Did Spending Cuts Cause the UK Riots?

Here’s a letter I recently sent to The New York Times:

TO THE EDITOR:

 Richard Sennett and Saskia Sassen worry in their August 11 op-ed that government spending cuts may be causing the UK riots. They also hint at what that could imply for the U.S.

A problem with their argument is that government spending in the UK has gone up sharply over the last decade. Government spending there is currently about 45 percent of GDP. In 2000, it was only 34 percent. There were no riots then.

A similar story has played out in America. When President Clinton left office, federal spending was 18 percent of GDP. Now it is 24 percent.

If spending cuts cause riots, then we should have nothing to worry about. The fact that we do means something else must be behind the looting.

RYAN YOUNG
Washington, D.C. Aug. 11, 2011
The writer is a fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

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