Students like to protest. Since they are usually on the receiving end of most decisions, it is natural that they react with the only means they can. In continuing with that tradition, university students in London protested the increase of nearly $10,000 in tuition this past week.
Unfortunately, like most other mass gatherings of students, it eventually became violent, with several hundred students storming the Conservative Party headquarters, smashing windows and setting a fire in the lobby.
This group of people represents a punitive amount of the thousands of peaceful protesters, but their violent actions are what the rest of the world sees. Their frustration was unexpected, and even the London police admit to being surprised by how massive the demonstration became.
Nevertheless, it has become clear to the U.K., and even the world, that the actions taken to meet the budget will be violently protested and may even cause societal upheaval.
Serious budget protests first occurred in France earlier this year when the retirement age was raised from 60 to 62. While thousands protested the law, many reluctantly agreed, in the end, that it was the best possible solution and admitted that a continuation of the norm was demographically impossible.
This is not so for England, where the new Conservative coalition has put together a set of cuts that were initially received rather smoothly by the public. The austerity of the measures were harsher than necessary, but set Britain on the track for financial balance sooner, and most Britons accepted that as a necessity.
All of this changed with the student protests. Britain is now bracing for more protests over tuition hikes and budget cuts, wondering if this protest was a violent preview of things to come. While Britain waits nervously, America should be taking notes of what happens, because a similar situation may occur not too far in our future.
Faced with a huge deficit and having sent a political message against raising taxes this midterm, America will soon have to make the same agonizing choices that Britain is now facing over what gets cut and how society will be able to cope with the outcome.
The most awkward part of this dilemma is that America cannot avoid this problem; eventually, someone will have to stand up and admit that we have to cut tremendous amounts of spending to get back on track.
When this political nightmare occurs, how will America react? Will there be massive student protests that are hijacked by militant anarchists and turn violent, like those just witnessed in London?
I hope not.
Despite their massive turnout against tuition increase, the students did not come out the victors of last weeks events because the message of the masses was distorted by the violent actions of a few.
The humiliation the Conservatives suffered at having their headquarters sacked by a horde of adolescents will make them more retaliatory, potentially steeling their resolve to push their measures through without compromise.
Congress would do well to observe this issue as it unfolds in England and learn from the mistakes, so as to avoid a similar quagmire in the future.Opp