When London stopped burning, the political debate about the causes of
unrestbegan to heat up. At one end of the spectrum, Ken Livingstone blamed the
government's cutbacksat the other, David Cameron attributed the unrest to
criminal behaviour, pure and simple. Many of the cuts announced by the
coalitiongovernment haven't been implementedyet; but it is also true that there
is real deprivationin many parts of London, and local services have been cut in
some areas already. So, where do sudden conflagrations such as those in London
last week come from?
heat up （话题）升温
pure and simple 十足的；完全的
implement v. 实施；执行
conflagration n. 冲突；大火
A constructive way to approach such a complex question is to distinguish
between the incidents that touch off unrest, and the underlyingcauses that make
it more likely. When a petrol station burns down, you don't just want to know
who dropped the cigarette; you want to know why all the combustiblefumesescaped.
Social unrest and instability is typically difficult to explain. In most years,
nothing happens; then, suddenly, violence erupts. Academics have tried to
understand which factors are involved in creating explosive social environments.
According to work on US race riots by the economist Ed Glaeser, for example,
ethnic heterogeneityin a neighbourhood increases the probability of unrest. So
does unemployment. Poverty, on the other hand, seems to play a smaller role.
touch off 触发；引起
underlying adj. 潜在的；根本的
erupt v. 爆发；喷发
race riot 种族暴乱；种族冲突
In a recent study, we focused on the link between austeritymeasures and
unrest. We analysed a large number of countries, over almost a century, to
unearth some empiricalregularities. In two studies, we analysed unrest in 28
European countries from 1919 to 2009, and in 11 Latin American countries since
1937. What we found is a clear and positive statistical association between
expenditure cuts and the level of unrest.
austerity n. 紧缩
unearth v. 揭露；发掘
empirical regularity 经验规律性
expenditure cuts 支出削减
To construct our measure of unrest, we looked at five indicators: riots,
anti-government demonstrations, general strikes, political assassinations, and
attempted revolutions. In a typical year and country, there are about 1.5
incidents of this type. The more you cut, the more incidents you get. By the
time austerity measures hit 3% or more, the number of incidents has doubled.
Interestingly, for the UK, the pattern is even stronger: for every percentage
point of cut-backs, instability surges by more than it does on average in the
rest of the countries. Importantly, these effects are in addition to the
well-known relationship between lower growth (associated with more unemployment)
and higher instability.
anti-government demonstration 反政府游行
general strike 大型罢工
political assassination 政治暗杀
attempted revolution 未遂革命
in addition to 除……之外
While the pattern holds throughout our sample, the relationship is not
deterministic– the chance of unrest goes up as governments retrench, but it is
not guaranteed. Many incidents, such as police brutality, as in the case of
Rodney King in LA, or the killing of Mark Duggan in London, can provide the
spark that leads to a conflagration. One reason why times of austerity could
create the right environment for massive unrest is, in our view, that cut-backs
usually hit some parts of the society disproportionatelymore than others.
go up 增长；上升
retrench v. 减少；减缩开支
police brutality 警察暴力
Interestingly, tax increases do not have the same effect. While they are
also associated with greater instability, the effect is small, and the link
weak. This suggests that governments wanting to retrench, but worried about
social instability, should consider tax increases, first and foremost.
be associated with 与……有联系
social instability 社会动荡
first and foremost 首先；首要的是
These findings cast doubts on established wisdom. Until the sovereign debt
crisis of 2010, the consensusamong economists was unambiguous – expenditure cuts
can be growth-enhancing. Also, there was a widely accepted view that there is no
penaltyat the ballotbox for cuts. Governments that implement huge austerity
programmes are just as likely to win as the ones doing nothing. While recent
research by the IMF casts some doubt on the economic benefits, our results
question the political economy side of the story – cuts may not
imperilre-election, but they create the risk of major social and political
sovereign debt crisis 主权债务危机
unambiguous adj. 不含糊的；清楚的
imperil v. 危及；使陷入危险
Nobody knows where and when social unrest is going to happen again, nor the
scale it will take. However, history suggests we should not underestimate the
consequences of social chaos. Germans to the present day remember Heinrich
Brning, known as the "hunger chancellor", who led the country from 1929 to 1932.
He presided over an unprecedented austerity programme. At the same time, the
Weimar Republic, Germany's first attempt at democracy, disintegrated amid a wave
of social unrest and political violence.
to the present day 到目前
preside over 主持；负责