Anarchy in the USA?

In: economics|politics|Public policy|revolutions|violence

10 Aug 2011

Thanks to the Monkey Cage for posting this fantastic paper by Jacopo Ponticelli and Hans Joachim Voth titled AUSTERITY AND ANARCHY: BUDGET CUTS AND SOCIAL UNREST IN EUROPE, 1919-2009.

The main conclusion is that indebted governments in Europe that implemented recovery measures that appeared to be heavy on austerity, were paid back with civil unrest and riots.  While this makes perfect sense, what I found strange is that the actual officials who proposed such measures were NOT punished at the polls.  The paper also argues that the media’s fixation on the rioting and looting (sound familiar) didn’t facilitate the rise of protest movements.

Thinking about the folks back in London who are probably more like us than they are like their neighbors on the continent, I wonder if riots and chaos will make it across the pond.  Perhaps our media organizations and our politicians are too good at confusing the public about how the ridiculous policies we have been adopting (e.g. the debt ceiling non-deal) will affect them.

Interestingly, the London Riots appear to have been exacerbated by the killing by police of a black man, Mark Duggan, at Tottenham Station (see this funny clip of Darcus Howe telling the BBC that the riots were obviously going to happen in racist, classist Ole England ).  Jack Goldstone makes the point here that the riots look creepily like the LA Riots of 1992 when a black man, Rodney King, was beaten by police and riots ensued after the cops went on to be acquitted of any wrongdoing.

Americans are not generally the type to rise up in the Greek fashion, but with London now in flames and our own politicians insisting on balancing the budget on the backs of poor people while enabling the super rich to continue to live tax-free, the tension is palpable.

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While some people look at cockroaches as disgusting pests, We view them as resilient organisms that predate humans and will likely outlive us as well. People of color, the poor, the downtrodden, and the oppressed, much like cockroaches, are often despised, feared and in some cases have been the objects of extermination.

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