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Thoughts upon this Remembrance Sunday.

Would someone like to tell me what the difference is between the military ‘stepping in for the good of the country’ and the bankers doing so? Don’t the generals always say it is a temporary emergency measure designed to restore order? Isn’t there usually some sort of window dressing, ‘government of national unity’ which forms like a scab over the wound in democracy?

It seems to me that the main difference is that we recognize the military junta as a danger to civil society, the rule of law and democracy. We recognize that the generals taking over is a sign of the fragility of a paper thin, 3rd-world democracy. We expect it in Pakistan. And can vaguely remember it as having happened in Greece. But can you even imagine the generals stepping in ‘for the good of the country’ or ‘to maintain stability’ here? Can you formulate in your mind the state which would be sufficient for you to imagine it happening and for you to allow it to happen? Can you? I cannot.

And yet in Europe, in countries we either live in, or have visited it is happening. We do not see the bankers and their puppets for what they are – a financial junta.  We seem unsure. Like an immune system presented with a virus it does not recognize, no danger is detected, none of the defences are roused. The virus has free reign to hijack all the mechanisms of the body to suit itself.

The virus of debt is reproducing. It has infected us, our political system, our regulatory systems, even our politics and courts seem now more concerned to protect the wealth of debt than the right of the people to decide for themselves, to govern themselves, to determine their future for themselves. All the organs of our state have been perverted.

What is a ‘technocratic government’? On radio and television and in print this phrase is suddenly being used as if we all know what it means. But do we?  What Greece and Italy had before, whatever you think of those governments, they were just that  – governments. Let us leave to one side that they were the governments which oversaw and colluded in the erosion of the very democratic system that underpinned them.  However feeble and corrupted, they were still, though only just, democratically elected, with a mandate from the people.

Now Greece and Italy are to have ‘technocratic governments’. In Greece’s case one specifically forced upon them, by politicians who had already lost what little mandate they had from the people, and by foreign bureaucrats who never had any mandate from the Greece people ever. And it was quite clearly and openly done in a great and determined hurry, precisely in order to negate the ‘threat’, that the people of Greece might exercise their direct and truely democratic right to self determination.

So now we are entering a whole new era in European history, the era of ‘Technocratic Government’. Why the extra word? Is it there to make it sound ‘expert’. Has someone decided that the political form for which countless young men and women laid down their lives, and many more died defending, is now no longer wanted or up to the job? If so who?  Not me. I was never asked. The Greeks were decisively refused any chance of having any say at all. Instead the rump of an utterly contemptible, corrupt and craven political generation have surrendered our democracy without so much as a murmur.

My grandfather went to fight in Europe and stood for hours in the shallow killing grounds of Dunkirk against impossible odds. There the threat was to fall under the heel of totalitarian oppression and occupation. Then, the odds seemed impossible. But my grandfather and millions like him stood up and ignored the threats and the council of cowards who said we should sue for peace at any cost. Today our leaders are surrendering our freedom and our democracy on nothing more than the threat that the ATM machines might not work and their pensions might lose money.

The Technocratic governments, we are told, will be temporary. Just a steady expert hand till the financial crisis is over. But how temporary will they really be? How temporary will the cuts they are making actually be? Will the experts retire and return their power with grace in a year, or two, or three, or longer? Or will they get used to the kind of smooth technocratic, expert decision making that suits ‘the markets’ and benefits people, like them, whose wealth is invested in those self same markets,? How long till they come to think it irresponsible folly, in such a technological and complex global world, to return to ‘the bad old days’ of the rule of the ‘uneducated mob’?

What we allow to be dismantled or diverted now, will not return. Power will carve itself new channels through which to flow. The old bed, the old landscape will be gone. What we give away now we will not get back.

The pundits talk of a two tier Europe. They imagine some sort of inner group of nations still inside something like a smaller EU with the rest in some liminal half way house neither outside nor quite inside either. Perhaps ‘in’ the EU but not using the Euro. No one is clear about what a two tier Europe would be like or even if it could work at all. But I would say one thing is already coming in to being, a two tier politics. Those inside who still have democracy, still have the right to self determination, and those who do not. The elite, those inside, will be allowed to vote and decide for themselves. Those outside will now be ruled over by technocrats. There will be no voting other than to decide between this group of technocrats and that. Any attempt to vote on anything more fundamental, such as choosing neither group or neither of their versions of the same plan – that sort of voting has already been deemed too dangerous and is no longer allowed in ‘the periphery’. Those on the outside have been deemed to have fallen too far short short of the required Protestant Work Ethic to be considered worthy and are not to be ‘saved’ except from their own follies and weakness. They are to be spoken of and treated as colonial masters always  speak of and treat the restive, child-like, ignorant and feckless natives.

Tell me what the difference is, between the modern ‘technocrat’ and the colonial governor and his ‘expert’ administrators? Is there one?

Once upon a time in Europe there were those who had the right to vote and those too poor, too ignorant to be allowed. It was the era of the Debtor’s Prison and the Poor House. The wealthy said of the poor, “Since we have to carry the poor, care for them in Poor Houses when they have fallen, provide the wealth to build the factories which give the poor their work, it is only right that we and we alone should vote how our wealth is spent. By what right do the poor feel they should have a say in telling us, those who provide the wealth, how our wealth should be spent?”  How different is that argument to that I have heard used about the Greek people.

We are entering a new historical era in Europe. And perhaps in the world. The era of the Techocrats. Democracy is now no more than it was under the Ceasars. When Senates were the outer ramparts of a system of privaledge in which the scions of the leading families jockied for patronage and power. The American Congress is already little more than this. Europe and its structures of power are little if any better.

We face a new tyranny. A tyranny in suits. A tyranny of technocrats and experts who, in the name of doing ‘what must be done to save the system’, are actually doing no more than all those like them have done throughout history, defend the structures that empower them.

But should it ever become commonly accepted that this technocracy is tyranny, then a dangerous new phase begins. For there is nothing to protect the tyrant save naked power. Jurists, as far back as Cicero in ancient Rome, to St Augustine, to Emmanuel De Sâ in the Middle Ages, forward again to those who condoned the killings of Tyrants in the modern age, all agree on one thing: The one exception to the Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill”, is the killing of a Tyrant. When once a leader or a ruling class resorts to tyranny and is branded as Tyrant, then there is no law at all which protects them. No injunction which stays the hand of justice or stands between them and a bloody end.

That we should even contemplate such things after our societiy had shed so much blood in order to leave such barbarity behind is a catastrophic failure of the imagination of the people of this continent. It is our shame and will haunt us to our graves if we let it happen.


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87 Responses to Thoughts upon this Remembrance Sunday.

  1. Roger Lewis November 13, 2011 at 7:52 pm #

    David You are right. I’m afraid I have already resigned myself to Taking up my sword to slay this particular dragon as are so many others the parallels to the rise of Fascism in the 30’s are so alarming the battle ground not Spain this time but Greece.
    The 30th Of November could herald a general strike if we are lucky but as Guido has been saying for so long it looks like war and Iran is in terrible peril just now. The alternative to World war is I think Civil War, without revolution I think we will be all slaving under the Yoke of the Corporate Banking Fascists. I hope we can turn the 30th into something big and not to be ignored I am making the trip over from Sweden. Did you see the Portugese military were protesting the austerity there the generals would be a better bet in the UK right now than the murderous bankers they have more blood on their hands than most armies I think.

  2. Fitzy103 November 13, 2011 at 8:32 pm #

    HI David,

    I agree with you – it’s disgraceful what’s going on.

    Part of the problem we have is that China has done so well over the course of the last 20 years. As they have no democracy, it’s easier for them to make the tough decisions ‘for the benefit of all’. If a dam needs built that means a city gets destroyed, they can do it, or if they need a high speed rail link to pass through a village that has been there for 1000 years, so be it.

    I’m not saying it is right, but it is a competitive advantage (if you view society’s sole purpose commercial growth). I feel that the politburo at the heart of Brussels have wanted this situation for some time.

    Didn’t work for the USSR though…

    • backwardsevolution November 14, 2011 at 8:12 pm #

      It didn’t work for the USSR because the United States bankrupt them. The States kept upping the Cold War, eventually bankrupting USSR.

