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23 August 2011

Top City broker says consumerism and materialism are to blame for the riots

An intriguing new report from an unlikely source.

By Mehdi Hasan

You might expect the Labour left or the trade union movement or the Greens to blame the recent riots on an “out-of-control consumerist ethos” — but how about one of the largest inter-dealer money brokers in the world?

From today’s Guardian:

The recent riots in London and other big cities were the product of an “out-of-control consumerist ethos” which will have profound impacts for the UK economy, a leading City broker has said.

The report by the global head of research at Tullett Prebon, Tim Morgan, is part of a series in which the brokerage analyses bigger issues for the UK. It details recommendations to resolve what it sees as a political and economic malaise: new role models, policies to encourage savings, the channelling of private investment into creating rather than inflating assets and greater public investment.

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It warns: “We conclude that the rioting reflects a deeply flawed economic and social ethos . . . recklessly borrowed consumption, the breakdown both of top-end accountability and of trust in institutions, and severe failings by governments over more than two decades.”

The note pinpoints the philosophy behind the riots as consumerism.

A typical internet user sees a hundred adverts an hour, the report says, and the underlying message many receive is: “Here’s the ideal. You can’t have it.” Accompanying this is an inflation of government and private debt, a key theme of Morgan’s other work.

“The economy has been subjected to repeated ‘boom and bust’ cycles, above all in property. The overall pattern has been that an over-consuming west has borrowed and spent the surpluses of the increasingly productive and under-consuming east.

“The dominant ethos of ‘I buy, therefore I am’ needs to be challenged by a shift of emphasis from material to non-material values. David Cameron’s ‘big society’ project may contribute to the inculcation of more socially-oriented values but much more will need to be done to challenge the out-of-control consumerist ethos.”