While some of the arguments being deployed in Europe in support of the current protests have merit, I have to laugh when I witness such vociferous opposition to the public sector cuts that governments are now being forced to implement. There is no question that the cuts are needed and that they have to be deep: Western governments have grown bloated and voracious for taxpayers' money, to the point where they have been living beyond their (stolen) means. There is no question either that the cuts will be painful for everyone. Nor is there any question that those who will experience the resulting hardship were not the ones who bailed out the banks or squandered the public purse on unaffordable, unfunded vote-catching programmes.
But this does not mean that those brandishing plackards and shouting out slogans in the streets today are free from blame. They voted for the political parties now in government, and they also voted for their predecessors, who are equally to blame for the financial quagmire that we are currently in. Take, for example, the case of Spain, where, despite universal contempt for the useless Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, the incumbent Socialist party won the last election after public sector employees knowingly allowed themselves the be bribed by the Socialists with a €400 payout. That money, and more, is now being taken away, as is often the case with government handouts. Those who voted for Zapatero have no right to complain now: they deserve him and any penury caused by his criminal government.
Very much the same can be said elsewhere.
Also noteworthy is the fact that the general citizenry is just as guilty of having engaged in exactly same practice it now condemns governments for having indulged in: profligate spending and living beyond available means. According to a report presented at the Davos World Economic Forum by the McKinsey Global Institute earlier this year, the ratio of private debt to GDP in the United Kingdom -- the worst offender, incidentally -- grew by 102 per cent between 2000 and 2008, by which time household debt as debt to income ratio was already 160.
Therefore, while I am eagerly awaiting the moment when the current political establishment in Europe (and North America) is swept out of power and purged from the system, let us not ignore that the public that tolerated, financed, and kept that establishment in power needs first to accept its part of the blame. This is a pre-requisite for fundamental change.
Absent some much-needed soul-searching, no effective action will be taken (protests notwithstanding), and all we will end up with is yet more of the same.