BBC News Magazine yesterday put forward some arguments to explain the riots across the cities in the UK. Among the theories to understand the causes of the riots, the concept of " welfare dependence" presented an interesting discussion.
Sir Max Hastings, in the Daily Mail, stated that the riots were the consequence of absolute freedom. He considered the looters as a "deadweight upon society" and noted the fact that there is "no code of values to dissuade them from behaving anti-socially or criminally" and that there was a "small chance of being punished if they do so".
Also in BBC News Magazine is the opinion of David Wilson, professor of Criminology at Birmingham City University, that it is not just about the underclass but permeates all levels of the society.
It would thus be clear that absolute freedom is the germ of the insecurity in a society. This incident recalls Machiavelli's idea from his famous work Discourses on Livy in the fifteenth century that "all men are bad, and that they always have to use the malignity of their spirit whenever they have a free opportunity for it" (Machiavelli, 1996). Machiavelli considers law as the foundation of citizens' liberty and he states that the best government would secure the rule of law and the common good (Viroli, 1998, p. 123).
Should the law be enhanced?
Back to the UK, Prime Minister David Cameron at Parliament yesterday stated that the police tactics had not been worked as there were "far too few police on the streets". Among a range of measures to help those being affected by the riots, Cameron suggested the followings:
- it is right to stop people communicating via social media when they are known to be plotting violence, disorder and criminality
- wider powers of curfew and dispersal orders were needed
- New powers should be given to police to order people to remove face-masks where criminality is suspected
- Courts should be given tougher sentencing powers
This means that the UK criminal law should be enhanced and made stricter.
I believe that while social institutions are necessary to educate citizens, laws based on the principles of justice ensure that all the components of the structure of a society would run well. These solutions would thus be appropriate.
Interestingly, this incident could be a reference for what is happening in Norway's judiciary in relation to the recent massacre.
Machiavelli, N. (1996). Discourses on Livy (H. C. Mansfield & N. Tarcov, Trans.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press