Nobody expects it to happen here. We go about our day to day lives expecting nothing much to change. Yet beneath the calm and normal exterior of your average American existence lies something completely unexpected.
The veneer of civilization is razor thin. And most people do not understand just how quickly things can devolve into chaos.
It doesn’t take much at all for chaos to break through that veneer.
I wrote a few days ago about the major disaster we have brewing with our national budget. The salient point is that we have an unfundable and unsustainable amount of entitlements in the federal budget.
We’re not alone. Countries all over the world, particularly in Europe, have built similar entitlements into their economic and societal structure.
Enter Austerity, Stage Right!
Austerity is a fancy term for reducing spending, cutting benefits and entitlements, and reducing deficits. It’s used by governments that are in major economic trouble to avoid debt default.
Does this ever happen? Yup. Check out this list:
- United Kingdom
Quite the list. Even more astonishing that each one of these countries has adopted austerity policies this year.
Now, some of these new policies are relatively benign, while others are more drastic. But I think it is clear to just about everyone who is paying attention that our country will have to adopt austerity measures at some point very soon if we want to avert a complete meltdown.
And honestly, I don’t even know if austerity can save us. But that’s another post for another day.
The Flaming Results of Austerity
Here’s the problem with austerity policies, required or otherwise. They tend to tick off people who feel they are entitled to the tax coffers. And these people are often so addicted to the money they receive that they don’t know how to survive without it.
And when you threaten someone’s survival, they tend to react poorly. Whether the threat is real or simply a poor interpretation of reality is of little to no relevance to that reaction.
The Results of Greek Austerity Measures
Greece decided, in the wake of a near economic collapse, to cut spending. Decided is a charitable word, they were actually forced to do it by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The cuts were somewhat straight forward. A freeze in public pay. A small increase in the retirement age. Some tax increases. All designed to make up about 30 Billion Euros.
Well, the reaction wasn’t small. Tens of thousands of people in the streets rioting. A general strike by all of the major unions in Greece. Greece was cut off from the outside world by the strike.
The Greek Parliament was stormed by 50,000 protesters. Hooded protesters, in an action reminiscent of the Seattle WTO riots, roamed the streets throwing bricks and bottles through windows and at police. Fires were set, homes and businesses were burned.
France Is Burning?
They’ve been rioting now for about a week non stop. The country is in a general strike. The unions have shut off the flow of fuel through critical pipelines to Paris and the major airports in the country. Gas shortages are everywhere.
3.5 MILLION people are rioting.
Read that again. THREE AND A HALF MILLION PEOPLE.
Why are they rioting? The government wants to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62.
So what happens? France burns. The people riot.
But That Can’t Happen Here, Can It?
Think again. This will happen here, no question about it. We have a massive base of people who feel the same kind of entitlement that the Europeans do. And think about it. Are we fundamentally different?
We are in far worse shape than Greece, France, Spain, Iceland, or any of the other countries that are seeing austerity riots this year.
The changes we’re going to have to make are far more than the two year increase of the retirement age that triggered millions of people to riot in France.
It’s not like it hasn’t happened here before. Just ask the Korean shopkeepers in Los Angeles. Or the folks in Seattle during the WTO riots.
It can happen here.
It will happen here.
Are you ready?