As the riots come to a close and looters sink back into the shadows, the political classes breathe a sigh of relief, but also begin tooling up for their own particular street fight. Quite rightly people want answers. How could this happen? How could a rich and prosperous nation suddenly plunge into violent chaos? Very few pundits will now cite the late Mr Duggun as anything other than a momentary catalyst for the violence, the real cause had been there all along.
Both the Left and the Right will try and use these events (quite genuinely in their eyes) to justify their own pre-existing views. The Right will claim that the problem is bad parents, lack of morals, a culture of glorified violence; indeed, Cameron has already begun making these noises, marking a distinct lurch to the right for his party and perhaps sounding the death knell for Ken Clarke’s ‘liberal’ conservatism. The Left, on the other hand, are quick to blame the events on the upper echelons of society: the government’s cuts, large corporations, the destruction of communities, economic policy failing to create jobs, and cuts to the EMA.
Already conservative quarters of the public are calling for benefits to be removed from any who took part in the riots, and not just that, but having subsidised housing removed from their families too. Now, after hasty hearings, prison sentences are being handed out for petty thefts such as stealing a scoop of ice-cream. Now, whilst these are indeed crimes that should be punished, the question must be asked, would these sentences have been handed out if those scoops were stolen a month ago? The answer is almost certainly no, and if that is indeed the answer these people are not being punished for their crimes, but the crimes of others. That is not how the rule of law should work. It is not logical.
The Left, on the other-hand, are just as misguided as their right-wing counterparts. In their eyes this is the natural comeuppance of cutting public spending and low employment prospects. Leading leftie Ken Livingstone was quick to imply that the riots were a result of the governments economic choices.
But this is as foolish thinking as the conservative line. If the ‘poor’ (such a folly to use generalised terms, but please forgive it in this case) are so lead to misdeeds by their circumstance, shouldn’t the rich also be excused? If a rioter can blame his actions on the banker, can’t the banker blame his selfish actions on a spoilt upbringing? In such a world no-one is ever responsible for their actions, they are merely products of their lives up to that point, robots pre-programmed and innocent.
However, this is not the argument the Left makes; their one is far more sinister. Rather than embrace the behaviourist argument and excuse everyone of their actions (by denying free-will) they allow the blame to shift from the rioters, but NOT from the government/financial sector/corporations. By doing so they are implying that somehow those in wealth are more capable of choosing between right and wrong than those denied such privilege. The logical conclusion is startling: that the rich are free-thinking human beings and the poor are somehow less. They are wild beasts simply responding to their environment and are incapable of understanding what they’re doing. This is a similar attitude we take to dogs. It is ironic that the Right, in all their ignorant fury, give more dignity to the rioters than the Left do.
It seems the gut-reaction of those on either side of the political spectrum is to use the riots to somehow blame those they always wanted to blame. It is the responsibility of logical libertarians to remain strong in the face of such dangerous peripheral thinking. The crimes committed over the past month were committed by those who did them, no-one else. And those crimes were the same then as they were at any other time; a victim of arson in 2009 has as much right to justice as a victim of arson in 2011.
A State is a club into which we pay taxes and get services in return. A legitimately elected government should be able to cut spending and not see its citizens turn on each other. People are responsible for their own lives.
In short: the State is the State. It’s not your mum.