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Pradeep Despandee

“They [riots] compensate for the fact that votes do not register the intensity of the voter’s political preferences.”


Indeed, a binary vote fails to quantify preferences, a major shortcoming of democracy. While I do not intend this comment as a promotion of totalitarianism, this shortcoming of democracy is the fundamental reason why Socrates drinks hemlock and Jesus gets crucified, especially, absent a constitution. But eventually, persistent majority will finally overrun, even a constitution. Democracy by a law happy public, all too happy to impose submission to communal service, degenerates into what one may call “democratic totalitarianism”, as an ever shifting round robin set of concurrent majorities suppresses minorities.

Even if one tends to side with the majority 80% of the time, they may still feel freer in a modern authoritarian state with 100 laws vs. a democratic one with 10,000. Meanwhile, coupled with migration and mobility, the ability of totalitarian governments to suppress people is on the decline, as even dictatorships have been increasingly forced to compete to attract and retain talented people inside their borders in a mobile global citizen world. That is why many people actually feel freer in totalitarian Dubai, than amongst the French democratic electorate, and have voted accordingly with their feet.

While, again, my intention is not to endorse totalitarianism over democracy, I do intend to debunk the divine value people seem to assign to democracy, its de-facto association with freedom, and, most importantly, the modern change: That even dictatorships have to compete to offer freedom these days, as goods, services, and people themselves are becoming increasingly mobile in the 21st entury.

In short, the advantage of Democracy is shrinking, and while I do not think that the advantage is on its way to extinction, this new disadvantage coupled with the suicidal behavior western voters have demonstrably shown in response to the challenge posed by 3 billion emerging world citizens, puts western democracies on a path to certain decline. The disarray, economic distress and riots are just trees in the general forest of western decline.

Decline of a West that reneged on its principles of individualism and self-determination and is increasingly adopting the very policies of mandatory collectivism that once kept most of the now emerging world in desperate poverty. Meanwhile, the once desperate, poor and now emerging world is moving in the opposite direction. Convergence will come soon and the turmoil experienced in the West lately is, again, just the trees in this general theme of the West declining into the world average. Decline will not be smooth, but a series of crises separated by relative calm. Western voters will fail to see the forest for the trees and thus their decline is certain.


You make some interesting points - but perhaps the sudden loss of a racially homogeneous population is not the sole causal factor that necessitates a race riot. In Philadelphia, urban "flash mobs" of teenagers have been damaging property and attacking innocent bystanders (breaking a man's neck in once instance). True, the scope and intensity of the flash mobs does not match the UK Riots - but perhaps they allude to a dormant, but now rising, sense of discontentment and anger with the structural inequality in our society. The notion that because we have a history of multiculturalism and because police shootings of minority individuals happen frequently, people will choose not to riot cannot be taken as a universal truth. Sometimes a catalyst isn't needed to start a reaction; riots by their very nature snowball and grow rapidly. There is an economic and racial gap in our society - by many accounts, it is only getting worse. I think the US can stand to learn from the UK Riots by way of preventative measures. The worst thing we could do is continue to believe that American exceptionalism can save us from problems that plague the rest of the world.

Christopher Graves

The United States has the inverse problem that much of Europe is now experiencing. Our underclass and spasms of mass immigration has created a very heterogeneous nation especially since the mid-1960's. Attempts by the Federal government to force people to accept other people with whom they share very little in common has only created a socially isolated, culturally neutered country of strangers.

Riots might be less common here because of the social and spatial distancing that protects people from marauders but also prevents people from forming organic communities with any semblance of a common social life that Europe continues to enjoy--at least for now.

Discount Herve Leger

Riots might be less common here because of the social and spatial distancing that protects people from marauders but also prevents people from forming organic communities with any semblance of a common social life that Europe continues to enjoy--at least for now.


