A recent report “Austerity and Anarchy” is now getting a lot of attention. It examines whether there has between a link between budget cuts and social unrest over the past century (well, 1919-2009, so it’s not based on anything that has happened under this current Government, but interesting nonetheless.)
On page 5, for example, there’s a diagram showing the relationship between “fiscal adjustment episodes” and the number of incidents indicating instability, i.e. demonstrations, riots, strikes and assassinations; they also look at attempted revolutions elsewhere in the report. The authors then go on to demonstrate that causality runs from cutbacks to unrest rather than being a consequence of, say, just depressed economic conditions (except, interestingly, in the case of strikes.)
They also look at other forms of social unrest, for example peace demos or those inspired by ecological issues and find no correlation with budget measures. Other findings are that tax increases don’t have a similar effect to budget cuts, and countries which have greater availability of mass media relative to their neighbours do not experience a higher level of unrest. It will be interesting to see an update on this work in a couple of years’ time.