The Blame Wall Street meme is back. A popular movement called Occupy Wall Street is attracting attention by protesting in and around the US financial district. In this editorial, I want to examine what the protest means in a larger context.
The impulse of the demonstration is surely correct insofar as it goes. Today's monetary system is likely creating a kind of globalist society verging on feudalism. But are the fingers pointing in the right direction? I'm not so sure. We've written about this in the past, here:
In fact, we've been waiting for this subdominant social theme to make progress for some four years now since the economic meltdown of early 2008. People are very angry, and it's handy to blame stockbrokers and bankers for what's gone wrong.
It's not entirely right, of course. Wall Street, or much of it, provides an essentially transactional function. It wouldn't exist as it does without the larger economic system of the Western world driven by central banking.
There are very large centers of money power in Wall Street such as Goldman Sachs; and Goldman Sachs is certainly an integral and purposeful part of the modern corporatist system. But even much of what Goldman Sachs does is essentially transactional. It's fundamentally a business, an intermediary, and its employees are paid (a lot, admittedly) to perform certain functions. The real control, I'd argue, lies elsewhere.
To get at the root of the problem, one should be protesting, say, in London's City where central banking originated. Or protesting in front of the Federal Reserve in Washington DC. These are real seats of power. But the shadowy and excessively powerful and wealthy individuals who have created the modern economic system are quite satisfied no doubt to have Wall Street take the blame. It suits their purposes.
In fact, the handful of powerful Anglosphere families that control central banking have done everything they can to focus the blame on the financial industry (the evil intermediary part) since 2008. The record is plain to see. Just Google "banks" and "regulation" and you'll get an idea of how pervasive the attack on the securities industry and commercial banking has been.
It started right after the economic crisis took hold and it continues even now. America's regulatory system has been restructured and so has Britain's and Europe's. And the reforms have given government more power than ever (and thus provided more leverage to the central-banking families that have a hold over Western governments). Everything that was wrong with the current system has been reinforced.
The results of this restructuring have been ever-more massive centralization of power by federal governments and unelected bureaucrats. The increased regulation perversely will only benefit the powers-that-be who thrive on regulatory capture. Regulation ALWAYS benefits the largest players at the expense of the smaller.
What we call the Internet Reformation – the era of the Internet – has provided a good deal more information on the way the world works. It's helped people understand why government doesn't work and why regulations are generally pernicious and usually encourage the very trends they are supposed to prevent.
But education only goes so far; and it's an ongoing process. In response, the Anglosphere power elite that we write about regularly has fought back. It's been trying to crank up the "blame Wall Street" theme for several years now. Finally, it's catching on.
During the Great Depression of the 1930s, Wall Street came in for a great deal of criticism and then was comprehensively regulated. Fast forward to 2011. Things are worse than ever. The centralization is worse, the corruption is worse – and the economic system (call it "capitalism") doesn't work any better than in the 1930s.
Regulation doesn't work at all. Regulating Wall Street doesn't work. Using the Leviathan (federal government) to tame the abuses of the securities industry only makes things worse. Giving unelected bureaucrats power over banks and the securities industry centralizes the corruption and guarantees more of the same in bigger amounts.
Unfortunately, Occupy Wall Street has taken a (predictably) anti-free market turn. It's apparently being hijacked by the modern Left, and the rhetoric of individuals involved increasingly mimics the socialist heyday of the early 20th Century.
On purpose, they are creating a straw man. Free markets don't really exist these days. Today's corporatist capitalism, fighting for life within the ambit of regulatory democracy, has little to do with vibrant entrepreneurialism or even allowing people a chance to control the monetary and fiscal levers that dominate their lives.
Recently, the BBC made more news than they expected interviewing trader Alessio Rastani who said he "dreamed" of a stock market crash and a depression because he would make a great deal of money. The interview caused a sensation because it seemed to confirm what people thought about "money men" generally, who were happy to thrive on other people's misery and pain. Boy, did he feed the meme!
And just yesterday, the United Steelworkers (USW) put out a press release supporting Occupy Wall Street's activities and goals. "The United Steelworkers (USW) union stands in solidarity with and strongly supports Occupy Wall Street," it begins. Here's some more:
The brave men and women, many of them young people without jobs, who have been demonstrating around-the-clock for nearly two weeks in New York City are speaking out for the many in our world. We are fed up with the corporate greed, corruption and arrogance that have inflicted pain on far too many for far too long. Our union has been standing up and fighting these captains of finance who promote Wall Street over Main Street.
We know firsthand the devastation caused by a global economy where workers, their families, the environment and our futures are sacrificed so that a privileged few can make more money on everyone's labor but their own.
Wall Street and its counterparts on Bay Street (Toronto), The City (London) and across the world tanked our economy in 2008. They caused a crisis that we're still suffering from – record job losses, home foreclosures, cuts to schools, public services, police, fire and so much more. They've gambled with our pension funds and our futures for far too long …
It's time to hold those who caused our economic crisis accountable, to ensure they don't get away with it again, and to demand that everyone pay their fair share … The USW is proud to join with the brothers and sisters of the Occupy Wall Street movement as we continue this important fight for a more just economy and a brighter tomorrow.
Notice the rhetoric. "Workers … are sacrificed so that a privileged few can make more money on everyone's labor but their own." This is a purely Marxist formulation. The problem, as has been amply analyzed by the alternative press, begins with central banking and the current practice of producing fiat money – printing money from nothing – which creates first booms and then devastating busts. Austrian economics is quite clear on this point and its descriptions correspond to reality, unlike those of Keynesian finance.
The press release blames Wall Street, Bay Street and The City for the financial crisis, but it's obvious that the USW is pointing the finger at those individuals who are involved in the transactional business of high finance, not those who run central banks or control the modern monetary system.
According to Wikipedia, the aim of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations is to begin "to draw attention to Wall Street's apparent misdeeds and call for structural economic reforms" especially as regards "wealth disparity."
If this is really the goal of Occupy Wall Street, then its organizers should move at least some of their protests to Washington DC and to the mile square City of London, for these areas contain the central banking mechanisms that cause the real damage.
It is too bad that the Occupy Wall Street movement seems to be obscuring the larger issues by apparently blaming the private (transactional) sector in entirety for what has occurred in the past few years. Perhaps I'm wrong, but this seems to be the case. And if it is, then the demonstrations are a step back rather than forward.