It was just a thought. But it had a powerful appeal, powerful enough to spread from Seattle to Gothenburg and Genoa, to lead to demonstrations & bloody protests, and to become a new movement that apparently labels itself as anti-capitalist.
The anger this time is against Wall Street and the quite obvious reason is the overstretched and persistent US economic crisis. As they see the situation, it’s all an offshoot of corporate greed. Corporations have, in a sense, infiltrated their way into the government and the way it makes policy. They were given undue advantages, including the legal means that were provided to the companies and their shareholders, but not to the consumers. But the question is – why has the whole of US suddenly risen to the anti-capitalism movement?
Well, consider this. The 400 richest families in the US now hold as much wealth as the bottom 50% combined & 1% of the people control 40% of the wealth. Since 2009, 88% of the income growth went to corporate profits and 1% went to wages. During this period, the US government bailed out banks and big corporate houses with huge amounts of ‘public money’ to boost growth and create jobs, but unemployment constantly remained at historic highs. For that matter, till September, it was still at 9.1% with little hopes of easing in the near future.
This is where the thoughts of the two German Economists Hayek and Mises comes into mind. In 1944, they wrote, “In the eyes of the public, not anti-capitalistic policies, but capitalism is the root cause of economic depression, unemployment, inflation and rising prices, of monopoly and of waste, of social unrest and of war.” Those who learned from this, did well. What can be a better example than Germany itself (one of the few countries in the world that has learned the lesson this century and has restrained spending), which is not only among the strongest remaining economies at present, but also, in a way, has become the growth (& hope) engine of the crisis-struck EU zone.
Moreover, policies that create a non-transparent wall between capitalists and the public add to the woes. For example, a promoter employee of a company gets both dividends and remuneration from a company. While the salary saves him in the bad days, he gets a double benefit in the good days. But what about a normal shareholder in the days of loss, when the stock prices don’t even offer positive returns under market pressure? Small disillusionments like this finally add up to bigger movements like the anti-capitalism movement we see today. And their incidence is all the more likely in a prolonged period of recession, joblessness, bankruptcy and high prices such as the one that is currently on in US.
A logical way out would be to become transparent. For example, all discussions and debates that take place before enactment of a law must come to the public domain and people should be given sufficient time to react to it & to express their concerns. This is even more important when it is about serious policy measures like bailing out the private sector on public money and then seeing them distributing hefty bonus packages in the board room, while continuing job cuts on the ground.
It’s not only about the US. Nations across the globe must understand the very fact that if a movement that started in Egypt can go on to rock half a dozen nations, and bring about the end of a powerful dictator like Muamar Gaddafi, the furore over the anti-capitalism ideology has the potential to spread really wider and a lot faster.
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