Paul Mason, the Economics Editor of the BBC’s Newsnight program, has a new book out. In it, he argues that the myriad forms of protest we’ve seen over the last year – the Arab Spring, the Occupy movement, student protests, protests against austerity budgets in Europe, are linked, part of a global revolution. Over at my Forbes blog, I’ve got a long review of the book.
The links are, according to Mason:
1. “the near collapse of free-market capitalism,” and in particular the opportunities it presents to the young;
2. rapid demographic growth creating a “youth bulge,” where young people come to represent a growing percentage of a country’s overall population, compounding and amplifying the impact of point 1;
3. growth in educational attainment, which Mason uses to argue that the young people sans opportunity are those who played by the rules and feel their economic loss more acutely as a result. He calls them “graduates with no future”;
4. “an upswing in technical innovation, a surge in desire for individual freedom and a change in human consciousness about what freedom means.” Technology and individualism, Mason says, allow protests to assume a networked structure than can overpower traditional hierarchies.
I’ve been skeptical of this argument since it first appeared on Mason’s blog a year ago.
The three core problems Mason identifies – youth unemployment, the youth demographic bulge, and the diminishing returns on education- are real ones. But in Mason’s account, they are depicted as three components of the same, global problem. That’s simply not accurate.
To learn exactly what’s wrong with Mason’s economic assumptions, and how a more rigorous look at the economic data undermines his argument, read the whole thing.