When thinking about the recent riots to have engulfed the country, I tend to agree with the Left-wing analysis of why these kids are looting, but agree broadly with the moderate rights's approach to dealing with it. First, lets be clear. This isn't about race - there are no Asians rioting. Muslims are conspicuous by their absence from the rioting mobs, except as they defend their communities. The Asian community's retention of values, however alien, means their young men don't steal, don't rob, don't smash things up. This is about feral black and white youths who've lost any social guidance, from multi-generational welfare homes who are ultimately rioting because rioting's fun. (No really, it is. Find a riot trained policeman and ask him why he volunteered...). They are rioting for stuff - the lawlessness is presenting economic opportunities for loot. They are therefore rioting because they can, and the consequences they will face, either from the police in terms of violence or the Judicial system, are not to be feared. They are rioting because they are utterly without any moral sense of right and wrong after decades of non-judgmental social workers indulging their behaviour, as left them with a sense of grievance (not your fault), but no means to do anything about it. There are no consequences on the job market for these kids. Few of the rioters will ever hold down any more than a precarious minimum-wage job. What's a few weeks inside to a kid like this who still lives with his mum? Yes these kids are rioting for reasons of economic, moral and spiritual despair, lashing out incoherently against a society which has failed, then abandoned them.
So the left will focus on the social deprivation, the right on the moral despair and lax criminal justice. Just because there are economic elements to the despair, though, doesn't mean the state should give ever more money. Likewise, though the manner of the protest, and any expression of it may be violent, nihilistic and incoherent, doesn't mean society hasn't failed these kids and failed them completely. The fact that society has failed them, through lack of opportunity, shitty schools and broken promises, however doesn't excuse their actions, and punishment must be harsh as the law allows, and swift as possible.
The police just need slightly more robust rules of engagement. So the solution in the short term is to rapidly increase the costs of rioting, and that means letting the police, who have so far exercised impressive restraint and discipline, hit them a bit harder with sticks a little more freely. With such a loss of control, a steady escalation of force used is reasonable. A few injured rioters for which the police face no consequences as the higher command back their boys, would make the scrotes think again, and improve both the morale of the police and those who are paying them. Likewise those citizen patrols protecting their communities - from Turks, Sikhs and Milwall supporters people have turned out to say "enough, we're going to defend ourselves" should be given support as there are just not enough Police to be everywhere. However, more excitable commentators have suggested shooting looters, and applying more draconian riot control methods. The solutions do NOT include bringing in the Army, fun though it would be to see the Parachute Regiment go all fighty on rioters. Nor are baton rounds, tear-gas and water cannon going to be much use. The disorder is too dispersed. Plus I quite like living in a country where these things are not allowed. The death penalty will NOT be applied to people who've just nicked some trainers from Foot-Locker.
So the stupid right is talking nonsense, but so's the stupid left, who think state spending is a solution to everything. The solutions do NOT include rethinking "the cuts". These kids are not rioting because the local youth-centre was shut. The people doing the rioting are the ones who burned down youth centres, not use it. Housing too is part of the left-wing solution. More council housing is the cry. But is it really sensible to herd the most despairing people into ghettos of "social" housing? Surely the state getting out of the housing business would mean fewer Broadwater farm estates in which rioters congregate. Subsidise private renting if you must, but demolish these concrete jungles. Part of the solution involves jobs, and that involves a dynamic economy. But as one heckler of Boris Johnson suggested raising the minimum wage, it's clear the left doesn't understand the economics of job creation. Cuts are necessary - vital - to create those jobs. But the primary barrier these young men face are not economic. Jobs for illiterate, uneducated, ill disciplined scrotes are going to be hard to create in any economic climate, but moral. Would YOU employ these feral youngsters? Anyone... anyone... Me neither. The solution is one of tough love, tougher policing and scrapping the economic barriers, such as a minimum wage and generous life-time benefits which prevent them getting jobs.
The longer-term solution is education - fewer failed schools; fewer illiterate, hopeless kids. Education is important, but it's not money, it's improving schools and markets are much better this than governments. Broadly the coalition's academy program, and longer-term, a full-blooded free-school and voucher system will change the face of British education, especially for the poorest.
Broadly these reasons are economic and social. The rioters have so little stake in society they feel justified in smashing it up. There are few consequences that can be imposed to deter, and few opportunities to prevent disorder.
Finally, and most importantly. Riots happen, everywhere from time to time. They are much rarer in ethnically homogeneous Scandinavia or Japan, but not unknown. Riots are more common in big, ethnically diverse cities. Even in Canada or Australia -rich, but relatively low inequality countries, riots have happened - this isn't about GINI coefficients. It's about poor people without a stake in the society, lashing out. Toronto recently had hockey violence, Sydney ethnic violence. The Paris Banlieus often go up in flames as North African youths riot. Los Angeles, New York have all experienced race-riots in the last few decades. Riots once in a while are the price paid for freedoms. They can be avoided, mitigated or controlled, but not eliminated entirely.
So far in the UK summer of rage, 2011, four people have been killed, one of whom appears to have been involved in the riots and three run over protecting their community - I'm not going to comment on their cases, because I have no facts. Crucially none have been killed by the police, while (as of last night) over 100 police officers have been injured. These factors remove the opportunity for more martyrs, more violence, more protests, more repression. The Family of Mark Duggan have been dignified, and deserve answers. Again, best not to comment, as I have no facts, but they're no catalyst for an even greater sense of grievance, for which we should thank them. The fact the police have been so restrained MAY have contributed to the odd burned out building, but it means the rioters are losing legitimacy, even amongst those who might have supported them had the police reacted differently. Ultimately "the moral is to the physical as three is to one".
Riots happen, just like market crashes and for the same reasons - a herd mentality. The British police have handled themselves in an exemplary fashion. The British state, and British people are capable of cleaning up the mess. Life will go on. The important thing is to deal with the effects of riots, punish the perpetrators and help the victims rebuild their homes and businesses. Don't let the bandwagon jumpers agitate for either a reversal of the necessary economic reforms or further curtailments of civil liberties, both of which ultimately will serve to further alienate and disadvantage the communities from which the rioters can't escape.