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Published: Wednesday, 8/10/2011

Britain's unrest

The disorder in the United Kingdom appears to be more than just summer "wilding," but rather a troubling reflection of deeper societal problems.

Since Saturday, a wave of rioting, looting, and arson has rolled through London. It has exceeded the ability of authorities to bring it under control, even with 16,000 police officers on the streets. Prime Minister David Cameron summoned Parliament to meet tomorrow to discuss the crisis.

London, including some middle-class areas, has been the scene of most of the trouble. Birmingham, Bristol, and Liverpool also had riots.

Such disorder occurs periodically in British and other European cities in the summer. But some analysts cite Mr. Cameron's austerity measures as a cause.

These rollbacks have fallen hardest on the United Kingdom's disadvantaged classes, which include the youth gangs that are doing the damage. They have no stake in the British status quo, which has a wide gap between rich and poor, a 7.7 percent unemployment rate, and few prospects for an economic turnaround.

Respect for British law enforcement also is at a low ebb, after charges that some police took bribes from journalists led to the resignation of several top Metropolitan Police officials.

Whatever the causes of the violence, British leaders must quell the disorder and figure out how to keep it that way before they host the summer Olympics next year.

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