Be Careful What You Wish For: three thoughts on rioting students…

Like lots of other people, I have been thinking a lot about riotous students.

I have three main thoughts.

Firstly, why is this such big news? I can’t help thinking that, frankly, today’s students are doing exactly what students are meant to do. Students should be expected to react like this: if you cannot protest when you’re a student, when can you? Indeed, it is their job to protest! They do it for the rest of us – and that challenge is vital. Youth need to hold us to account.

This is not to condone riotous behaviour – but really, they’re just doing their job.

I was a teenager in the 1970s. I remember watching young people rioting in London – protesting against the American war in Vietnam, protesting against racist political parties and the economic hardship brought about by unemployment.

The surprise is that students lost the habit of rioting in the late 1980s and 1990s. Maybe those students – parents of the people who have been taking to the streets recently – forgot how, too eager instead to enjoy economic prosperity.

The kind of prosperity which their riotous offspring are unlikely to enjoy.

Second, they are right to be angry. Their parents’ and parents’ parents’ generations have spent all the money, mismanaged the environment and generally had a great time leaving future generations – most obviously today’s students – to pick up the bill. And we’re not giving them a choice. David Cameron may be repeating “we’re in this together” until someone believes him, but we’re not. The middle aged and elderly will be long gone when today’s students are still paying off our bills. No one should be surprised that they are angry. They should be angrier.

Third, for decades politicians have been lamenting the political apathy displayed by young people. Well, be careful what you wish for. At last, the young are reacting to their situation and taking an interest.


2 thoughts on “Be Careful What You Wish For: three thoughts on rioting students…

  1. Dan Sutton

    I’m not sure it is the case that students will not enjoy the same levels of prosperity as their parents.

    GDP is approximately 46% higher in Q1 2010 than it was in Q1 1990 when the parents of the current cohort of students would have been at Uni. (This is comparing post recession 2010 with pre recession 1990)

    Assuming growth of 1.2% for the next twenty years; half of trend, GDP will be some 27% higher in 2030 than it was in 2010. By the time current students are 40 the economy should be twice the size of the economy that paid for their parents University education. This is relevant because students today are taking on long dated debt.

    There might be some issues with income distribution but I think you are more likely to maintain your % take of the UK’s GDP if you have an university education than if have not.

    1. patrickhadfield Post author

      I’m not sure that GDP is the best measure. House prices have, I believe, increased far more. Pensions will be worth far less. And so on…


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