I'm afraid your analysis is fundamentally flawed. I live in London in close proximity to Tottenham, where the riots started. These riots were not any form of protest. They were only circumstantially linked to the death of Mark Duggan. If anything, the social unrest we experienced was 'caused' by growing inequality, an increasing divide between opportunity and aspiration among our urban youth underclass, and the police's early misreading of the situation. Just like yourself, the police initially believed they were dealing with a protest with political and racial dimensions - they held back in the face of criminality in order to avoid inflaming the situation. The Met now acknowledges this was a mistake which gave implicit 'permission' for looting. My blog has a fuller explanation of the causes of the recent English riots: http://memewhile.tumblr.com/post/8738812907/6-causes-of-english-looting


Ahh... the joys of Mobocracy! What we are witnessing Worldwide, is the power of Mass Communications, utilized by an "International Criminal Syndicate" to create mob action (i.e. "Flashmobs")as a diversionary tactic to confuse and confound the Authorities and allow the criminal element to carry out its criminal actions.

In order to curb and control such activity, all one needs do is to shut down the the Mass Comm. System. Social Networks, Mobile phone systems and applications, Internet connectivity, etc.. The loss of mass mobile communications will have the effect of curbing the spreading of the contagion and reduce the numbers of the Mob itself. Allowing the authorities to reimpose order by instituting Martial Law and clearing the streets and rounding up perpetrators en masse. As for Looters, too be shot on sight...

All of this goes to prove the old line, "Idle hands and minds are the Devil's workshop". Says a lot for the new Economic Order...


I do not agree that Britain and America are nowadays quite similar in culture. The core of British culture and society is the monarchy. The main point to British culture is that they hate everybody and beyond all doubt they hate the Americans.


Storekeepers in America are thankful for the Second Amendment. Arming property owners shifts risk to rioters and lowers the odds that the British "contagion" may spread to the United States.

Thomas Rekdal

If the British riots are a form of political protest, I can only say that the message is certainly well concealed. They appear to me, at least initially, to be more like the riff-raff urban disorders that Edward Banfield analysed in his essay "Rioting Mainly for Fun and Profit" published in 1970, with the scale expanded by the sort of opportunistic criminality that Becker explains.

Perhaps I am merely uninformed about recent British political culture, but it will take a lot more evidence than I have seen so far to persuade me of the predominance of political grievances in these disturbances.

James Wilson

I live in London and can state categorically that the vast majority of the riot activity had nothing to do with protest and everything to do with opportunistic looting. Unfortunately the standards of public behaviour for which Britain was once known have deteriorated (there are many reasons for this) resulting in a materialistic culture; the police have been severely degraded by political correctness; mass immigration has meant fewer low skilled jobs available for uneducated locals who instead have been seduced by the gang culture which has been imported from America. Far from hating America the British seem now more similar than ever.

I do wonder how accurately the riots/loting was reported overseas. Turkish shopkeepers in Dalston saw off all prospective thugs in short order. In Clapham locals did the same then cleaned up the streets very quickly. Fortunately not everyone surrendered to the criminal underclass.

Fri Chicks



Hmmm --- "opportunistic looting" say several here.

"mass immigration has meant fewer low skilled jobs available for uneducated locals who instead have been seduced by the gang culture which has been imported from America."

.......... so after giving it a name, and a hunch as to the causes, then what?

Bet Van

What I missed is if the people involved in the riots want something to be changed , something to be done , what their demands are? I mean do they stand against something or just want to make a mass...

James Wilson

The best description of the riots was "shopping with violence". The rioters were essentially after cheap consumer goods, coupled with the thrill of stirring trouble. Certainly there was no political or otherwise higher purpose - the buildings attacked and looted were all consumer goods retailers.

Ratiu Cristian

Great point of view

Fernando Fontes

"It helps that the President is black (actually half black, but unlike the people of many other countries, such as Brazil and South Africa, Americans don’t distinguish mixed from “pure” races)".

Aren´t you american? What´s the point of the commentary inside brackets? Americans perhaps don´t but you seem to distinguish "mixed from pure races".

From a Brazilian.

P.S.: Brazil abolished slavery in the 19th century and Brown v. BOE was decided in 1954.

Chuck Matthews, SPHR

Your Honor,

I have little doubt that the state of the UK economy drove the riots to their extreme conditions. The majority of my federal service was in England.

I guess they didn't think about cameras just like the recent flash mob in NJ.


