The power of the stock market has now surpassed the power of nation states. Governments, once guided by democracy, are under the influence of this new “privelegocracy”. Ballots have been replaced by bailouts.
Italy and Greece are nation states that have fallen to these demands. The result: goodbye elected government…hello board of directors. Their new mission is simple. Drive through the cuts demanded by those who got us into this jam in the first place.
And who are the cuts aimed at? Normal people, with expectations, possessions, services and pensions they built through hard work. Forget about individuals and communities thinking that their generation should be further ahead than the last. That is not the way of capital markets. And in many countries these market forces have won.
Think about the many people that participate in this so called free market. Then think about the small number of elite citizens that actually have the means to guide and influence market outcomes. Now, who has real market power?
Bookmakers should be so lucky. It is an imbalance in numbers and power that sends shivers down the spine of anyone interested in encouraging independence, democracy and nations with a mission to serve rather than rule their citizens. The interdependence woven by the global economy has put the survival of democratic countries and their values of freedom, justice and equality under threat. That is why we must remain on high alert. Today’s markets are easily manipulated by those who control them.
Crisis almost always sparks action. Crisis can also give some a reason to further entrench the unfairness of capitalist market principles. Unless we remain alert and ask the right questions we’ll face a new kind of terrorism: economic terrorism.
Think about it. What is the constant message we hear in the media and spokespersons from business and government? It seems all of our problems have a “financial crisis” as their cause. The words that have marked this are recession, depression, correction, inflation and deflation. They sound like symptoms of a terminal illness. Leaders propose treatments that threaten most working people, especially those in unions.
The treatment is supported by the following logic. First they show how there is a growing gap between “haves” and “have nots”. Then they promise that service cuts and other brutal economic measures can bring a return to the past when the middle class was comfortable.
The more the middle class declines then more they push this approach. The middle class, desperate to correct the situation (yet with little power to do so), become unwitting actors in this drama. They remain convinced that a little sacrifice and short-term pain can bring back their former status. The simplicity of the solution is extremely attractive. They plunge in as a last resort. Yet the results are always a disappointment. The market tumbles. Jobs continue to disappear. Homes are devalued. Pensions evaporate.
Perhaps one day the market will rebound. If so, the losers are cursed for not investing “for the long haul”. The winners will bank their gains and the gap between the elite and the majority will widen.
Nation states are under immense pressure to reduce revenues and slash services. Private sector forces are ready to profit by filling this void by providing public services at a profit. Their profit can only come from reduced services and reduced wages for the working people involved.
This is why these market forces must again be contained. The free market cares little about democracy. It cares even less about people. It cares about money and profit; pure and simple.
How do we fight back? First, we have to have fair taxation. Why are working people taxed on every dollar they earn when the wealthy are not? Why do corporate leaders enjoy loopholes closed to most people so that they can avoid paying their fair share of taxes?
Next there must be incentives and penalties built into the stock market trading system to stop the current gambling culture. A tax on all market trades would be a good start.
Then, government should insist on a code of ethics and principles for the way business is conducted. Governments must again take up this regulatory role. Government is the only power that can rival the power of the private marketplace. Many believe that markets would, in the long term, benefit from regulation.
We can see today how this may have had a role to play with the situation with Caterpillar and their Electro-Motive Division in London. It was not long ago that Prime Minister Harper held a media event at that plant touting the importance of manufacturing and corporate investment. Yet today, we see that same employer forcing their workers onto the street with a demand that they halve their pay and benefits or lose their jobs. This is taking place while Caterpillar enjoys big profits. It should be noted that their workers now earn similar salaries to other heavy industry workers in the area. That is because this is as much about power as it is about wages or benefits!
Lastly, somebody needs to go to jail. Regular people lost everything as a result of the last market collapse. We know who the renegade bankers and investors were that played fast and free with our money. Seeing people who played by the rules thrown on to the street because of this greed without any consequences is unacceptable. If the courts can bring shoplifters to justice, surely they should track down history’s largest thieves and con artists.
These are dangerous times, accentuated by uncertainty and fragility. We must realize though that most woes come from corporate backrooms and small but powerful elites. We must accept the treasure of freedom, which many regular people fought for, is at risk.
Properly regulated capitalism is to democracy what butter is to bread. Unfettered capitalism creates a totalitarian system that benefits few at a huge cost to the many.
That kind of system quickly becomes unresponsive to the needs of society. It becomes isolated and stale.
It then comes up with statements that indicate this elite status. We have all heard about the wife of a past king of France who, in the face of protest said “let them eat cake” (this said in response to the fact that there was no bread). This statement sparked a revolution.
With the economic and political pressure around us growing, we must work together to face the threats that can lead to the pain of sudden change. Each OPSEU member has a role to play. The time for action is the present.
OPSEU members can get active now by plugging themselves into the Commission on Quality Services and Tax Fairness at www.standupontario.org. This commission is providing a place for the views of the majority of Ontarians to be heard.