The Fire This Time

UPDATED 08/10/11

Riots in the UK — especially in London — are drawing much attention from the media. Why are there riots in the UK? It’s the welfare state, stupid. Take away a person’s self-reliance and dignity by putting him on the dole, and he has little in the way of inner resources and skills to draw on when you take him off the dole. (Michael Gove understands this; Harriet Harman does not.)

What about the less-publicized black-on-white “flash mob” attacks taking place in the U.S.? The same answer, with the added indignity of the job-killing minimum wage.

It is my fervent hope that American police forces be allowed to respond to “flash mobs” with force, and that American courts prosecute mobsters vigorously and mercilessly.

It is my fervent hope that American politicians will not throw money at the sector of the populace whence the mobs come, in the vain hope of quelling their anger. As a start on solving this “problem” — another instance of government failure — the minimum wage should be abolished and the rabble should be told to get off the streets and get jobs.

To the end of getting troublemakers off the streets, laws against loitering should be reinstated and enforced. It’s time to stop coddling people who truly aren’t paying their “fair share” of taxes.


The always-excellent Theodore Dalrymple weighs in (link below); for example:

The riots are the apotheosis of the welfare state and popular culture in their British form. A population thinks (because it has often been told so by intellectuals and the political class) that it is entitled to a high standard of consumption, irrespective of its personal efforts; and therefore it regards the fact that it does not receive that high standard, by comparison with the rest of society, as a sign of injustice. It believes itself deprived (because it has often been told so by intellectuals and the political class), even though each member of it has received an education costing $80,000, toward which neither he nor—quite likely—any member of his family has made much of a contribution; indeed, he may well have lived his entire life at others’ expense, such that every mouthful of food he has ever eaten, every shirt he has ever worn, every television he has ever watched, has been provided by others. Even if he were to recognize this, he would not be grateful, for dependency does not promote gratitude. On the contrary, he would simply feel that the subventions were not sufficient to allow him to live as he would have liked.

At the same time, his expensive education will have equipped him for nothing. His labor, even supposing that he were inclined to work, would not be worth its cost to any employer—partly because of the social charges necessary to keep others such as he in a state of permanent idleness, and partly because of his own characteristics. And so unskilled labor is performed in England by foreigners, while an indigenous class of permanently unemployed is subsidized.

The culture of the person in this situation is not such as to elevate his behavior. One in which the late Amy Winehouse—the vulgar, semicriminal drug addict and alcoholic singer of songs whose lyrics effectively celebrated the most degenerate kind of life imaginable—could be raised to the status of heroine is not one that is likely to protect against bad behavior.

Finally, long experience of impunity has taught the rioters that they have nothing to fear from the law, which in England has become almost comically lax—except, that is, for the victims of crime. For the rioters, crime has become the default setting of their behavior; the surprising thing about the riots is not that they have occurred, but that they did not occur sooner and did not become chronic.


Related reading:
Walter Russell Mead, “American Tinderbox
Bill Vallicella, “Flash Mobs
Victor Davis Hanson, “Paralytic American Society
Bruce McQuain, “London Rioting — Are We Seeing the End of the Welfare State?
Theodore Dalrymple, “British Degeneracy on Parade