Obama in explaining terrorism recently said, ““We have to address grievances terrorists exploit, including economic grievances.”
And in explaining the Boston riots, he said much the same thing, i.e., “if we think that we’re just going to send the police to do the dirty work of containing the problems that arise there without as a nation and as a society saying what can we do to change those communities, to help lift up those communities and give those kids opportunity, then we’re not going to solve this problem.”
This is basic Marxism; economic conditions are the cause of beliefs, actions, and interests.
But is it right? After all, we don’t see far poorer Chinese immigrants or Appalachian whites rioting like this in times of disorder or committing crime on the same scale in general. And, we saw among the 9/11 Hijackers, quite a few who had advanced degrees, middle class backgrounds, and extended playtime in advanced societies like Germany and the United States.
This Marxist model is a bad predictor of future events, and thus a wobbly theory of how the world works. It has some merit–people’s material circumstances often do affect their views–but it’s often wrong and incomplete. It ignores other aspects of identity and alienation, and, worst of all, it lacks appropriate moral judgment of immoral behavior.
Like the old 60s view of common criminals that “society made him do it,” it’s a discredited, feel-good narrative and, in many instances, easily disproven. But, like most popular views on the “progressive left,” whether global warming or Keynesian economics, it requires massive government acquisition of wealth and power, followed by redistribution administered by people who think this way. Results are completely secondary; indeed, every failure is followed by calls to “redouble our efforts.”