      20% of China belongs to the Communist Party (I thought it was all people, but apparently not). These are the people who have benefited from the printing of money, who have made all of the wealth, who have bought the condos in Shanghai. 50% of all exports out of China are from U.S. corporations residing and doing business in China. 50%!!! Without direct U.S. participation, China would not have been. It’s nothing but an offshore U.S. factory.

      I agree with you, TPTB do not want messy elections and a crying electorate getting in the way of “growth,” and they certainly don’t want anyone telling them that the game they set up – the debt game – is going to end with the elite going down.

  3. Neil (the original one) November 13, 2011 at 8:58 pm #


    Republican hopefuls would go to war with Iran

    (In addition to leading candidate Mitt Romney) “The former Massachusetts governor’s pledge was echoed by Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, who over the weekend rose to second place in some national opinion polls.

    “You have to take whatever steps are necessary to break its capacity to have a nuclear weapon,” said Mr Gingrich, who also proposed covert actions such as “taking out their scientists,” to applause. Rick Santorum, a former Senator for Pennsylvania, said the US should support an Israeli intervention.”


    US should be allowed to waterboard terror suspects, Republican candidates claim

    “American forces should be allowed to resume waterboarding terrorist suspects, according to Republican presidential hopefuls Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann.”


    “Eurozone bail-out fund has to resort to buying its own debt
    Europe’s €1 trillion (£854bn) rescue fund has been forced to buy its own debt as outside investors become increasingly concerned about the worsening eurozone sovereign debt crisis.

    “The European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) last week announced it had successfully sold a €3bn 10-year bond in support of Ireland.

    “However, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal that target was only met after the EFSF resorted to buying up several hundred million euros worth of the bonds. ”


    Ambrose Evans-Pritchard:

    “The great euro Putsch rolls on as two democracies fall

    Europe’s scorched-earth policies have begun in earnest. The inherent flaws of monetary union have created a crisis of such gravity that EU leaders now feel authorized to topple two elected governments.”
    Europe’s president Herman Van Rompuy swooped in to Rome to clinch the Putsch. “Italy needs reforms not elections,” he said.

    “We are not that far from use of EU judicial coercion, and then EU police power, and ultimately EU “border troops” – for those old enough to remember Soviet methods of fraternal assistance. ”


    • Golem XIV November 13, 2011 at 10:00 pm #

      Reforms not elections – the slogan of the ‘new freedom’.

      • backwardsevolution November 14, 2011 at 8:13 pm #

        Yes, elections are too dangerous for TPTB.

    • Neil (the original one) November 13, 2011 at 10:57 pm #

      To avoid any misunderstanding, that last sentence (“We are nor far from…”) is Evans-Pritchard, not Van Rompuy…

  4. Kenny boy November 13, 2011 at 10:33 pm #

    Full suffrage in the UK was only granted in 1928. The way things are heading it will be seen historically as an abberation,a short term experiment that failed.

  5. Joe R November 14, 2011 at 1:20 am #

    I’m responding to your opening point David and I’m gonna start off by saying I’m sitting in a country that had a junta until 1974. The IMF were in here in 1998 after a sweeping market crisis engulfed the country and shut it out of bond markets.

    My answer to the difference between generals ( and juntas ) and bankers and their proxies is that a good number of people die under juntas from bullets to the back of the head.

    People don’t die from the IMF interventions ( or similar by or on behalf of the financial class ) – at least not directly. If you want a rundown of the damage the IMF/debt penuary does try ‘The Shock Doctrine’ ( N.Klein ) or ‘Globalization and its Discontents’ ( J.Stiglitz ).

    Here the PT ( Partido Trabalhista or Workers Party and very left wing ) have had control of the country since 2002. Lula da Silva the ex-president was a metal worker who went to school sporadically to the age of 14 and was from from an illiterate, large and desperately poor northwestern family who migrated to Sao Paulo state and lifted themselves out of abject poverty here though sheer hard grind, a very common story here.

    And now the country being run well enough it appears to me at least. The IMF debts are long gone.The poor are getting richer healthcare is improving fast and there is a lot of investment in critical basic infrastructure.I travel everyday on a spanking new driverless metro line. You know like the trains you see in airports – except its a whole metro line contecting train/metro lines with millions of passengers a day.

    Here everybody has to vote – democracy is an obligation not an option. Dilma, the current president, is on TV a couple of times a week here in direct speeches to viewers keeping the people updated on what the government are up to. Thats 200 million people.She dosen’t like inflation and see talks a lot about health for the poorest in society as the most basic thing the state can and must give to them. She appears to be delivering and theres a lot of poor people.

    Personally I’d like to see any EU leader come on and explain the huge endless bailouts on a weekly basis on their national TV and not be able to hide behind layers of spokes people, allied print media, spin and lies – that would be a good laugh wouldn’t it?

    • Roger Lewis November 14, 2011 at 8:41 am #

      Are there many Juntas in the post second world period that have not been clients of the CIA or other foreign Intelligence services?The Debt Money Fiat Currency fifth column is the governments and their ceding of the currency creation to private banks with a monopoly over the supply of money. The IMF and the world bank go in and finish off the job of the CIA’s de stabalisation campaigns ensuring that alternatives to the great evil of a Fascis money supply are not allowed to be seen to be both workable and rather more egalitarian than what we are told is the great success of free market capitalism.


      • Joe R November 15, 2011 at 10:56 pm #

        The British pound is fiat money, as is all legalised tender. What of it?

        It seems to me that you wish to tar many things with the just the one brush here Roger.

        Has Wales or Britain ever suffered under a junta? Will we see the current or a future British government first abduct, then torture, then bind the hands of objectors like the people camped at St.Pauls before putting them into a hercules transport and flying out to sea chucking them in, with weights attached, like was done in Argentina at a rate of 4,000 a year not so long ago?


        There are real and quite considerable differences between violent persecution under martial law and the damage that will be done by this financial coup.I think its adviseable to bare that in mind.

  6. spiny November 14, 2011 at 1:28 am #

    Mario Monti is being described as a technocrat. The technocracy movement was quite big in America in the early thirties. From wikipedia; ‘Technocracy advocates contend that price system based forms of government and economy are structurally incapable of effective action, and promoted a more rational and productive type of society headed by technical experts. The coming of the Great Depression created an opening for some of these radical ideas of social engineering. By late 1932, various groups across the United States were calling themselves “technocrats” and proposing reforms.

    By the mid-1930s, interest in the technocracy movement was declining. Most historians have attributed the demise of the technocracy movement to the rise of Roosevelt’s New Deal, a more democratic method of accomplishing the planning and economic reconstruction that the technocrats had called for. The authoritarian, elitist, and even fascist overtones of the technocracy movement undermined its popular appeal as a political movement.’

  7. Patrick Donnelly November 14, 2011 at 5:56 am #

    You are completely wrong. The disease is cheap credit!

    Tyrants is exactly what they are and the emergency is real.

    The disease is cheap credit!

    The cure is consolidation. The fake economy that the old system, consisting of politicians who actually conspired with bankers to force feed the economy, is gone as the illusion of money is gone.

    The disease is cheap credit!

    States have had capital pumped in and disguised as revenue and taxable. That has stopped. No fat tax yields now. Entire industries will disappear as the flow of money has stopped. No jobs, dole goes up.

    What politician will solve this? Only a tyrant. That is what they are for. Austerity is a hangover from drunken profligacy!

    The disease is cheap credit!

  8. Patrick Donnelly November 14, 2011 at 5:59 am #

    The bankers were the evil ones, the tyrant merely rectifies the damage!

  9. guido November 14, 2011 at 6:46 am #

    We are already in a new historical era Golem. We are not entering it now. If a time must be set for when we actually entered this new era, then it must be the signing of the Lisbon treaty.

    The Lisbon Treaty was the single gretest piece of Fascist legislation that has been “accepted” by the public since the 20s. In short order the LT gave birth to a political body that despite being unelected has nonetheless great executive powers.

