Saturday, August 06, 2005

Terrorism and Economics

Slate has a most interesting post about the connection between welfare and terrorism. See here.

It's true when you think about it. What's that old maxim? Idle hands make idle minds?

Imagine it: The English public may just be paying through their heavily taxed noses for all of those idle little hands and minds to take lessons in self-explosion, martyrdom and murder.

I don't mean to make light of this new scourge, but there seems there could be some link here. At the same time, there must be more to it, another ingredient in this explosive mix. After all, at least a couple of those latest four in London were not on welfare, quite the contrary. The pawns might be on the dole; but the masterminds are of a different ilk.

Stephen Schwartz's well-known book called The Two Faces of Islam explains that Islamist extremism is not so much the result of idleness, nor "a protest against poverty or injustice of even invasion and war" as it is "an expression of the frustration of rising elites." Perhaps he might more accurately call them "frustrated non-rising elites," i.e. persons who think of themselves as deserving to be members of an elite class but who have failed to achieve the status they crave through the normal and more competitive channels.

When you think of terrorists you think of swarthy Easterners. But what about Timothy McVeigh? What about John Walker Lindh, that trial-run combatant in swaddling clothes caught up in a search across the globe for a venue in which to spill out his own fervent frustrations? According to Mr. Schwartz, these two are simply more examples of frustrated elites. As he puts it:

"Animal rights activists and eco extremists are entirely a product of the American upper middle class. Lindh lived in Marin County, California ... the richest liberal county in the country. McVeigh was a classic example of the frustrated upwardly mobile working class."

Perhaps an oversimplification, but definitely something to think about. His book goes into greater detail. Also, see his website at


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