You Simply can’t Keep Increasing the Burden on the Productive Class Forever
The UK is burning. Thanks to socialism. And class warfare. For people are rioting because they’re not getting enough stuff. So they’re correcting that inequity by stealing stuff from others (see As rioting spreads UK’s Cameron vows crackdown by Stefano Ambrogi and Angus MacSwan posted 8/10/2011 on Reuters).
Youths fought running battles with police in the northern cities of Manchester and Liverpool as well as in the Midlands.
They smashed shop windows, carted off televisions and designer clothes, and torched buildings as police armed with shields and batons struggled to maintain control…
Gangs of youths in hooded tops battled police in Manchester, smashing windows and looting shops, and setting fire to a clothes shop.
In nearby Salford, rioters threw bricks at police and set fire to buildings. TV pictures showed flames leaping from shops and cars, and plumes of black smoke billowing across roads…
In Liverpool’s Toxteth district, rioters attacked two fire engines and a fire officer’s car, police said. Earlier, some 200 youths throwing missiles wrecked and looted shops…
Cars were burned and stores looted in West Bromwich and Wolverhampton in central England; and in Nottingham a gang of young men set fire to a police station. There were also disturbances in Birmingham and Leicester in central England, and Milton Keynes north of London…
In Birmingham, police launched a murder inquiry after three Muslim men died after being run over by a car in the mayhem there. A friend of the men told BBC radio they had been part of a group of British Asians protecting their area from looters after attending Ramadan prayers at a mosque.
“The car swerved toward them. It was cold-blooded murder,” the friend said. The father of one of the men tried to save his dying son with CPR.
They’re not doing this in the US. Yet. Because the US is not quite the social welfare state the UK is. Yet.
These UK riots illustrate the problem with socialism. ‘From those according to ability to those according to need’. The youths rioting have no ability. And have shown no effort to learn any ability. Content to remain on the dole. And it’s a very generous dole in the UK. Well, it used to be. Hence the rioting.
The rioters have needs. Great needs. Widescreen televisions. Designer clothes. Seeing buildings and cars burn. So they attended to their own needs. Took from those having ability. And burned the mother up. Destroyed the property of the very people who pay taxes and fund the welfare state. And provide jobs. So it looks like the rioters haven’t helped their employment prospects in the community.
Getting a permanent underclass dependent on government benefits provides loyal voters at election time. But it comes with a price. The spending required to maintain this underclass eventually becomes unsustainable. Because you simply can’t keep increasing the burden on the productive class forever. They may just say screw this and go on the dole, too. And let someone else put up with the high taxes. And the looters.
“This disturbing phenomenon has to be understood as a conflagration of aggression from a socially and economically excluded underclass,” the liberal Independent newspaper said.
“These youths live in the heart of British cities but they do not feel part of them. Far too little has been done by successive generations of politicians and public servants to integrate these individuals into normal society. The fuse for this explosion has been burning down for many years.”
Oh, society’s to blame. Not the people smashing windows and stealing stuff. Or the people setting fires. It’s the people who have been living by the rules, the law-abiding people, who are to blame.
Critics say government policies of chopping public spending and raising taxes to cut a huge budget deficit have aggravated the plight of urban youth as the economy struggles to grow and unemployment rises.
The awarding of huge bonuses to bankers has become emblematic of a culture of flashy consumption for the elite.
Corruption scandals within London’s police force and a 2009 scandal over parliamentarians’ expenses have also fueled the notion that greed is a motivating factor across the spectrum of British society.
“Everyone’s heard about the police taking bribes, the members of parliament stealing thousands with their expenses. They set the example. It’s time to loot,” a youth in the riot-torn London district of Hackney told Reuters.
“It’s time to loot.” That says it all. They don’t want to sit down and discuss socioeconomic issues. They just want to get stuff while the getting is good. I mean, there are protests. And there is theft. Labor standing in a picket line is a protest. Smashing windows and stealing stuff is theft.
Is State Welfare so Generous that People don’t want to get off of State Benefits?