    But the signs of the rise of this new Fascist era were numerous and frequent. A small sample of only the most recent glaring aberrations I’ve been able to pick-up on includes:

    – Starwood Capital then CEO Barry Sternlicht who in January 2009 in Davos during a Bloomberg interview on the financial crisis said: “If atonement is difficult, retribution may prove brutally difficult. Everyone wants a head, and that’s not reasonable. To do that, you’d need to take out the top 20 executives at the 300 biggest financial firms.”


    – As reported in a Telegraph article in February of this year: “As Irish voters headed for the polling booths on Friday, the European Commission bluntly declared that the terms of the EU-IMF bailout “must be applied” whatever the will of Ireland’s people or regardless of any change of government.”

    Or of course the latest referendum attempt by the Greeks.

    The door has already slammed shut behind us. Till recently I still thought that some type of coordinated action at bank level might afford us the upper hand. As of a few days ago however, I feel it is now too late to bring about awareness in useful time. Right now the only legal and peaceful strategy that is left for the public to make its voice heard is to physically leave our respective countries thereby denying our revenue and productive capacity to our governments… that and the accumulation of bullion…

    A bon entendeur….

    • Golem XIV November 14, 2011 at 9:21 am #


      thank you. Valuable quotes I was unaware of.them.

      Of course you’re right we have been sliding in to the new era of Post-Democracy for some time. I personally would chose 1996 with the passing of the Uruguay round of GATT. That was the event which got me started on all this in the first place.

      • guido November 14, 2011 at 1:16 pm #

        By the way, i forgot these gems that come to us from the land of the (formerly) free from November 4, 2009:


        “Yesterday, the Second Circuit Court of Appeal — by a vote of 7-4 –  agreed with the government and dismissed Arar’s case in its entirety.  It held that even if the government violated Arar’s Constitutional rights as well as statutes banning participation in torture, he still has no right to sue for what was done to him.  Why?  Because “providing a damages remedy against senior officials who implement an extraordinary rendition policy would enmesh the courts ineluctably in an assessment of the validity of the rationale of that policy and its implementation in this particular case, matters that directly affect significant diplomatic and national security concerns” (p. 39).  In other words, government officials are free to do anything they want in the national security context — even violate the law and purposely cause someone to be tortured — and courts should honor and defer to their actions by refusing to scrutinize them”

        Which of course is directly related to this:


        “The Obama administration does not support a nationwide moratorium on foreclosures at this time, Federal Housing Administration Commissioner David Stevens said Sunday in an e-mail response to questions. “We believe freezing foreclosures for all banks in all states, whether we have reason to believe them to be in error or not, is simply not the prudent step to take in this fragile housing market,” he said.“

        Repeat after me:

        … even if government violated constitutional rights and statutes …


        … whether we believe them to be in error or not….

        Sic transit gloria mundi…

      • princesschipchops November 14, 2011 at 5:13 pm #

        I agree, the GATT treaty was where it all became really sinister.

    • MrShigemitsu November 14, 2011 at 9:03 pm #

      “Right now the only legal and peaceful strategy that is left for the public to make its voice heard is to physically leave our respective countries thereby denying our revenue and productive capacity to our governments”

      And go…where?

      • Joe R November 14, 2011 at 9:23 pm #

        Well I´m in Brazil!!!

      • guido November 15, 2011 at 8:09 am #

        I agree it is difficult to find a suitable place to move to legally. With a European passport, I would most definitely move to Ireland IF Ireland dropped out of the EU. Currently, despite a vertiginous rise in cost of living, Switzerland is still a viable alternative. finally, Cyprus and even Turkish Cyprus could be viable.
        For North Americans I presume Mexico, Costa Rica or some islands in the Caribbean could be an alternative from what i hear but have not been there to do some research.

  10. Wirplit November 14, 2011 at 11:36 am #

    I think you are right David to show how vulnerable Democracy is in a crisis like this and yet I think a lot of what has gone wrong was built into the European system during the years of bland prosperity. This crisis is showing up the profoundly undemocratic structures for what they are rather than newly imposing them.
    Take Italy..
    The majority of young Italians I have spoken to are profoundly glad to see the back of Berlusconi. In a way you might see it as a kind of generational war. The voters who constantly supported him must have seen something there while foreign observers and many young Italians were seeing a dangerous buffoon.

    He has stood for the old way of doing things, the money flowed so arguments for change could be ignored or bought off. He played expertly on sectional and regional divisions. He turned Politics into a kind of tv show. He almost defined what Situationalists of 68 would have called the Spectacle.

    What may ( and I only say may) be hopeful is that regional differences are much less important to young Italians than their parents. The young do see themselves as Italians now. The intelligent ones are ashamed of what their politics turned into.
    Yes the new guy is an ex banker and a technocrat. But the old forces are still there, Berlusconi is still there still with all the powers of his media empire. The dark Italian power nexus has been shaken. But they are used to that… they can wait…
    Was Italian democracy ok with a voted in figure like Berlusconi? Monti represents not so much a defeat of democracy as an indication that change has to happen. Its more the beginning I would say of old frozen structures cracking up. A process likely to go on for years.
    And maybe young Italians will start to lose their habitual pained shrug at their country’s failings and regain a dynamic sense things can be changed.

  11. steviefinn November 14, 2011 at 12:22 pm #

    Talking of bufoons, I never thought I would agree with this one. He rightly complains about the undemocratic enforcement.


    I seem to remember the Troika implementing austerity measures in Portugal after their government was kicked out & there was a caretaker administration put in place before the elections were allowed. Worked wonders there, Portugal seem to be sinking fast.

    Does anybody seriously expect these measures to work ?, austerity has so far only caused more damage, personally I think all it is going to cause is mayhem. American websites still seem to be expecting the ECB to turn into the Fed, signs of desperation & or total ignorance with articles suggesting that the Bank of England or the actual Fed bail out Europe.

  12. John Souter November 14, 2011 at 12:43 pm #

    Democracy means nothing if it is not demanded and its legitimacy constantly supervised.

    On just about every war memorial there is an inscription -‘To the Glorious Dead.’ – there is no glory in death whether through war or poverty when they are created through avarice of any description. Then they are in fact a sacrifice.

    The inscription should be changed to ‘The Gullible Dead.’

    We should have learned that by now.

    Perhaps we believed we had and the people we choose to represent us and the democratic process would be aware of it and be deliberate in their defence and aspirations towards the continuing advance of the democratic process.

    Through the advent of the present financial quagmire we learn they have at least taken their eye off the ball and in many cases have used democracy as a blind to advance the cause of Oligarchs. There will be deaths but no medals nor memorials, only collaterals dispersed and forever forgotten without reference even in the mists of statistics.

    We are the ‘Gullible Consumers’ – the casualties of Quislings who sold the soul of democracy for common coin.

  13. Les November 14, 2011 at 1:11 pm #

    Hi G,

    I’m glad you’re addressing this issue directly. I’d just like to repeat a post I left on the Guardian website this morning if I may:

    These people are not ‘technocrats’. They are not the scientists and engineers that use their ingenuity and technical skill to make the advances that improve our world. They are ‘econocrats’. Nothing more than bankers and economists, aided and abetted by corporate lawyers, who practice (at best) a pseudo-science or (at worst) the charlatanism that has forced the world to the edge of the financial abyss.

    Now we are supposed to accept these unelected agents of corporate despotism as our saviours? Perhaps we should look a little more closely at their connections.

    Lucas Papademos: As has been widely reported Papademos was head of Greece’s Central Bank when Goldman Sachs were helping the Greek government to mask the true extent of its deficit with the help of a derivatives deal that legally circumvented the EU Maastricht deficit rules. Papademos was also a member of the Trilateral Commission.

    Mario Monti: Monti is the first chairman of Bruegel, a European think tank founded in 2005, and he is European Chairman of the Trilateral Commission. He is also a leading member of the Bilderberg Group. Monti is an international adviser to Goldman Sachs and The Coca-Cola Company.

    The questions that should be asked are: Why are these faceless representatives of powerful vested interests stepping out of the shadows at the present juncture? Why are they being accepted so uncritically by the mainstream media?

    I think the first has something to do with the fact that, formerly docile, politician’s are now perceived by the powers that be to be less malleable and more prone to waver under pressure of public protest. As to the question of the complicity of the media, that is for others to answer.

