Theodore Dalrymple, one of the most thought-provoking and incisive commentators of our day on society, makes a very good point in City Journal about the social unrest currently sweeping through Greece as economic austerity measures take hold.
When the crowd tried to storm the Greek parliament, shouting, “Thieves! Thieves!,” its anger was misdirected. It was a classic case of what Freudians call projection: the attribution to others of one’s own faults. It is true that the Greek politicians are much to blame for the current situation, and no doubt many of them are thieves; but their real crime was not stealing, but offering a substantial proportion of the Greek population a standard of living that was economically unjustified, maintained for a time by borrowing, and in the long run unsustainable, in return for votes. The crime of that substantial proportion of the Greek population was to accept the bribe that the politicians offered; they were only too prepared to live well at someone else’s expense. The thieves were not principally the politicians, but the demonstrators.
Such popular dishonesty is by no means confined to Greece. In varying degrees, most countries in the West have displayed it, Britain above all. It is perhaps an inherent problem wherever the universal franchise is unaccompanied by widespread virtues such as honesty, self-control, providence, prudence, and self-respect. Greece is therefore a cradle not only of democracy, but of democratic corruption.
The Greek demonstrators did not understand, or did not want to understand, that if there were justice in the world, many people, including themselves, would be worse rather than better off, and that a reduction in their salaries and perquisites was not only economically necessary but just. They had never really earned their wages in the first place; politicians borrowed the money and then dispensed largesse, like monarchs throwing coins to the multitudes.
It is an obvious but often forgotten lesson of economics: what cannot continue will not continue.
There's more at the link.
In my opinion, Dr. Dalrymple is absolutely correct; and his arguments are applicable here as well. We have a huge welfare-dependent 'underclass' in the USA, many of whom have been out of work for so long they've stopped looking for more. Their monthly checks from the Government are all that's keeping them going; but the money for those checks is drying up fast. What will happen in US cities if the inner-city 'welfare junkies', for so long kept dependent upon government largesse by unscrupulous politicians, suddenly find themselves without money or food? Will they suffer the same riots that Greece has seen since its government imposed stringent austerity measures?
We may find out sooner rather than later, if current economic conditions continue.