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

Speaking to the press, Livingstone added that the riots were a “revolt” against budget cuts, as if there was a political program advocated by the looters and thugs. He said: “If you’re making massive cuts, there’s always the potential for this sort of revolt against that.”

How long will it take for Frances Fox Piven to go public and applaud the riots? As we know, last year she wrote, “So where are the angry crowds, the demonstrations, sit-ins and unruly mobs? After all, the injustice is apparent.” She has got what she called for in Britain. Perhaps she is waiting for similar examples of revolt here in the United States.

Back in the 1970s, New York City faced looting and rioting during the 1977 blackout. This led the late celebrated historian Herbert G. Gutman to rush to the op-ed pages of the New York Times and, in the July 21, 1977 issue, attack people like Herman Kahn, founder of the Hudson Institute, who had commented that the New York looters “have no idea of what moral standards are. This 'suppressed rage' idea is crap. This kind of reasoning will make the same thing happen all over again.”

Kahn, of course, was completely accurate in his response. But according to Gutman, the rioters were engaging in legitimate social protest, revolting against oppression in the only way they knew how. He had the nerve to compare the thuggish acts of looters in  1977 to the peaceful action in 1902 on the Lower East Side of New York by immigrant Jewish women who boycotted Kosher butchers they thought were overcharging for the meat they sold! It takes the mentality of a leftist New York historian to make such an inane comparison.

Gutman’s analysis, we can be sure, will once again be made by liberals and leftists in our country, as they are being made by those on the British left. Fortunately, serious commentary in Britain is already appearing. In today’s London Daily Mail, Max Hastings has written a devastating account, whose title says it all: "Years of liberal dogma have spawned a generation of amoral, uneducated, welfare dependent, brutalized youngsters.” Hastings covered the Detroit riots of 1967, in which entire neighborhoods were burned down by looters who destroyed their own communities. He was told then by a black reporter who accompanied him that the young rioters would smile and say, “It was a great fire, man!” He adds that a British girl told the BBC that they were showing the “rich” and the cops that “we can do what we like.”

Like Herman Kahn, Hastings writes that the looters today “have no moral compass” that would let them feel any guilt or shame. Calling them “wild beasts,” he uses the very animal metaphor to describe them that historian Gutman thought horrendous when used in the  1970s in America. They are what a police officer told him some years back: “feral children” who are no better than wild untamed animals.  Rather than these people being punished as in decades past, Hastings argues that today “the welfare state has relieved them from hunger and real want,” and when they act out, there are no more sanctions for wrongdoing.

To put it another way, Hastings is talking about a culture of poverty that is being ignored, since, as he writes, society no longer is “imposing a measure of compulsion which modern society finds unacceptable.” No one wants to show these young thugs that they must act differently and accept the social norms of organized society. Instead, we are being ask to shed crocodile tears about the plight of youth who supposedly mean well but are forced to go unemployed because of budget cuts.