P.S. My heart goes out to the 7th Circuit professionals and their friends and families. I will miss being able to read the opinions authored by Judge Evans.

Fake Oakleys

I have little doubt that the state of the UK economy drove the riots to their extreme conditions. The majority of my federal service was in England.

Fake Oakleys

My heart goes out to the 7th Circuit professionals and their friends and families. I will miss being able to read the opinions authored by Judge Evans.


Pradeep -- While our democracy, just now, is hardly functioning in a healthy manner, I'd urge you to look more (much more) deeply into how a democracy does work. It goes well beyond our casting a "binary" vote every so often.

The cynical observer is likely to report on how slanted things are in favor of inputs from the moneyed, and corpie interests seeking special favor with their wallet fueled political power. But! Even those favors that are so often distortionary, at time facilitate our moving ahead to reflect the needs of modern commerce.

And! long time observers will note that some issues ARE strongly decided by the electorate. I'd cite the emergence of environmental concern in the 60's strong enough to spur President Nixon into implementing the EPA, or that of NOT drilling in Alaska's protected Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge despite the rampant oil price gouging and the popularity of bumper sticker solutions such as "Drill baby Drill".

And again..... to your oft reiterated litany of "decline due to loss of rugged individualism" et al. I'd urge you to spend some time considering why the per hour productivity of a war torn, weary nation such as France, with few resources of its own is on par with that of the US.

Perhaps the trail will lead to "too much being carved off at the top" and "far too little being paid to those at or near the bottom" so that as the Brits learned -- those at the lower income groups didn't work hard because there was little to gain by doing so, while those who'd inherited their lordships and positions didn't work hard because they didn't have to.

Well, as you've posted your litany under the "Riot" topic of the week, it is curious, if you're not a bot? that you didn't take a crack at whether the soaring wage wealth disparities of both the US and UK played a cultural role in fomenting mindless violence?

Could it be that like our own teabaggers that they "sense" something is wrong, are "Mad as Hell" but clueless as to the causes, lash out like a distressed child in every direction?

Jim Neal

Fernando- I had the same reaction to Posner's non sequitur that the President is "actually half black."

Actually what's the relevance Judge Posner?


tanstaffl, There's more to that Second Amendment than simply allowing Shopkeepers to arm themselves. That's why the Founders threw in the clause about "well regulated Militias". Who do you think can and will impose Order, Peace and Tranquility through the imposition of Martial Law? A well regulated Militia or an angry rag-tag mob of armed Shopkeepers attempting to restore Order by clearing the streets.

Welcome to Anarchyland. Anyone remember the "Whisky Rebellion"?


NEH, have you not read the recent Supreme Court decisions on the Second Amendment? Armed liberty is not restricted to members of "well regulated militias," nor was it ever.

Separately, isn't it interesting how reports of "flash mobs" in America seem to be limited to Philadelphia and other jurisdictions that have laws narrowly restricting gun ownership? Where are the reports of flash mobs in Texas? Were a flash mob to appear in my humble little community, I'd promptly cure their mineral deficiency with hot lead, and bless James Madison all the while.


This is a cool blog.Simple and right down to the point.



Slightly off topic:

"The CBO has calculated much of its projections using a 2.9% GDP growth rate between 2012 and 2021. That may be just a tad optimistic. Over the last ten years, GDP has increased about an average of 1.7% per year."

Well stated and perhaps likely. And????? We KNOW that our per capita productivity HAS been increasing at about 2%. And that our population is increasing at about 2%. Sooooooo, we KNOW in advance that yet more WILL be joining those many of the long term unemployed, while many of them have gone beyond the 99 week extensions more than justified by the miserable job market.

So WHAT do you do about knowing you'll have even higher numbers of desperate folks, some newly on the unemployment rolls, others having exhausted there 99 weeks, while those flooding out of HS and college next year and the year after have few prospects and are yet to be eligible for unemployment?

Yet......... for all the caterwauling about being "broke" "bankrupt" and "uncompetitive" GDP is plugging along at about the rate it has been doing, with AVERAGE per capita productivity gaining each year. Where'd all the benefits of that "rising tide" disappear?

