Farewell. The Flying Pig Has Left The Building.

Steve Hynd, August 16, 2012

After four years on the Typepad site, eight years total blogging, Newshoggers is closing it's doors today. We've been coasting the last year or so, with many of us moving on to bigger projects (Hey, Eric!) or simply running out of blogging enthusiasm, and it's time to give the old flying pig a rest.

We've done okay over those eight years, although never being quite PC enough to gain wider acceptance from the partisan "party right or wrong" crowds. We like to think we moved political conversations a little, on the ever-present wish to rush to war with Iran, on the need for a real Left that isn't licking corporatist Dem boots every cycle, on America's foreign misadventures in Afghanistan and Iraq. We like to think we made a small difference while writing under that flying pig banner. We did pretty good for a bunch with no ties to big-party apparatuses or think tanks.

Those eight years of blogging will still exist. Because we're ending this typepad account, we've been archiving the typepad blog here. And the original blogger archive is still here. There will still be new content from the old 'hoggers crew too. Ron writes for The Moderate Voice, I post at The Agonist and Eric Martin's lucid foreign policy thoughts can be read at Democracy Arsenal.

I'd like to thank all our regular commenters, readers and the other bloggers who regularly linked to our posts over the years to agree or disagree. You all made writing for 'hoggers an amazingly fun and stimulating experience.

Thank you very much.

Note: This is an archive copy of Newshoggers. Most of the pictures are gone but the words are all here. There may be some occasional new content, John may do some posts and Ron will cross post some of his contributions to The Moderate Voice so check back.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Austerity and Anarchy: budget cuts and social unrest

By Steve Hynd

As Seumas Milne writes in an excellent Guardian piece today (h/t Kat):

David Cameron has to maintain that the unrest has no cause except criminality � or he and his friends might be held responsible.

It is essential for those in power in Britain that the riots now sweeping the country can have no cause beyond feral wickedness. This is nothing but "criminality, pure and simple", David Cameron declared after cutting short his holiday in Tuscany. The London mayor and fellow former Bullingdon Club member Boris Johnson, heckled by hostile Londoners in Clapham Junction, warned that rioters must stop hearing "economic and sociological justifications" (though who was offering them he never explained) for what they were doing.

When his predecessor Ken Livingstone linked the riots to the impact of public spending cuts, it was almost as if he'd torched a building himself. The Daily Mail thundered that blaming cuts was "immoral and cynical", echoed by a string of armchair riot control enthusiasts. There was nothing to explain, they've insisted, and the only response should be plastic bullets, water cannon and troops on the streets.

We'll hear a lot more of that when parliament meets � and it's not hard to see why. If these riots have no social or political causes, then clearly no one in authority can be held responsible. What's more, with many people terrified by the mayhem and angry at the failure of the police to halt its spread, it offers the government a chance to get back on the front foot and regain its seriously damaged credibility as a force for social order.

And yet several studies show that there is a clear and definable link between austerity programs and social unrest. The latest is by economists Jacopo Ponticelli and Hans-Joachim Voth (PDF, also via Kat). They looked at a century of social unrest for the period 1919 to the present, to examine the extent to which societies become unstable after budget cuts. Their conclusion is that "austerity has tended to go hand in hand with politically motivated violence and social instability" and that there is "a clear positive correlation between fiscal retrenchment and instability".

Which leads us to wonder if the "British Spring", as it has been sarcastically termed, might be a harbringer of an American one.

This could all translate to the US fairly easily. The political discourse in America is such that the country is almost certainly moving down a path of austerity. Even President Obama and Nancy Pelosi concede this, though they try to mix in some hearty references to "shared sacrifice." That might do some good, but probably not much. Although the Democrats constantly stress the need to close off tax loopholes and have the richest pay their "fair share," the Republicans outplay them every time. Besides, a top earner paying two percent more in taxes isn't going to quell the bottled fury of someone who feels the whole system has nothing to offer him.

By, say, the summer of 2014 either the cuts will already be hurting, or the rhetoric of cuts will have suffused the air. That will almost certainly be the case no matter who is President. The conditions will be ripe, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may yet get his chance to joke about "American Spring."

Anti-austerity rioting and protests, along with often-violent pushback from authorities, have been an epidemic in North Africa and Europe this year. By 2014, they may well be and epidemic in the poorest parts of the U.S. too.


  1. Before I read this article, I didn't understand why so many politicians - especially Republicans - keep calling for the government to create jobs. Any good conservative knows full well the function of government is not to create jobs - that's what the private sector does, right?
    But they're increasingly desperate for somebody - anybody - to start creating jobs that will keep millions of scary, violence-desensitized American youths off the streets and out of trouble, such as looting and rioting.

  2. I fear that this is indeed heading towards America, exacerbated in some areas by heat, etc. The problem is that we`ve allowed laws and mechanisms to be created that would deal with these actions harshly. The Elites knew we would end up like this and have taken precautions to safeguard their ill-gotten gains and the largest wealth transfer in history.
    Can`t help but wonder if we`re looking at a 21st century version of The Dark Ages, or Corporate Feudalism, or something equally as nasty. Oy.

  3. Funny thing is, I remember Cameron and his friends back in the day running amok in my college and in the streets nearby. Deliberately and needlessly causing havoc - isn't that what he's now charging other (poorer) people in England with doing?