    • richard in norway November 14, 2011 at 3:54 pm #

      I have made almost the same comment elsewhere. The strange thing is that in this age of the internet its very easy to check up peoples connections, when you start digging on these two it becomes very worrying very fast. As you say what is up with the media, don’t they have time to check stuff out or is that not their job anymore?

  14. Aaaaargh! November 14, 2011 at 2:12 pm #

    I posted something similar yesterday, although you state it with a lot more clarity.

    The only good I can see is that it has highlighted the fact that democracy is being phased out – this simply wouldn’t have been seen before the internet and blogs.

    The questions are:

    how many people will understand what is happening?
    how many people care?
    what are people willing to do?

    It is, however, validating the Occupy movement’s criticisms – and look what is happening to them in the US. It won’t be long before our Occupy groups are broken up by riot police and the reaction of the public will be a guide to what we are willing to put up with.

    • Nell November 14, 2011 at 4:05 pm #

      I think people generally have a very slow fuse. Personal circumstances will have to get a lot worse before you see major action beyond a few comments on newspaper sites. There are a number of major blocks to public awareness and political action.
      1. Distrust and lack of interest in politics – people generally think that politics is about Labour vs Tory – and the economy (ie business and banks) is something altogther different and the province of experts.
      2. The main source of information is TV news or conversations with friends – and these sources are potentially inaccurate and misleading.
      3. Decline in education – people no longer have the skills to critically evaluate information – ie who is saying what and why.
      4. Decline of unions – an overlooked bonus from unions was the education that they offered to workers – both in training as stewards, but also in the provision of general education for workers.

      In order to get past the roadblocks and political inertia there has to be a strong degree of motivation at the level of the individual. At the moment I think people are angry enough to complain, but not angry enough to do anything. I don’t expect much in the way of a popular movement until things get a lot worse economically. However, given the goverments economic policies and the policy directions being pushed by the corporate and finanical sector I don’t expect the wait will be overly long.

      Its a very frustrating and scary situtation for those who have taken the time and trouble to understand what underlies the current finanical crisis, and understand the manoeuvres by the powers behind the scenes. Exchanges of information on sites like this are very helpful. Thanks

      • Golem XIV November 14, 2011 at 4:55 pm #


        I agree about the unions and their potential importance in terms of, at the very least, education.

        I am giong to Oxford on Friday to talk at Ruskin College which as you probably know, has long standing connection with the trade union movement. If the unions would get more involved in thinking about the financial crisis and spreading an alternative view from that shoved at us by the mainstream, I think the unions could be a real force which they don’t seem to have been so far. Though maybe I do them an injustice.

        • Neil (the original one) November 14, 2011 at 5:08 pm #

          Just to make clear that NELL (who posted above Golem’s reply) is not to be confused with NEIL or me… (not that I disagree with anything Nell says).

          • Golem XIV November 14, 2011 at 5:32 pm #

            Apologies to NELL and to all the Neils. Should have gone to spec savers obviously.

        • Hawkeye November 14, 2011 at 6:03 pm #

          Hi Golem

          I’m not sure what sort of audience you’ll face at Ruskin college, but think it would be helpful to understand that should Unions continue to appear to act in a confrontational manner against management then their “brand” will still appear tarnished in middle England.

          I think they have a real opportunity to break the confrontational deadlock (which they have probably been unwittingly lured into).

          If they were to appear in a more collaborative manner then this would truly catch politicians off guard. In a recent comment on another thread I was speaking about the way worker representation is handled in Germany through Works Councils and therefore employees getting a proper seat at the board.

          The other suggestion would be to promote Co-operative and Mutual business models, where ownership, management, workers and customers are interlinked – again in a collaborative not confrontational manner. The John Lewis / Waitrose and Co-Op model is a success story to be emulated and trumpeted!

          Currently, it is easy for Gvt and Mgt to portray the “workers” as not acting in the best interests of the customers. Therefore they have cunningly pulled customers onto their side of the argument, and like sheep we have taken the bait.

          • Phil November 16, 2011 at 2:26 am #

            He’ll get a good reception, my mate organised it having seen David at our talk in Manchester. ; )

            As for the perception of the unions in Middle England, well when you’ve got the likes of Peter Hitchens still ranting about ‘wreckers’ and the Winter of Discontent 32 years after it happened what do you expect?

            I’ve travelled to over 53 countries and one thing I have noticed is how politically illiterate and how ignorant of history so many people in this country are in comparison with people i’ve met abroad. And i’m talking about well educated people here too.

            The likes of the Mail and the Express aren’t newspapers, they are exercises in cognitive dissonance.

  15. James Derounian November 14, 2011 at 2:36 pm #

    “can you even imagine the generals stepping in ‘for the good of the country’”….yes – it happened in Spain within living memory (only ceased 1975). I can imagine this happening again – and very soon – as Greece and now Italy enter extreme austerity…..

    I agree with you about the stranglehold of “a financial junta” – it’s what General Eisenhower termed in the 1960s the ‘military-industrial complex’….

    Interesting discussion on this at


    • Golem XIV November 14, 2011 at 3:10 pm #

      Hello James,

      Chalmers Johnson is very good I think. Sorrows of Empire is a very good book. I would love to talk to him.

      • paul November 14, 2011 at 5:20 pm #

        i’m afraid you’ll have to arrange a seance for that, he passed away last year.

        • Golem XIV November 14, 2011 at 5:31 pm #


          I didn’t know that. Sad. He was a voice of some sanity.

      • James Derounian November 15, 2011 at 12:10 pm #

        Hi Golem…….I really must get my specs checked….I thought it was “Gollum”!

        Anyway…..I do commend Satish Kumar to hear / read on alternative economics….at Schumacher College, and also long-time founder of ‘Small School’ in N Devon.


        A spell-binding speaker – magnetic/charismatic!

  16. princesschipchops November 14, 2011 at 5:21 pm #

    This is a brilliant piece. I’ve watched the events in Europe this last week with something akin to real dismay. It’s interesting to see how much Italy welcomes the technocrats at the moment. They’ve swapped an idiot for a government run by and for economists and bankers and I wonder how long the glee to be rid of Berlusconi will last?

    There was an interesting discussion with Paul Mason and Gillian Tett in the Observer yesterday. Both of them seemed to think things could come to a head more swiftly and more dangerously than most seem to think. One thing that Mason said that I didn’t quite understand was this: ”Just because the cost of breakup is so great doesn’t mean it won’t happen. I was leaked some bank research and the sliding scale of banks that went bust was so frightening I decided it was impossible to report without causing panic.”

    He’s talking about the break up of the EU then goes on to say that the sliding scale of banks that went bust was to scary to report. What does he mean by sliding scale does anyone know?

    • Hawkeye November 14, 2011 at 5:45 pm #


      Paul Mason was probably referring to something akin to this “simulator”:


      But obviously a new version developed within one of the major banks / hedge funds to simulate the consequences of default / break-up etc.

      That was quite a good piece from the mainstream media, however I don’t share Gillian’s optimism that a benign form of financial repression can be implemented over the long term. The repression she refers to happened roughly between 1945 and 1965, but this was when there was a substantial impovement in living standards, social provisions, strong & steady GDP growth and low-ish unemployment.

      To implement slow savings de-valuation (i.e. modest inflation but low interest rates) at the same time as declining living standards & social provisions, static GDP growth and rising unemployment is a recipe for social breakdown.

      • princesschipchops November 14, 2011 at 9:46 pm #

        Thanks Hawkeye.

        I don’t share her optimism for that either. I fear her more pessimistic note that ‘it might all collapse’ and rather quickly once it really gets going, is more realistic.

        I don’t wish it was but I think it is.

  17. Neil (the original one) November 14, 2011 at 6:28 pm #

    Daniel Hannan MEP on the EU as an anti-democratic project: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/danielhannan/100117297/the-european-project-is-now-sustained-by-coup/ .

    What with similar comments from Ambrose-Evans Pritchard, also in the Telegraph, it seems that there is some common ground between Left and Right here, which is heartening. (I should add that I keep on referring to the Telegraph not because I share its general political outlook, but because its reporting on these and related issues is a lot better than the Guardian’s).