The 2nd graph down depicts it well:


Well......... we know, but None Dare Call it All for the Rich, mostly to those of the top 5%, even more to the top 1% and even more to the top .1% Those of the top 20% have made some gains, while those of median incomes and below have been stagnant or even had declining purchasing power.

NOT good it seems in an economy 75% dependent on consumer spending. As all economists learn those of upper incomes have higher propensities to save and lower incomes have far higher propensities to spend.......... as all who've spent time living hand to mouth well know.

So what does that set of facts point to? Obviously that the long delayed (fantasy) of "trickle down" must at least "trickle" if not gush like a frozen waterfall in the Alaskan spring.

"Class warfare" I can hear being howled. A bit late, I'd retort; as the graph clearly shows the war began 30 years ago and has been won hands down by the smaller and smaller fractions of America's workforce.

Another peek?

And..... a bit of old science fiction that like lot's of science fiction is no longer fiction:

Most of us must have read one story or another of robotics providing all of our consumer goods while we had lots of leisure time to enjoy the arts, pursue education or just enjoy being with our families and friends.

Are we approaching something of that time? With but 80% of our workforce truly engaged there are no shortages and the major flaw in virtually every business plan is "over capacity" and "lack of demand" for their products. Suppose that something close to this is the "new normal?"

We KNOW for example that the days of 2.5 million new housing starts will never be seen again. The current rate is under 400,000 and the sustainable rate (assuming an increasing population can afford to buy) is 700,000 that covers population increase and teardowns. A huge sector when you multiply a "missing" 2 million starts by a median price of $225,000 plus the related "new home" biz. Several million once employed in housing will never ply their crafts again in that sector.

Problem is idealistic Sci-Fi scenario assumed the hopes of JFK's "rising tide that lifted ALL of the boats". Indeed! had we maintained the same (GINI) wage disparity ratios of the 70's the very rich would be somewhat less rich while most hovering around median income level would have $10,000 more per household with which to "Go shopping".

Indeed...... to go shopping and perhaps help keep a college kid in school a bit longer, or to supplement the meager SS of an elder family member, or just to have something left after paying soaring H/C premiums and oil price gouging.

Now truthfully, from and econ standpoint, partisan hrsht aside, WHAT is slashing the federal budget going to do in any reasonable time horizon to deal with what we KNOW is taking place? Lower a near zero interest rate? While 30-40 million of a 150 million workforce remain idled? or "patching it together" with a part time min wage job and food stamps?

So........... we're sitting here in about 1937 with a no growth, HIGH unemployment mess, and along comes the clouds of WWII. We found means of not only paying for it but mobilizing millions of troops our of just 120 million population. In five years the depression was ended, we were swamped in debt and embarked upon the greatest 30 year economic boom the world has ever seen.

Let's skip the war...... but we can't have 40 million desperadoes out there unemployed with kids living in poverty. The choice then is that of curling up and slashing hither and yon to no avail or embarking on projects that will benefit us all in the next decade after this mess is over.

Those are clearly tackling the, at least, two trillion of delayed road and bridge, and weary public buildings maintenance.

It's a miracle that the nearly nationwide heatwave has only experienced a few, and localized grid failures as it's being tested by every A/C in the region running full tilt most of the day. It should not only be upgraded so we can ship wind, solar or other energy long distances but "hardened" that it not be as vulnerable to purposeful nuclear magnetic explosions that would take it down in its current state.

Curiously and coincidentally the ongoing trade deficit is just about the same amount as we are paying to import costly oil. We use twice the energy per GDP dollar generated as does the EU, so we're twice as vulnerable to energy prices be they manipulated by our "own?" WS thieves or by OPEC. Today's "Apollo" program should be that of conserving what we now waste, adopting viable alternatives and spurring one of our main mfg sectors to replace the gas hogging fleet we build while being lulled to sleep by $18 oil.

In short there is much to do. Some of it will result in more short term debt..... but the slash and throw folks onto the unemployment/welfare,food stamp/subsidized housing lines will bring us debt as well. The difference? Proud American's going to work on the solutions rather than living in poverty and grumbling outside the unemployment office or "free" H/C clinic. Courage? or Cowardice?

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