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Curtis: What societal problems have the London riots exposed?

By: /
14 August, 2011
By: John Curtis
Adjunct Professor at Queen's University and Chair of Statistics Canada's Advisory Committee on International Trade Statistics

The London and now more widespread riots in England have displayed a major problem in the western world over the past thirty years or so…the slow disappearance of low-skill jobs in our society resulting in no hope for those in that category, declining relative income (however defined) compared to others in the society in which they live, fewer social programs for training, less expenditure on public goods (parks, schools, security, etc.), and in the British context a lingering social stratification which further constrains prospects of upward mobility even in the best of circumstances.

Desperate people do desperate things; the herd instinct for humans is still alive and well—social groupings can easily get out-of-control, especially with the social media able to provide information and focus—behavioural practices generally accepted in our society count for very little in these circumstances.

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