The battle of London

They want you to keep paying for their education

“We want the MPs to hear our voices” said one student. When they listened what did they hear? “Fuck fees”, “Tory scum” and “My toilets’ Clegged”. It was difficult to discern anything worth listening to.

Efforts to get across whatever message we were supposed to be hearing went beyond a few moronic chants. Government buildings were attacked. Shops were looted. Students sought out TV cameras to pull faces in front of. The statue of Churchill was vandalized. Protestors swung from the flags on the Cenotaph. Price Charles and his wife were attacked on their way to a charity gala.

Much of the violent overspill around Oxford Circus was carried out by rioters released from the Police ‘kettle’ at Westminster. The Police should have kept them there. The trouble was not kettling but a lack of it. Indeed, attempts, yet again, to paint the student violence as a response to Police tactics were rather undermined by the students use of snooker balls and flares as weapons, neither readily available in Parliament Square.

This was simply an attempt by a violent mob to intimidate a democratically elected government into doing what it wanted. It was an assault on democracy.

The left is continually tying itself in knots. Presently we have the spectacle of so-called Anarchists fighting for greater government involvement in education. We have the same people who decry the toppling of the Allende government in Chile in 1973 as an attack on democracy supporting the same behaviour in the UK.

Indeed, one of the striking features of the history of mass civil disorder in the UK is just what a left wing phenomena it is. In the 1970’s the National Union of Mineworkers set out to reverse the decision of the British electorate and, successfully, topple the Conservative government of Edward Heath. In 1984 the NUM tried once again to reverse an election result it didn’t like. That attempt met with failure.

It has passed into left wing folklore that smashing up shops round Trafalgar Square in 1990 brought down Margaret Thatcher. It didn’t. The riots happened in March and Thatcher departed in November with some surprisingly good local election results for the Conservatives in between. It was Howe and Lawson who brought down Thatcher and they did it over Europe, not the Poll Tax.

But even if we accept this interpretation of history think what it means. That if you don’t like the actions of a democratic government violence is an acceptable resort. If that is what you think then congratulations, pull up a stool next to General Pinochet and the 7/7 bombers in the Anti Democracy Arms for that is exactly what they thought.

It is because they are such bad losers that elements of the left are so anti democratic. For democracy to work participants must be committed to it even when it produces outcomes we might not like. This is what stops elections in the UK being merely triggers for civil disorder as they have been recently in Guinea. Everyone is a democrat when they win, it’s what you do when you lose that matters.

The likes of Ed Miliband will reply that the Lib Dems have subverted democracy by ditching their pre election pledge. But in a representative democracy such as ours the Lib Dem MPs are well within their rights to do this. If anything this ought to lend strength to the argument that markets (where exchanges are mutually beneficial or they don’t take place at all) are a superior method of resource allocation than politics (where exchanges are zero sum). This leads to the obvious conclusion that a smaller role for government in this allocative process would be optimal. Sadly we are still waiting for the left to join these two rather proximate dots.

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