What's end of the line for austerity? We've gone through despair, desperation, and indifference. The latter feeds the first two, creating what Robert Reich calls "a tinderbox society," as "those collecting capital gains" demand austerity, resulting in "rising frustration over the inability of most people to get ahead. That frustration, Reich notes, is fanning the flames of public anger in Europe, fueling student revolts in Chile, and could plunge China into turmoil.
Where austerity goes, violence and unrest follow. The danger lies in the unpredictable nature of public anger, once ignited. When sparks fly, there's no telling where they catch fire or who will get burned.
It's a combustible concoction wherever it occurs: Increasing productivity, widening inequality, and rising unemployment create tinder-box societies.
Public anger and frustration can ignite in two very different ways. One is toward reforms that more broadly share the productivity gains.
The other is toward demagogues that turn people against one another.
To borrow a line from Bonnie Tyler's 1983 hit single, austerity means "we're living in a powder keg, and giving off sparks.
Except there is no more "we," anymore. As austerity-engineered scarcity makes day-to-day survival, people see their fates as divorced from one another. Solidarity gives way to detachment, an "everyone for him or herself" becomes the general , if you want to survive.
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