Sullivan wrote a post titled The Underclass And The Overclass tonight that quoted a bunch of articles about the class psychology of the London riots. A few lines stuck out:
There are many kinds of looting. There’s looting your local superstore — and then there’s, as Nobel Laureates Akerlof and Romer discussed in a paper now famous among geeks, there’s looting a bank, a financial system, a corporation…or an entire economy. (Their paper might be crudely summed up in the pithy line: “The best way to rob a bank is to own one.”)
Many conservatives here, as well as abroad, reject the huge role of class. To them, wealth and poverty still reflect levels of virtue — and societal barriers to upward mobility, just a mild inhibitor. But modern society cannot run according to the individualist credo of Ayn Rand; economic systems, to be credible and socially sustainable, must deliver results to the vast majority of citizens.
Something has gone horribly wrong in Britain. If we are ever to confront the problems which have been exposed in the past week, it is essential to bear in mind that they do not only exist in inner-city housing estates. The culture of greed and impunity we are witnessing on our TV screens stretches right up into corporate boardrooms and the Cabinet.
I won’t bother pretending to understand why what happened in London happened. Rioting is a generally random event, usually originating as a reaction to an isolated event of injustice. Its mere existence doesn’t prove anything other than the fact that someone did something they shouldn’t have, and other people got pissed off about it, en masse. But the severity of the rioting in London is worth analyzing, and discussing that, even if nothing comes of it, is healthy. So the articles above are encouraging.
But here is my biggest takeaway from the whole ordeal in London and the coverage of it:
The terms “social inequality” and “income gap” or “economic inequality” are going to be increasingly prevalent in modern discourse moving forward into the future.
The income gap between the rich and the poor is increasing globally (a map from 2009 can be seen here, though I suspect the numbers in Europe have changed quite a bit since then). The more this gap grows, the more it will be blamed for the woes of the world.
And according to some, there is overwhelming evidence that the blame will be justified. (This book is on my to-read list)