    PS Hannan refers to a Spectator article on the new Frankfurt Group, http://www.spectator.co.uk/essays/all/7378428/europes-hit-squad.thtml .

    Meanwhile Spanish bond yields hit 6%. The contagion spreads…

    This reports that Spain already has 23% unemployment, so what do you think further austerity measures would do?

    • princesschipchops November 14, 2011 at 9:49 pm #

      Neil (the original one)

      I do think there is some common ground emerging between left and right in some areas. Or I should say, some parts of the left and the right. AEP has often said that austerity won’t work (and he’s well to the right of me) with everyone doing it. He’s repeatedly made the point that austerity might work if you’re doing it at a time of global boom and you’re the only one doing so but for nearly every nation to try to use austerity to sort it’s finances out will just lead to one huge crash.

      I even agreed with Hannan the other week, something I never thought would happen but as far as his views on the eurocrats and their behaviour at the moment I did agree with him. Of course he’d privatise the NHS out from under our feet as soon as he had the chance so I always bear that in mind.

  18. steviefinn November 14, 2011 at 6:34 pm #

    According to this very scary graphic from Charles Hugh Smith’s blog, the UK is No.1 in the debt charts, coming in at 497% of GDP.


    Full article, he doesn’t think the ECB printing euros is the answer.


    • Phil November 16, 2011 at 2:33 am #

      Nice find with the graphic there Steve

      God bless our banks eh!

  19. Charles Wheeler November 14, 2011 at 7:22 pm #

    As I noted more than a year ago in Violating the No-Ponzi Condition :

    “The basic problem is that Greece has insufficient economic growth, enormous deficits (nearly 14% of GDP), a heavy existing debt burden as a proportion of GDP (over 120%), accruing at high interest rates (about 8%), payable in a currency that it is unable to devalue. This creates a violation of what economists call the “transversality” or “no-Ponzi” condition. In order to credibly pay debt off, the debt has to have a well-defined present value (technically, the present value of the future debt should vanish if you look far enough into the future). Unless Greece implements enormous fiscal austerity, its debt will grow faster than the rate that investors use to discount it back to present value. I suspect that budget discipline to the extent required will not be easily implemented, and may be so hostile to GDP and tax revenues as to make default inevitable in any event.”

    While present plans to “leverage” the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) has allowed attention to deviate from Greece, the fact is that the EFSF has already had problems issuing bonds – having to pay unexpectedly high spreads just to secure a few billion euros of debt, much less tens or hundreds of billions of euros. Meanwhile, the planned 50% haircut on Greek debt does not include “official” debt to the IMF and ECB, which as I noted last week, contributes to the question of whether the 50% figure will actually hold up (particularly given that Greek debt at every maturity is already trading at a 38 handle or less, and the 1-year yield is now up to a record 220%).

    If the problem broadens to Italy (and mathematically, we suspect it will because Italy’s debt now also violates the no-Ponzi condition), the implications are very unpleasant. Given leverage ratios of more than 40-to-1 for most European banks, there is no way to meaningfully restructure Italian debt without wiping out the capital base of Europe’s banks, and forcing the nationalization of the entire European banking system.

    This is not just a technical issue, and not one that some appropriately “technocratic” government can solve (despite heroic expectations for the Super Mario Brothers heading Italy and the ECB). It is an algebraic issue that cannot be solved without making 2 and 2 something other than 4.

  20. backwardsevolution November 14, 2011 at 8:26 pm #

    Golem – great article!!! I especially liked this paragraph and think it’s one that everybody should reflect upon:

    “What we allow to be dismantled or diverted now, will not return. Power will carve itself new channels through which to flow. The old bed, the old landscape will be gone. What we give away now we will not get back.”

    Either we vote out every single member of parliament (congressman, whatever) in the next elections, excepting no one, or we fold up our tents.

    As Golem says, this is a virus we must recognize for what it is. We must fight it, or die.

  21. backwardsevolution November 14, 2011 at 8:29 pm #

    Take back your country(ies).

  22. backwardsevolution November 14, 2011 at 8:36 pm #

    Take your money out of the major banks, stop using your credit card (if you can), get out on the streets and in front of the Bank of England/Federal Reserve. Print up what Golem just wrote and hand it out on the streets. Do anything you can to get the citizenry educated on what is happening.

    The people have the power. They have always had the power. Take it back!

  23. Phil November 14, 2011 at 9:12 pm #




    notice the same officers in each.

    these videos and the blog post above are linked. dissent will not be tolerated.

    this has gone beyond left vs. right.

    • Golem XIV November 14, 2011 at 9:45 pm #

      Snatch squads.

      They decde who they don’t like and cause an incident involving or around the person and viola. Said person is done for disturbance or worse. Easy to do and with little chance of recourse.

      Phil give me a call will you. I have a question for you. Just a long shot but one I can’t resist asking.

      • Phil November 16, 2011 at 1:55 am #

        Just seen this David.

        I’ll call tomorrow night (Wednesday)

        I’ve written to my MP about those videos. I don’t expect much but I want a reply and for it to move into some form of wider public record.

  24. Neil (the original one) November 14, 2011 at 9:16 pm #

    @ Charles Wheeler: “leverage ratios of more than 40-to-1 for most European banks”.

    Assuming the figure is correct, that says it all: a capital to “assets”/debt ratio of 2.5%, whereas the call is for them to raise this to 7% or more, ie by three times this amount. Where’s the money going to come from?

    @Nell “At the moment I think people are angry enough to complain, but not angry enough to do anything. I don’t expect much in the way of a popular movement until things get a lot worse economically.”

    Agreed. I think we’re faced with (a) the boiling frog syndrome; (b) the uncomfortable fact that most people won’t react until their backs are REALLY against the wall, as some people in Greece already are.

    The people who contribute to and read this blog clearly care about democracy, but I suspect that most people, while paying lip-service to it in principle, wouldn’t be too bothered if there were a Chinese-style political system, providing it delivered the consumer goods, because – thanks to the system they’ve been brought up in – they don’t know any better. I hope I’m wrong.

    • Charles Wheeler November 14, 2011 at 10:57 pm #

      I fear you’re right, but – providing it delivered the consumer goods – there’s the rub. Can it still deliver?

      Most people I know aren’t interested in politics or economics, they’ve been brought up in an ostensibly stable system (if you discount the build up of debt to paper over the cracks) and figure things will carry on much as they always have – at least, since the 50s – with a bit of political argy bargy here and there, but feel the current crisis will pass as others have, read the headlines, watch Stephanie Flanders read out City press releases and get on watching Downton Abbey, fantasising about how much simpler life was when people knew their place and the ruling class sorted things out for everyone (give or take the odd world war) – before the welfare state created an underclass by making life too easy.

      But, up to now, the casualties of the system have been the the deadbeat ‘chavs’ (taking the place of the ‘casual labourers’ who were the scapegoats of a previous crisis in capitalism (funny how there was an underclass even before the welfare state?). The cuts have yet to feed through. But when families find their disabled children are being cast adrift, their GP consortia are redefining what constitutes ‘NHS’ care, pensioners find their savings wiped out by a period of incapacity, universities returned to the scions of the ruling class, their children unemployed and their grandchildren facing a future more like that of their grandparents – perhaps the frogs will start jumping?

  25. Bolo November 15, 2011 at 12:40 am #

    I just wanted to post this somewhere. It’s Edwina Curry at a live debate in Birmingham about poverty in the UK.

    I warn you, you’ll need a strong stomach to listen to her. I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone so willfully out of touch or possibly just plan stupid/evil

    She keeps banging on about mobile phones as though they were the signifier of wealth. And seems to be of the opinion that as long as you aren’t starving to death you’ve got nothing to complain about. I was listening with my mouth open. Sadly I have to conclude that this attitude it prevalent among her peers.

    Some choice quotes
    “Are you telling me people in this country are going hungry? Seriously? Seriously? Do you know, I really have great difficulty believing that.”

    “I don’t think people in this country go hungry. But are these people at the same time maybe buying the odd lottery ticket? Do they just occasionally have the odd cigarette? Somewhere along the line does food come as the first priority?”

    Just the idea that not buying a lottery ticket once a week would put them on the road to prosperity!


