Riots in America … Perhaps, but Not Like Europe

“Most actions do not aim at anybodys defeat or loss. They aim at an improvement in conditions.” – Ludwig Von Mises

Lou Dobbs interviewed Ron Paul a few days ago (see video below) and produced a very open and frank exchange about the difficulties that face the nation and the way forward. (Paul always has an open and frank conversation waiting for anyone who wants to listen.) The video is here (my thoughts to follow):

I think congressman Paul is right about the need for fundamental changes in the role of government. I believe this as a matter of principle. I believe in the Golden Rule, which, coupled with the fact that we live in a democracy, places serious limitations on what level of benevolence I am allowed to do via government taxation of others.

Beyond this, I also think there are very pragmatic reasons to support a limited government. Centralization has failed all over the place as a viable economic model. (Kids today may not be young enough to remember the communist bloc – though you’d think the failure of ideas was spectacular enough to warrant clear teaching on the subject in our school systems.) Decentralization, smaller government, power and freedom back to the people – this is the way ahead.

I would like to point out though that, while I agree with Paul on the prospect of riots in the U. S., I disagree slightly on the potential causes. Yes, we have seen that “union busting” (or returning power to the people) in Wisconsin and other places has resulted in some rather boisterous demonstrations. This is to be expected: a group of people receiving compensation far in excess of what a free market would bear were told that the lavish benefits were going away, and they pitched a fit. However, as the results begin to show (and school districts begin to save money, implement merit pay, and produce a higher quality education), the general public will tout the policy changes as a massive success, and the rioting will dissipate.

In this country, unlike Europe, we still use “entitlement mentality” as a bad word. That’s because we still have a streak of self-sufficiency. Parents still teach their kids to take care of themselves (many do, anyway). Even those who take advantage of the system are more inclined, in this country, to feel enough shame about the situation to not riot. They may still take the freebies, even if they are of suspect “qualification” but they won’t riot over it. They don’t want to be seen.

(Side note, Verizon workers recently went on strike in a labor dispute – and many collected unemployment benefits! That’s right, they voluntarily walked of the job demanding higher pay, and walked into the unemployment office to siphon off some of your pay while the strike was playing out. Nice.)

That said, I see an even more sinister potential for riots here in America. Things are not great on the economic front, and decaying quickly in some sectors. We discussed a few weeks ago that unemployment amongst young, black males is extremely high (consider “Running Wild in Philly (and Elsewhere)“). I saw a stat the other week where unemployment amongst black teens in Washington, D.C. had hit 50%.

The angst and frustration necessary to riot is there, but something is holding it back. You see, the president is also black. I’m not saying that the disaffected teens in our inner cities are politically motivated. Rather, I’m saying that an acceptable “bad guy” at the top of the government provides a necessary focal point for the bubbling rage. That focal point is decidedly lacking so long as Obama is the president. Sure, people can try to stoke flames over the right-wing Congress and the Tea Party, but it just doesn’t fly. Democrats still hold the White House and the Senate. BUT – if the 2012 election brings something different, then watch out.

To be honest it’s nothing new …

Government, at the behest of the wealthy, institutes policies to benefit the wealthy (and ultimately and inherently hurt the poor). The poor get stepped on over and over again until they have inevitably had enough and then they throw down. Something changes, but we usually regress right back to a system where the powerful maintain their grip on power and the poor are placated momentarily. (“You know, that old chestnut.”)

That we should see the potential to have it played out again in our time is not surprising.

What will we do then? Well, we should oppose policies that benefit the rich to the detriment of the poor (beginning with the federal reserve, the fiat monetary system, and the consistent and bewildering bailouts of wealthy, elite bankers). We should certainly pray. And we should work to make a difference in somebody’s life (pick a somebody, but pick ’em sooner rather than later).

The political system in this country is in the business of creating messes. They don’t see it that way, but that’s always how it plays out. And who cleans up? We do. Might as well try to get out ahead of this one.

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