The more things change...

The simplistic moralising from both the left and the right has an almost self-congratulatory tone to it. Each side paints the cause of the U.K.‘s recent riots in their own image. But while the left’s has at least a patina of hope, the right’s is one of demonisation.

Sometimes it takes an outside observer to speak bluntly, as in this NYT editorial, Wrong Answers in Britain:

Crimes are crimes whoever commits them. And the duty of government is to protect the law-abiding, not to engage in simplistic and divisive moralizing that fails to distinguish between criminals, victims and helpless relatives and bystanders. > Crimes are crimes whoever commits them. And the duty of government is to protect the law-abiding, not to engage in simplistic and divisive moralizing that fails to distinguish between criminals, victims and helpless relatives and bystanders.</p>

The thousands who were arrested last week for looting and for more violent crimes should face the penalties that are prescribed by law. But Mr. Cameron is not content to stop there. He talks about cutting off government benefits even to minor offenders and evicting them — and, in a repellent form of collective punishment, perhaps their families, too — from the publicly supported housing in which one of every six Britons lives. The thousands who were arrested last week for looting and for more violent crimes should face the penalties that are prescribed by law. But Mr. Cameron is not content to stop there. He talks about cutting off government benefits even to minor offenders and evicting them — and, in a repellent form of collective punishment, perhaps their families, too — from the publicly supported housing in which one of every six Britons lives.</blockquote> I’m not sure where all these benefit-bereft, evicted people are going to find solace, but it’s surely not going to be in a new found respect for the law after this blatent abuse. Of course, along with the [back down](http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/aug/25/government-plan-shut-twitter-facebook) on plans to shutdown social networks during time of unrest—Egypt-style—, these kneejerk reactions will probably be quietly retracted. But politicians shouldn’t produce such populist, jingoistic claptrap in the first place. Cameron is [no stranger to populism](http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/jun/03/cameron-backed-report-commercialisation-childhood), however. The Telegraph even goes so far as to pull a favoured old hobby-horse out of the closet, [placing part of the blame](http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/telegraph-view/8698227/A-palpable-change-inthenational-mood.html) on a “collapse in the belief in marriage”. I’m not quite sure where this idea of a golden age of riot-free marriage-bliss came from, given the [general recurrance of rioting throughout the country’s past](http://www.economist.com/blogs/bagehot/2011/08/civil-disorder-and-looting-hits-britain-0). I imagine it’s the same past where poor people and women were not allowed to vote, gay people were routinely beaten, imprisoned and stigmatised, along with other such blissful scenes we can draw up from the past. …the more they stay the same.

.:.