Of course, some are politicizing this violence. To make the case for more social spending. Because if you don’t pay these thugs off they’ll come and smash your windows and take your stuff (see Do Budget Cuts Cause More Riots? by Bouree Lam posted 8/10/2011 on Freakonomics).
A couple weeks ago, Jacopo Ponticelli and Hans-Joachim Voth put out their working paper “Austerity and Anarchy: Budget Cuts and Social Unrest in Europe, 1919-2009.” It uses cross-country data in the 90-year period to examine whether riots and civil unrest increase as governments cut spending. They found a positive correlation between social instability and budget cuts.
I think the real question is this. Is state welfare too generous? Is it so generous that people don’t want to get off of state benefits? And when said benefits are cut they riot? Are they so lazy and have such a state-induced entitlement mentality that the thought of having to provide for themselves is so disagreeable that they prefer burning their own neighborhoods?
And so they riot. They torch their oppressors. Probably drive these stores out of their neighborhoods. And discourage anyone from opening a new store in such a violent and riot-prone neighborhood. Now what? Where are they going to shop with no stores? Who will they riot against then?
The Balance of Power has always Determined whether there will be Peace or War
As bad as all of this is, some are saying the US should follow the UK’s example. Stop being a world superpower. And enjoy harmonious bliss at home. Like they have in the UK. When they’re not rioting and burning the place down (see Three Cheers for Decline by Charles Kenny posted 8/9/2011 on Foreign Policy).
Of course, the United States still possesses greater military strength than any other country in the world. But what good has being the world’s policeman done for Americans? Wielding that might meant the United States saw more combat deaths overseas last year than any other country, according to data from Uppsala University. Beyond the blood is the treasure: U.S. military spending increased 81 percent between 2001 and 2010 and now accounts for 43 percent of the global total — six times its nearest rival, China. The U.S. military burden is equivalent to 4.8 percent of GDP, the largest economic burden of any OECD country.
Everyone attacks U.S. defense spending. Something, by the way, called for in the Constitution. Unlike entitlements. Now 4.8% of GDP is too high and should be cut. Whereas entitlement spending is twice that amount and yet no one calls for any spending cuts there. So it’s not a money thing. It’s a ‘let’s weaken the U.S. thing’.
Freed from the distractions of colonial oversight and global leadership, it could retire its planet-spanning chain of military bases, shrink the Royal Navy, and devalue the pound without fears that the world would come to an end. And the country learned to collaborate without feeling equal status was a slight to its dignity — joining the European Union, for example, and signing the Kyoto Protocol.
Could the United States go down the same track toward contented (well, most of the time), pretty-good-power status?
But let’s not forget something. When the sun never set on the British Empire the world was a more peaceful place. We call it Pax Britannica. Latin for British peace. The British Empire was a benign one as far as empires go. There was prosperity and peace. And little war. Something only a powerful military can give you. When in British or American hands, at least.
The world is a dangerous place. Always has been. And the balance of power has always determined whether there will be peace. Or war. When the Nazis had it there was war. When the British had it during the Pax Britannica there was peace. Yes, the US and UK have made some mistakes. But ask yourself this. Who would you feel more comfortable having the kind of military might the US has? China? Iran? Russia? I think not.
So the US should give up its national security interests. And take that money and spend it on more state benefits. Like the UK did following the end of her empire. So the permanent underclass can grow larger. And more restive. Demanding ever more benefits. And rioting when they don’t get what they want. Not a very good tradeoff for living in a less safe world if you ask me.
People Dependent on Government Benefits tend to vote for Candidates who Promise more of the Same
The rise of the welfare state has created a permanent underclass dependent on government. Because overly generous benefits made it attractive to remain in the underclass. Happy not to be productive. Living off the labors of those who are. It’s good politics. People dependent on government benefits tend to vote for candidates who promise more of the same.
But there is a limit to how much wealth you can transfer from the productive class to the nonproductive. If you take too much away the productive class may just join the ranks of the nonproductive. Because that’s where the incentive is. So the government can only tax up to a certain point. Then they have to start borrowing. Until the borrowing creates deficits too great to borrow anymore. So then the spending cuts begin. And, of course, the rioting.
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