Sunday, August 14, 2011

Were UK Riots Symptoms of Larger Global Unrest With Austerity and Inequality?

The UK recent riots have been characterized as nihilist acts of thugs, looters, and common thieves, yet, they lasted four days and spread to other neighborhoods in London and other cities and the participants crossed racial lines.  Much like the UK riots in 1981, there was a general dislike and distrust of authority and the police.  The authorities and mainstream media played the riots as criminal anarchy resulting from poor parenting and a history of government coddling which should be suppressed and order restored in order to proceed with government austerity programs supported by the financial services sector which is seeing a concentration of power in their protected status from failure without regard to systemic risk.

Austerity deepens and intensifies social-economic inequality, which brings into question government austerity programs which slow and destroy growth.  As is being seen in Greece, Spain, and Italy, as well as Israel, where protests and demonstrations are becoming common, as well as past UK demonstrations over social and education cuts; just as protests in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya, and Syria sought social justice, democracy, and opportunity, when the concentration of power increasingly disenfranchises citizens and/or fiscal consolidation intensifies the likely reaction against corruption and self-serving elitism, historically, is social unrest.  Global economic uncertainty in one form or another is a breeding ground for social unrest.  When it gets so bad it seems as if you have nothing more to lose and you hate the life from which you have no opportunity to improve, civil disorder gets the attention of those in authority and privilege and it then becomes a question of whether they will eventually listen or if they will keep cutting of the heads of the people to restore order.

Living standards and social-economic inequality have been bad in the UK and austerity has magnified the problem.  These UK rioters are being brought before Magistrate's Court for a few minutes of summary hearing before a judge.  Some are as young as 11 and many are over 35 years of age; some young adults are voluntarily surrendering when they realize they looted and not just protested as everyone who thinks is asking why rather than condemning.  During the riots and currently, there are those in the media, politics, and UK government who are attempting to minimalize and paint the rioters not just as thieves and thugs but leaches on the public dole.  This serve no good public purpose in a democracy.  The global financial crisis, protection of financial interests, continuing high unemployment,  social service, health care, and education cuts limiting survivability, much less quality of life, and access to opportunity and the level playing field of a free society not only breed social unrest seeking justice and equality of opportunity, it also breeds right wing extremism.

Edward Harrison of CreditWritedowns has elegantly summarized the the right wing threat and growing crisis in Europe succinctly in the failure of the EU and the eurozone to confront the obvious defects of the euro and act democratically in unity for a common purpose and common safety to provide eurobonds and insure liquidity in a monetary union in which necessary fiscal transfers and fiscal union are perceived as "taxes" and "costs" rather than the normal resolution of current account trade imbalances within the monetary union.

My graduate and post graduate work has concentrated on social economic changes, not just the turning or tipping points, but the periods immediately prior and after.  We are in a period in which the actions of our politicians in all the countries of the world and the citizens of those countries are going to determine in society continues to evolve democratically or if it prefers the neo-feudalism of a corporatist state in which the government and the private financial sector have the same interests.  The economist Nouriel Roubini in a recent interview not only assessed the probability of recession at 50%, but also observed that we are at a stage where it is possible that capitalism could destroy itself.

What do you choose?  Freedom or security?  Access to opportunity or special privilege? 
Print Page

No comments:

Post a Comment

Share This