Predicting Social Unrest

There was an interesting study covered in the MIT Technology Review connecting global food prices with riots in a number of developing countries. The correlation is very impressive and it is easy to interpret it as a simple cause and effect. These types of reports are invariably reported as such in the media.

In fact the research seems suggest something more subtle – that food prices create an environment where riots are more likely.

“These observations are consistent with a hypothesis that high global food prices are a precipitating condition for social unrest”

The ‘spark’ that lights the fire could be anything. In Tunisia it was a street vendor who set himself on fire but given the clustering of rioting it could simply be the reporting of a riot in a neighbouring country.

Apparently the world is due to enter another period of high food prices in August 2013 although I would have thought that in itself is very hard to predict given the number of variables involved.

Anyway the message for governments seems to be to believe at least half of the two thousand year old maxim – “Bread and circuses“. On that front I wonder if you overlaid international football tournaments on this whether you could confirm the other half…

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