    • Charles Wheeler November 15, 2011 at 12:15 pm #

      From John Gray:
      The Occupy movements have been attacked for being impractical visionaries. In fact it is the established political classes of the west that are wedded to utopian thinking, while the protesters are recalling us to the actualities of human experience. Based on economic theories that left out human beings, the global free market was supposed to be self-regulating. Now a process of disintegration is under way, in which the structures set up in the post-cold-war period are visibly breaking up.

      Anyone with a smattering of history could see that the hubristic capitalism of the past 20 years was programmed to self-destruct. The notion that the world’s disparate societies could be corralled into a worldwide free market was always a dangerous fantasy. Opening up economies throughout the world meant ordinary people were more directly exposed to the gyrations of market forces than they had been for generations. As it overthrew existing patterns of life and robbed large numbers of people of any security they might have achieved, global capitalism was bound to trigger a powerful blowback.

      For a long as it was able to engineer an illusion of increasing prosperity, free-market globalisation was politically invulnerable. When the bubble burst, the actual condition of the majority was laid bare. In the US a plantation-style economy has come into being, with debt-servitude for the many coexisting with extremes of volatile wealth for the few. In Europe the muddled dream of a single currency has resulted in social devastation in Greece, mass unemployment in Spain and other countries, and even, for some, reversion to a life based on barter: sucking society into a vortex of debt deflation, austerity policies are driving a kind of reverse economic development. In many countries a settled bourgeois existence – supposedly the basis of popular capitalism – has become an impossible aspiration. Large numbers are edging closer to poverty and a life without hope.

      The demands of the Occupy movement may be inchoate, or else conflicting. But it is not the protesters who threaten the world economy. The danger comes from denying the fact of systemic crisis. By trying to prop up a system that is chronically dysfunctional, our rulers are making a cataclysmic collapse more likely.

    • Neil (the original one) November 15, 2011 at 8:52 pm #

      I remember that Matthew Parris (while he was still an MP, I think) once took up the challenge of living on the equivalent of unemployment benefit (as it then was) for a week, and found it tough going. Currie should do the same before mouthing her prejudices.

      • Phil November 16, 2011 at 2:02 am #

        Spot on!

        There is no-one with a greater sense of entitlement than her kind.

  26. Neil (the original one) November 15, 2011 at 9:58 am #


    The yield on Italian 10-year bonds is now up to 6.8pc, with Spain’s up to 6.205pc.

    The IMF has warned that China’s financial system is at risk from bad loans, booming private lending and sharp falls in property prices, calling for sweeping reforms.

    In its first formal evaluation of the country’s financial system, the Washington-based lender blamed “heavy” government involvement in the country’s banks and watchdogs for reducing market discipline and corporate governance.

    And the police are clearing the Occupy Wall Street protesters from Zuccotti Park. Police reportedly said that the Zuccotti Park set-up “poses an increasing health and fire safety hazard”.

    (Some might think the police pose an increasing hazard to the right to protest peacefully.)

  27. bill40 November 15, 2011 at 10:51 am #

    Neil (the original one) not to be confused with Neil w or Nell. Can we please have a blanket ban on anyone called Niall posting? My brain would melt.

    Look around you at the countries that the IMF are involved in. Note the failure,unrest and growing risk of depression. Look at the outcomes it is providing for its’ citizens.

    Now ask yourself this. Do you really think that China is going to take a blind bit of notice of this bunch of clowns? The IMF and OECD are a national laughing stock in China.

    The IMF does all it’s usual bleating about governments governing because unregulated banks work so well. (I love irony!) Property prices are falling in the hotspots and are supposed to be. Inflation is falling owing to drastic intervention and nothing short of an all out war against the money men in Hong Kong.

    Once again I add the caveat that I do not approve of of this corrupt and vile regime that refuses to recognise democracy.

    Ps. By that I mean China not the IMF, OECD or the Troika. It’s rather telling I have to add that isn’t it? China will co-operate with the west but certainly doesn’t feel it can learn much about how to run an economy from it.

  28. John Souter November 15, 2011 at 12:26 pm #

    Are we any further advanced than any other primates?

    Democracy: Macaque Style.

    The Macaque connection came to me when watching, in my usual semi somnolent state, a recent BBC ‘Life’ programme.

    Seemingly the Japanese Macaque Monkeys are the most northerly societies of any primate species other than man. But, not only do these choose to live in the Northern latitudes, they seem to add masochism to their winter misery by adopting the Japanese Alps as their natural plot, where temperatures of minus 15c have to be endured and the ravages to the young, old and unfit were simply part of natures cruel selection.

    Until, that is, the camera swung on to the hot pools. There in the same vicinity you saw Macaque’s languishing in luxurious warmth. Faces basked in utter contentment. Smug in their meditative comfort, their aristocratic birthright, and the luxury of their environment. No they don’t share the pool. They have developed a hierarchy, a pecking order of haves and have not’s. Those that are in the pool can come and go as they please. But their miserable cousins, huddled in their icy misery face death if they attempt to dip their toe in.

    Strategically the numbers outside the pool were far greater than those in it – though that wasn’t down to any lack of capacity – so the result of any attack would have seen the pool with new tenants. Amazingly, whether by arrogance or ignorance, the current occupiers didn’t seem to be concerned by this potential threat. Perhaps their indolence will eventually expose itself as idiocy through self imposed interbreeding restrictions of the genes in their pool. Perhaps after another couple of thousand years of evolution the Macaques will be sharing the pool. Or perhaps not.

    Maybe the have not’s will go on casting envious eyes; knowing what could be, but denying their ability to make it happen because it never has.

    Perhaps the state of Macaque society is an apposite observation on the evolution of human society under democracy, Westminster, or even Western style with its hierarchical control of its power thermal pools. Or, is the acceptance of hierarchies hard wired into our primate genealogy?

    John Souter 2009

    • Charles Wheeler November 15, 2011 at 3:47 pm #

      Another analogy: http://goo.gl/vmfWF

      “Instead of letting ourselves be tricked into chasing bogeymen who are figments of our imagination we need to go about fixing the problems that we’re faced with. The economic progress made over the past couple of centuries since the days of Adam Smith are undeniable, truly a goose laying golden eggs. Greed leads us to want to slice it open and grab all the gold today. A tool is only as good as its user, and capitalism, no matter how superior an economic system, is just that, a tool. We have to remember the users here are little different than monkeys and we all know what happens when monkeys are given tools.”

    • steviefinn November 15, 2011 at 5:08 pm #

      Earlier I made the mistake of reading some of the comments on the Torygraphs article concerning the temporary, I hope, demise of #occupy Wall St. I imagine your monkeys would have a similar attitude.

      • Charles Wheeler November 15, 2011 at 8:44 pm #

        The big problem is not connecting with the ‘1%’ whose interests are served by accelerating inequality – at least in the short term. It’s convincing the delusional apologists of a system that actively acts against their interests who dominate the comments sections of the unreconstituted Mail/Express/Sun/Telegraph and troll the blogosphere – those who inhabit a rapidly shrinking middle-class, or aspiring working class who haven’t caught on to the fact that the rug is being expertly whipped from under their feet by the very ideologues they champion. Those whose children will have no future; those who will find the NHS is no longer there just when they need it most; those who bemoan benefit cheats then discover that one chronic illness to a family member wipes them out; those who find the state pension dwindling just as their private pension implodes; those that can’t afford a decent carehome; those that rely on a crumbling infrastructure and can’t decamp to a tax haven; those mired in debt or fleeced by the rentier class; etc.

        That’s quite a big percentage.

    • steviefinn November 16, 2011 at 1:49 am #

      You got me thinking about them monkeys. It reminded me of a docu I saw some time ago called “Status Anxiety” by Alain De Botton. He made the point that through most of human history mankind has “known it’s place”. People were born into a class & for the majority it is where they stayed, or if there was movement it would likely be terrifyingly downward, as described by Dickens & Austen in their novels. Bubonic plague did more for the serfs than rebellion could have & I have read that slaves in the Roman empire over 100s of years were for the most part in a better position than the free citizens, as they were at least guaranteed sustenance & their owners would hopefully take into consideration their monetary value, with regards to their treatment. I think I am right in saying that the only large scale revolt was the one led by Spartacus.

      It’s easy to take for granted how long it took for us to get some time in the pool, we are a very short time away from when huge numbers of working class girls & boys fully expected to go into service & pregnant women & young children worked down coal mines. It took parliament something like 120 years to ban child labour. I remember my Grandfather, a miner from age 14, very intelligent, who died fairly young of silicosis, he fully accepted his position in life & knew his place. I suppose it must have been the accepted way of things, else D.H. Lawrence wouldn’t have been such a rarity or novelty.

      The elite have possibly found that us 6.8 billion or so are ruining the pond for them. We are no longer much use to them & as Kissinger said we are ” Useless feeders” who are nowadays fully expectant in wanting to share in the ponds riches. We certainly no longer know our place & instead dream of fame, riches & easy lives. Maybe certain people would welcome a huge war or pandemic, who knows ?

      I’m not sure if it’s in the same programme but Alain also talks about Socrates getting into trouble with the authorities for corrupting the youth. One way he was said to have done this, was by declaring that just because someone has status & acts like they know what they are talking about, it doesn’t mean that they do. A good lesson for today, It’s apparent that most people look for someone (alpha male ?) of status to follow & a lot of people will believe anybody if they are on the telly.

      Here’s a link for the prog.


  29. Charles Wheeler November 15, 2011 at 4:34 pm #

    “No one is clear about what a two tier Europe would be like or even if it could work at all. But I would say one thing is already coming in to being, a two tier politics. Those inside who still have democracy, still have the right to self determination, and those who do not. The elite, those inside, will be allowed to vote and decide for themselves. Those outside will now be ruled over by technocrats.” Golem

    Though, of course, the ‘insiders’ only retain their right to self determination as long as it coincides with the dictates of ‘the market’.

    There’s always been a tension between markets and democracy, which market fundamentalists like Friedman sought to elide with brazen statements about ‘Capitalism and Freedom’ that neatly conflate economic and political freedom, as if one necessarily and sufficiently underpinned the other. For the neo-liberal economists who underplay the normative aspect of their ‘discipline’ issues of positive freedom are sidelined; the ‘freedom’ that matters is the ‘negative’ freedom from interference by government, with little recognition of the fact that without certain guarantees that can only be enforced by the democratic state (access to education, healthcare, pensions and social security) the ‘freedom’ on offer to individuals without any power in the market is likely to be nasty, brutish and short.

    The general trajectory offered by apologists of market dogma is that the excessive inequalities produced through capitalist enterprise are temporary, and that the great improvements in the lives of the majority in capitalist societies prove the efficacy of free markets. But this offers a complete misreading of economic history. As Ha-Joon Chang has eloquently documented, it was only in states with strong and active government that capitalism could prosper, and it was only in states where the democratic process could tame the more extreme tendencies of laissez-faire that the benefits of capitalism began to be shared through the provision of public services, rising median wages and pensions.

    As the power of corporations grew, ‘free markets’ led inexorably to oligopoly, culminating in the ‘Gilded Age’ of excessive and accelerating inequality, and Depression; capitalism started to collapse and had to be rescued by massive government intervention causing a reset in the democratic deficit. As a result, for a short post-war period, a balance (or stand-off) between the dictates of ‘free markets’ and democratic government acting to promote equality of opportunity resulted in a reversal of the trend to the polarization of income and wealth and a consequent increase in social mobility, with improved access to education and healthcare and a more adequate level of social security.

    But this period of social democracy became a victim of its own success, encouraging a belief that markets would now provide the sort of protections only government had hitherto guaranteed. The super-rich fought back under the cover of a neo-liberal ideology that promised ‘Capitalism and Freedom’ – since which time capitalism in its red-in-tooth-and-claw ‘free market’ interpretation has been unleashed, governments stacked with politicians looking for post-parliamentary sinecures have been willingly complicit and the regulatory system duly captured, tied and bound and dumped in a shallow grave.

    In truth, Hayek’s ‘Road to Serfdom’ had a fork in it. One way led to authoritarian, over-powerful government, but the other, the path Hayek ignored, led inexorably to concentrations of wealth and political power which have their own feedback loop resulting in oligopoly.
    So, in place of parliamentary democracy with one-person-one-vote, we have the democracy of the market, where the oligarchs, through the mechanism of the ‘invisible hand’ can vote according to their bank balances – hence the trashing of the public sector and the privatization of anything of value – with a gun to the head of any government that objects. Our parliaments have little influence on the conduct of policy conducted behind closed doors by technocrats working to the neo-liberal agenda.

    • bill40 November 15, 2011 at 7:20 pm #


      I beg to differ, we know exactly how a two tier Europe would look.Those with democracy and those without.

      • Charles Wheeler November 15, 2011 at 10:28 pm #

        You’ll be able to choose your government as long as it does what its told.

  30. Charles Wheeler November 15, 2011 at 4:48 pm #

    A defence of … ahem … ‘delegated democracy’:

    “Of course, there are many things wrong with the EU nowadays, but a widening of its so-called “democratic deficit” is not one of them. Indeed, that perceived deficit is something of a politically convenient canard. Scholars such as Princeton University’s Andrew Moravcsik have long argued that the EU’s legitimacy comes not from the ballot box, but from its ability to provide concrete benefits to citizens. What the EU achieves through integrating markets – or even eliminating passport controls – underscores the benefits of its “delegated democracy.”

    • Neil (the original one) November 15, 2011 at 8:47 pm #

      From the same article:

      “According to an alarming poll published recently by the leading Italian newspaper La Repubblica, more than 22% of Italians find no great differences between an authoritarian and a democratic system of government. Another 10% believe that an authoritarian regime is better and more effective than a democratic political system.

      This disturbing decline of faith in democracy, which is not confined to Italy, brings us back to the powerful rationale underlying Europeans’ growing reliance on technocratic governance: security. From the end of World War II to the collapse of the Soviet Union, what brought Europeans closer together was not the dream of a Europe-wide, democratic polity, but, above all, their desire to be safe and secure.

      Throughout the post-war years, the narrative of European integration almost always focused on the quest for political, social, and economic security. With violent demonstrations in the streets of Athens, Madrid, and Rome, it is not hard to understand why some people may once again choose to give priority to their security, particularly their economic security.”

      You may not like what the man’s saying, but if you gave most people a choice between democracy and economic security, what do you think they would choose (even if it is a false dichotomy)?

      If China represents the economic and financial future, perhaps its political system does as well. Athenian democracy was a brief experiment: perhaps Western democracy is headed the same way.

      • Neil (the original one) November 15, 2011 at 9:09 pm #

        To quote Zerohedge:

        “The following note from JPM’s Ken Landon summarizes what […] is the greatest threat to investors: strong political instability, manifested either formally in the form of elections, or informally, in the form of occupations, riots, revolutions, civil wars, alien invasions, etc.”

        http://www.zerohedge.com/news/charting-biggest-threat-investors-over-next-six-months .

        So there you have it: elections, occupations, riots and revolutions (for which you might read popular protest and revolt) are bad for investors. So no elections and the repression of dissent are good for investors. Democracy is bad for market confidence. QED.

        (“Alien invasions”?!? The neo-liberal bodysnatchers have been among us for years…)

      • Neil (the original one) November 15, 2011 at 10:06 pm #

        And let’s not forget that Athenian democracy, so often taken as the model, was based on the exclusion of slaves, women and immigrants from the (direct) democratic process.

      • Charles Wheeler November 15, 2011 at 10:34 pm #

        “(even if it is a false dichotomy)?”

        Precisely. There is no economic security outside a democracy. Any security in a dictatorship/’delegated democracy'[sic] is arbitrary and liable to be withdrawn. Which is why the supposed ‘trade-off’ must fail.

  31. Syzygy November 15, 2011 at 5:40 pm #

    I agree that the GATS Uruaguay 1994, was the beginning of the post-democratic age. Characteristic of the process of stealth privatisation, commodification and moneterisation has been secrecy and sleight of hand. It has been a global heist.

    I remember, about that time, getting an early copy of the proposals.. released I think by furious and frustrated MEPs who were not allowed to even know the details, let alone vote, on the proposals which were solely agreed to by the Commissioners and Council of Ministers. At that time, it was impossible to take seriously the opening up of health, education and welfare to competition and private providers. I also remember the specific proposals to privatise libraries, and hence restrict access to only ‘suitable’ knowledge. All of these have come to fruition with the aid of Tony Blair and the Lib Dems.

    The cleverness with which this long term con has been executed is phenomenal. All three UK parties are compromised. Political reporting has been reduced to a sporting review of tactics and the BBC appears to employ no-one other than Paul Mason (and Robert Preston on a good day) who is not an economic illiterate who accepts unquestioningly the neo-feudalist/plutonomic spin.

    When I wrote about the film Soylent Green as the dystopia which George Osborne (the political wing of the City of London) is on course to implement, the financial coup d’etats in Europe were still to happen … and I had more hope of a change in course. After all, the EU/global financial crisis could be pretty easily resolved with a rejection of one-sided neoliberal capitalism. But that rejection of the unregulated market is an imperative to seriously solve the problems of climate change and peak oil production which are much more profound and disastrous threats … and are almost totally ignored by politicians, politicos and the media.

  32. backwardsevolution November 15, 2011 at 6:13 pm #

    From Marketticker:

    “The market is going to enforce prudence whether the wonks in The Fed, in the ECB and in all of the governments involved like it or not.

    Eurostat says that GDP in the Eurozone was 0.2% for the third quarter. This means that the Euro zone as a whole cannot run any fiscal deficit whatsoever without continuing an attempt to build the Ponzi.

    I repeat: NOBODY is yet speaking to the truth of the matter. Not central bankers, not governments, not politicians in either party here and nobody over in Europe.

    The market is calling “BS!” on the games; the banksters and governments, having gotten away with bailing out the crooks in 2008 and then refusing to put a stop to the abuses, smugly thinking they could just go on their way and leave everything alone (including the asset-stripping and lying schemes of the banksters) are discovering that the market is refusing to play along and is going to force the truth into the open. [,,,]

    Again folks, the bottom line is simple: You cannot continually borrow and spend more than you make, yet this is the game that governments have continually played for 30 years, and private businesses have attempted to “lever up” to “take advantage” of this without regard to the mathematical inevitability of this strategy’s failure.”


  33. steviefinn November 15, 2011 at 6:27 pm #

    Food for thought.


    Posted this earlier on previous article. Merkel & Schauble’s plan to take over Europe.


  34. Mike Hall November 15, 2011 at 6:36 pm #

    “Again folks, the bottom line is simple: You cannot continually borrow and spend more than you make, yet this is the game that governments have continually played for 30 years, and private businesses have attempted to “lever up” to “take advantage” of this without regard to the mathematical inevitability of this strategy’s failure.”

    The game was first to steal all the gains of productivity from Labour (over the last 3 decades) & then, as they became poorer, to loan shark them those gains as private debt.

    The final ‘coup-de-grace’ was then to load up governments with debt – even those who are sovereign currency issuers & have no need to ‘borrow’ (see MMT) – in order to extract the last indirect ‘income’ to Labour in the form of public services.

    • Charles Wheeler November 15, 2011 at 10:41 pm #

      In a nutshell.

  35. Charles Wheeler November 15, 2011 at 7:10 pm #

    Giant squids, foxes and hen houses:

    Goldman Sachs came under massive criticism for helping Greece raise $1 billion of off-balance-sheet funding in 2002 through a ‘currency swap’, which European Union regulators apparently knew nothing about until February 2010. At the time, Goldman was criticised for helping the Greek financial situation appear considerably better than it actually was, making it easier for the country to enter the Euro. After the Enron scandal in 2005, Goldman sold the swap to the National Bank of Greece.

    the new President of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi was vice-president of Goldman Sachs Europe between 2002 and 2005. He was responsible for “companies and sovereign” which oversaw, among other things, the “currency swap” deals (Draghi denies he was involved in the Greek one).

    [Papandreou’s] replacement, Lucas Papademos, was in charge of the Greek Central Bank from 1994 until 2002 and thus oversaw Goldman’s “swap” deal.

    [Berlusconi] has been replaced by Mario Monti, ‘international adviser’ to Goldman since 2005 (a post he immediately resigned upon taking office).
    ‘The Death of Democratic Europe?’ http://goo.gl/mhO9b

  36. 24K November 15, 2011 at 8:30 pm #

    http://www.ustream.tv/we-are-the-other-99 Epic 12 hour sleepless stream.

    Check out tired Tim. 1/2 hour for court ruling whether Zacutti park is open again

  37. John Souter November 15, 2011 at 8:35 pm #

    Contagion of financial fog covers Europe -Channel Tunnel closed to ensure Britain’s immunity.

  38. Neil (the original one) November 15, 2011 at 9:16 pm #

    On the other hand, ZeroHedge has this guest post: Why Isn’t Anyone Talking About Writing Off 3 Trillion Euros of Bad Debt? http://www.zerohedge.com/news/guest-post-why-isnt-anyone-talking-about-writing-3-trillion-euros-bad-debt .

    “Let’s start with the most basic fact about all this uncollectible, impaired, bad debt: every euro of debt is somebody else’s asset. Wipe out the debt and you wipe out the asset. That’s why there’s no willingness to accept the writedown of debt: somebody somewhere has to suck up 3 trillion euros of loss. Can we please dispense with the fantasy “solutions”? […] If those who made the bets for their own private gain aren’t forced to absorb the risk, then we don’t live in either capitalism or democracy; we live in a financial-fascist tyranny.”

    • Neil (the original one) November 15, 2011 at 9:23 pm #

      And Deutsche Bank seem to be sh*tting themselves over what the crisis holds for them:

      “Say you are the CEO of Deutsche Bank […] [Y]our assets are 84% if not more, of total German GDP and there is no way that you can be bailed out by one country alone, even if that country is the only one that is not a complete Banana republic. So what do you do? Why you tell your bankers to write the best, most persuasive pitch book they can come up with, addressed to none other than Goldman Sachs alum and ECB head, Mario Draghi, and you tell him the truth: “Europe has hit its Tipping Point” and it is now or never. In other words, in 51 slides, your task is to convince the ECB that unless they terminally break away with their traditional stance of not monetizing, not only they, but the entire European status quo will cease existing. And that’s precisely what you do. Behold: “The Tipping Point – Time To Call The ECB” – Deutsche Bank’s definitive attempt to encapsulate the Mutual Assured Destruction that we are “certainly” all going to suffer, unless the ECB prints, and prints, and prints.”


      PS sorry for hogging the posts…

  39. Joe R November 15, 2011 at 11:15 pm #

    Further in relation to your own, what I feel is very inflamatory language at the start of your piece, David heres a recent extract from the International Business Times on Angela Merkels most recent speech;

    “LEIPZIG, Germany, Nov 14 – Warning that Europe faced its “toughest hour since World War Two,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged her party to set aside its misgivings about the euro and accept closer political integration as a solution to the bloc’s deepening debt crisis.” http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/249098/20111114/merkel-says-europe-faces-toughest-challenge-wwii.htm

    I would have thought the Berlin airlift and Cuban missle crisis or ethnic cleaning in the Balkans in the 90s were more signifcant – where devastating convential war/ nuclear war could have been the price for one false move or where a modern European population was busily engaged in genocide on our EU doorstep while the rest of us other Europeans looked on ( and didn’t lift a finger for quite a long time ).

    Look at the language here in Merkels speech, with its elevating of this monetary and financial crisis to a level above historically, a potentially devestating war or potential nuclear holocaust or actual recent genocide. This is part of the shock mechanism – the very the fear mechanism at work here to bring the populations of Europe under foot. Its like a psychological infection, it gets people into thinking at their level ( save the banks/bankers at all costs or all hell will break lose ) and therefore at some point people generally accept their solutions.

    Please, please don’t participate in it! There is a huge difference in these things.

    • John Souter November 16, 2011 at 10:30 am #

      Joe R -right on the nail -it’s the ‘virtual’ gone viral.

  40. Dave November 18, 2011 at 5:25 pm #

    I hope this might be of interest – I’ve made an online cartoon generator where people can make their own political cartoons to support OccupyLSX


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