Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Putting out the Fires in Britain--and Elsewhere--Is Not Going to End Trouble: What Happens When the Social Contract Fails

The pictures of burning buildings in Britain are extremely disturbing, not least because we know first hand how much damage a fire can do. But the question arises: why? It seems too simple to blame it all on hooligans, because even hooligans have a rationale for what they do.

The New York Times talks of "troubled youth", and La Presse carries an Agence France-Presse piece that blames budget cuts for much youthful disaffectation today.

Yesterday The Globe and Mail ran a story by Doug Saunders from London in which he says that Britain has a "'lost generation' of young high-school dropouts far larger than most countries." He adds that one European study found that "17 per cent of Britain’s youth are classified as “NEETs” – for Not in Employment, Education or Training, in other words high-school dropouts with no prospects of employment – the fourth-highest percentage in the European Union. There are 600,000 people under 25 in Britain who have never had a day of work."

This is appalling, and likely is a legacy of the Thatcher cuts of the 1980s that were not redressed sufficiently by the Blair years. One shudders to think what the current wave of cuts in the US and elsewhere will leave behind 15 years from now.

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