Fag-packet economics and its moral consequences

Francis Sedgemore, Friday 12 November 2010 at 14:45 UTC

It is perfectly acceptable to highlight the moral bankruptcy of the state, and remind people that the state is founded on organised violence, with its continued existence dependent on the threat of violence, as well as popular consent in the case of liberal democracies. But, whatever the state says or does, it is beholden on the righteous to act morally.

rioting-herbert-millbank

My friend the poet Katy Evans-Bush points to an article in the Guardian, in which the arts writer and Turner Prize jurist Jonathan Jones describes this week’s student riot on Millbank in London as reflecting Britain’s “Dionysian desires”. Beg pardon? What strikes me most about the widely published photos of rioters wrecking Millbank Tower, which houses the Conservative Party headquarters, is that in the vividly framed images you will see more media photographers than rioting herberts. Don’t get me wrong; rioting is a Great British Tradition, but somewhere along the line the Spectacle has warped into something altogether more narcissistic and egotistic.

It may be out of character for me, but, on watching television reports of the riot, I found myself sympathising with the overwhelmed police officers who had to deal with a few thousand adolescents intent on emulating their new Bullingdon Club political masters, and effectively wrecking the debate about student and university funding in England. The student activists’ actions and on-camera quotes were largely incoherent, and the riot was politically counterproductive, even if it succeeded in attracting the level of mass media attention that a more meek and mild National Union of Students rally might have failed to do. What’s worse, however, is the amorality of it all.

If the students are looking for support from me, then they can fuck right off. I’m also less than impressed with the UK government, with its fag-packet economics, and disregard of the proposals put forward by John Browne and others in their review of university funding. If august bodies such as the Institute for Fiscal Studies can declare codedly that the government’s figures are bullshit, then you know for sure that something is seriously awry.

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