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They're Rioting in Britain: But Why? The Bankruptcy of Liberal Ideology

The rioting continues unabated in London, and as of this writing, David Cameron has called out an extensive police presence and vowed to do everything possible to prevent them from spreading. Cameron should have acted earlier, but at least he cut short his Italian vacation to rush back to London and use his powers as prime minister to take the tough action that is needed. The measures include the stationing of 10,000 additional police throughout London, as well as the possible use of water cannons. He has good reason to enforce these measures. Last night, three men were killed when some of the thugs drove their car into a group protecting homes and businesses from looters. As of Wednesday, 1200 people had been arrested.

Londoners had good reason to applaud. An online petition was being circulated calling for rioters to lose all government welfare benefits they might have been receiving. The text said: “No taxpayer should have to contribute to those who have destroyed property, stolen from their community and shown a disregard for the country that provides for them.”  And Cameron added that the problem was as “much a moral problem as a political problem,” referring to pockets of society that “are not just broken, but are frankly sick.”

That, of course, will not win him plaudits from the British and the international left wing. As expected, a New York Times report of the riots is written in the usual liberal style, to try and show sympathy for the looters. The story’s headline proclaims: “London Riots Put Spotlight on Troubled, Unemployed Youths in Britain.” It’s the old liberal shibboleth: the underclass riots when the welfare state has failed it. The reporters quote one rioter, 19, as explaining that he took a $195 designer sweater “to get my penny’s worth.” Why not? The culture has told him he has a right to get what the rich can buy, so why not just help himself? The Times story, however, tells readers that the riots “reflect the alienation and resentment of many young people in Britain,” where one million people between 16 and 24 years of age are unemployed. The story notes that “economic despair” and “racial tension and thuggery” derive from the new austerity measures that are starting “to take effect.” In other words: if only the British government had not acted to cut spending and get its economic house in order, then there would be no riots.

Moreover, the story blames teachers who spend time educating solid middle-class students and who ignore those who cannot keep up. As the story says, “the most vulnerable people feel trapped.” As one rioter told police: “You know you are all racist! You know it.”

The former mayor of London, “Red” Ken Livingstone, said that rioting and destruction of businesses had no justification -- but as if to contradict himself “Red” Ken noted that they had to “have a serious discussion about why this has happened.” Hence he feared that “the police will be forced into escalating conflict,” by which he meant that they may actually stop the looters from rioting and burning businesses and homes, and take tough measures to stop the riots. The danger was not from the looters, but from Thatcherism. As he said, “We do not want to go back to the 1980s.” The fault, as he saw it, was “cuts being imposed by the Tory government,” as when “Margaret Thatcher imposed such policies.” Those cuts lead to “people losing control.” It is not the fault of the looters and their culture, but the Tory governments who stop giving them handouts.