There have been two different outbreaks of looting on this week, both unjustified but not entirely surprising, both centred in London and both fueled by greed and irresponsible behaviour.
In one of them, up to £100 million of damage was done to shops and businesses, along with unquantifiable damage to communities, families made homeless, and young people caught up in criminal behaviour.
The other has cost the economy £226 billion so far, and the long term consequences in job losses, business closures and bankruptcies remains to be seen.
I think there are all kinds of links between the two. The City and its bloated share of our unbalanced economy is the key driver in inequality and the marginalisation that ensues. (David Cameron, just minutes ago, has declared to the House of Commons that the riots have “nothing to do with inequality”, which is not a helpful development)
It was reckless lenders who caused the recession, leading to the fall in employment that has left one in five young people without a job. It was the banking bailouts that drove up the deficit and forced the spending cuts, including the Education Maintenance Allowance to young people who chose to stay in school.
Shop fronts are boarded up on the high street to protect them from the gangs, but the recession had already closed plenty of others. The riots have left dozens of households homeless after a spate of arson attacks, but they’ve got nothing on the 40,000 repossessions expected this year.
The riots are not the fault of the City and the banks, that would be a daft claim. But I do think they’re both the fairly predictable results of an economy structured around greed, and a culture that makes a virtue of selfishness.