right

  1. I don’t think the piece I linked to would even go so far as to say they “want” something like healthcare or housing. I’m sure they’d like better jobs, but I think the argument I wanted to highlight would say that that’s not necessarily the main or motivating principle. I think the overall question it raises is whether or not neoliberalism (I know you don’t like the term) privileges the individual or the wider community to such an extent as to render the former’s appreciation of the latter essentially nil. I don’t imagine this is an argument that libertarians are going to find inviting, considering the “there is no such thing as society” school of thought; you have to be with me/them in agreeing that there is such a thing as society before we can even get to the question above.

      Quote  Link

    Report

  2. Or ya’ know, we can look at what actually happened. The cops shot a guy and things spun out of control because asses have taken advantage just like asses have taken advantage of these sorts of situations since time immemorial. Hell, this is totally anecdotal evidence, but a friend over in the UK had a neighbor of his taking off their car plates to head down to get some free stuff and he lives in a perfectly middle class neighborhood.

    So, instead of blaming Big Gummermint, perhaps we should ya’ know, tell cops to stop shooting people for no reason. Now, I realize that doesn’t lead to long posts talking about political philosophy.

    But hey, if these riots spread to Sweden or Norway or Germany, maybe you have a point. Until then, this is an isolated incident that could’ve happened just as easily in a lot of places around the world.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    • I’ve mentioned the police actions many times. Notably, I do not think the two are necessarily mutually exclusive. Beyond that, I think if we get into a shouting match over Big Gummint we are all doomed. There is such a thing as too-big/too-pervasive government. I think there is also such a thing as government which fails to provide the proper services to its citizenry. The UK government is leaps and bounds more pervasive than the US government, for instance.

        Quote  Link

      Report

      • Agreed. Someone must have linked to this Anne Applebaum piece (http://www.slate.com/id/2301233/) already, but it’s worth repeating:
        “And yet it is their lack of politics that most clearly defines them. If the Egyptians in Tahrir Square wanted democracy and if the anarchists in Athens wanted more government spending, the hooded men in British streets want 46-inch flat-screen high-definition televisions. They aren’t smashing the headquarters of the Tory Party; they are smashing clothing shops. Instead of using social media to create civil society or cyberutopia, they use social media to steal. Someone circulated a text message on Monday night, calling friends to central London for “Pure terror and havoc & Free stuff … just smash shop windows and cart out da stuff u want!””

        And…
        ” Beware of sweeping political generalizations in the wake of these riots. We don’t know whether we have just witnessed a “new” phenomenon, or a more mobile and technically adept version of a very old one.”

          Quote  Link

        Report

  3. As I said in another post, the excepts from what looters have said reflect direct redistribution, cutting out the middle man because they’re skimming too much before it reaches the people. This type of redistribution is much more efficient, and we thought the kids weren’t industrious!

      Quote  Link

    Report

    • I am wagering you recall Joseph Sobran’s column on bribery and how it compared with the sort of patron-client relations commonly constructed between state agencies and constituencies. The title of the column was “Personalized Government Service”.

        Quote  Link

      Report

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *