Friday, December 10, 2010

Prepare: Civil Unrest Next?

Read the headlines...

Ireland - authorities prepare for civil unrest as new austerity budget unveiled.

EU - Authorities expect the chance of civil unrest to increase as budget cutbacks loom.

UK - Civil unrest increases including impromptu attack on Prince Charles limosine.

Haiti - Riots and civil unrest grow due to elections.

Now read this article from CNN. The author suggests that civil unrest may be around the corner in the US due to continuing high unemployment and possible entitlement cuts in the US federal budget.

How likely is this in the US?

First, unlike other countries, the U.S. has a higher respect for "law and order". Middle class, middle aged adults are not likely to grab a banner and go join a protest in the middle of downtown. And are much less likely to burn effigies or toss a trashcan through a store window. Remember all the rallies in DC over the summer and early fall? Not a single instance of violence or rioting in spite of the high rate of dissatisifaction by attendees over the state of things.

Other countries are different where protests are time honored traditions with the participation of a broad cross section of the population.

Second, people are angry at the lack of work, for instance, but their individual rights have not been trampled upon (enough) to make them want to go smash a store window or toss rocks at the cops. Rather, anger is limited to comments online and letters to the editor.

Third, we still have a representative democratic republic that for the most part, rolls and changes with the people. Sure, some of the representatives appear only to care about their own interests and avoid their constituents, but the last election and the number of deeply entrenched incumbents who received their walking papers shows that the system still works. Before the argument begins, is Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton or Richard Nixon still president? Most of the rest of the world's democracies still languish under thirty years in office career dicta-ticians.

Fourth, things are not that bad. They are not great, but we have not seen a widespread return to the 1930's with Hoovervilles and Okies traveling in Model T convoys (not yet at least). And we still have the fattest country on earth so everyone is getting plenty to eat.

Now, if any of the above does come to bear, such as politicians refusing to leave office. Unemployment above twenty percent. Widespread homelessness, espcially of families. Crackdown on Internet access and limits on free speech. Curbs on the right to assemble. Elimination of opposition organizations. Food shortages. Fuel purchase and travel restrictions. Utility blackouts.

Then, you have another thing entirely. This is the stuff that leads to dissatisfaction among the electorate. And once you get the mainstream, middle class, average American into the streets, look out.

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