Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Seems (Un)reasonable

I've never been off of the North American continent.  Still, this article at seems to be the most lucid and reasonable assessment of the riots in the UK that I've read so far.

The underlying causes of the rioting are difficult to say with certainty but one key fact must be considered: youth unemployment.   
The rioters were overwhelmingly teenagers and kids in their 20s. About 20 percent of 16-24 year olds in Britain are unemployed. That figure is much, much higher on council estates -- the British term for housing projects. (You can leave school at the age of 16 in this country). Unemployment statistics in Britain are sadly vague, but a reasonable estimate of youth unemployment just in Hackney is 33 percent. (Those attending college or performing any form of unpaid apprentice work are considered to be employed.) There don't seem to be any statistics for youth unemployment on council estates -- as I live in the neighborhood I would say well above 60 or 70 percent is a good guess.   
When there are that many young men with nothing to do and no money to spend, it doesn't take much to set off violence. The immediate flash point -- in this case the death of Mark Duggan -- is quickly forgotten. A group hysteria takes hold.
What happens after the rioting subsides is difficult to predict -- entry level jobs are in short supply these days -- and as the government's austerity measures begin to bite here, it's not likely to get better any time soon.
Large numbers of people with nothing to do and nothing invested in the society around them.  How could that possibly go wrong?

The real mystery is, "where are the Punks right now?"  British punks are constantly playing songs about riots, I wonder how many of them are actually out in the streets?

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