Friday, September 30, 2011

Matt Stoller gets it right about Occupy Wall Street

A lot of pundits are pontificating that the Occupy Wall Street protest is unfocused and needs clear goals expressed as political demands. Matt Stoller disputes this, saying essentially that the protest is actually about the hope and change that President Obama promised and then promptly caved on. It's a grassroots movement, not an orchestration by political activists.

That Yves Smith chose to post Stoller's piece at Naked Capitalism acknowledges not only the political significance of the protest movement that is gathering steam across the US, but also it's economic significance. The protest is, after all, about The Big Rip-Off, in which a few profited wildly on the backs of the many, with many of the many suffering horribly for mistakes in which they were not involved.

Read Stoller's post at Naked Capitalism, Matt Stoller: #OccupyWallStreet Is a Church of Dissent, Not a Protest. Kudos to Matt for writing it and to Yves (Susan) for posting it.

Also interesting is a report by David DeGraw of AmpedStatus on "How Anonymous, AmpedStatus, the NYC General Assembly, US Day of Rage, Adbusters and Thousands of Individual Actions Led to the Occupation of Liberty Park and the Birth of a Movement." Read it at Washington's Blog, A Report from the Frontlines: The Long Road to #OccupyWallStreet and the Origins of the 99% Movement.

While the Tea Party fades into the background, except as pushed by Fox News and astroturf organization like Dick Armey's FreedomWorks, there is a grassroots movement rising up that seems to transcend ordinary categories, at least so far, precisely because it is amorphous and unfocused, except on eliminating corruption. If there is a demand, it is for accountability and restitution.

But mostly it is about changing course. About 80% of Americans agree that the country is veering off course. So it is conceivable that this movement will have strong legs and could even go viral if conditions do not improve or worsen.

This is very much the trend that was predicted to arise at around this time by economist Ravi Batra in The New Golden Age: The Coming Revolution against Political Corruption and Economic Chaos (2007), and historians/social scientists William Strauss and Neil Howe in The Fourth Turning (1007). Although Batra's most recent book was published in 2007, his initial published work dates back to The Downfall of Communism and Capitalism (1978).


Anonymous said...

Didn't the financial crisis occur because people bought houses they could not afford?

Tom Hickey said...

"Didn't the financial crisis occur because people bought houses they could not afford?"

Somebody's been nipping on the Kool-Aid again, I see.

Райчо Марков said...

@ Tom Hickey

"So it is conceivable that this movement will have strong legs and could even go viral if conditions do not improve or worsen."

With the sad state of the public debate (there is no debate actually) in US and abroad conditions will definitely worsen. That's a given.

Tom Hickey said...

rvm, bias and corruption is deeply entrenched in present institutional arrangements, and this will prevent any real reform or ability to address actual problems. The world is not in a phase transition that leading through institutional breakdown and reform. Existing institutions are no longer capable of addressing present challenges.

Anonymous said...

Did the financial crisis happen because lenders told people they could afford houses they actually could not?

Райчо Марков said...

It would be nice if we deliver Warren's book to every single protester.

Their goal could better crystallize.

The Red Capitalist said...

"Existing institutions are no longer capable of addressing present challenges"

Tom, that's only if you look at the world through the lens of those who are disenfranchised.

I really don't see it that way. The US has been on a collision course ever since it became a melting pot experiment. Fact is, no one wishes to share resources and wealth with those who are different than them (whether the uncommon denominators are race, religious beliefs etc etc.). Therefore the only logical outcome from such a system is that those who have access to resources and wealth will hoard it and deny access to those who don't have it. In fact, as we have clearly seen over the past 2 decades, they will do everything they can to disenfranchise those that don't have it even further.

So now we are at an inflection point where the balance has tipped completely to one side, where its becoming unsustainable to run this sort of system.

Is the solution to get rid of the people at the top or the people at the bottom?

To me, the logic is crystal clear. The US needs wealthy and productive people - not the 100-150m odd disenfranchised people who have been 'used' already and are of no value to the country any more.

In summary, the existing institutions are doing exactly what they are supposed to do - keep the wealthy and productive people happy at the expense of all others.

Tom Hickey said...

Red Capitalist, this is exactly what it is going to come down to on the present trajectory. Eliminate the eaters at the bottom and middle, or eliminate the parasites at the top. I personally think there is a better way that we as humans ought to give a try — increase adaptive rate by exploring all options and increasing coordinated response to challenges though distributed systems and networks.

What stands in the way is egotism and its associated vices. This is what the wise have been preaching from time immemorial. Its high time to give it a chance.

The Red Capitalist said...

Tom, noble thoughts and at least on paper, I can't say I disagree with your logic. However, it's going to be near impossible to implement - the reason is the US is the most divided country in the world - there is no cohesion in society whatsoever.

This is exactly why the wealthy, corporations and banks have turned to preying on their "own" people. They realize it is survival of the fittest - and it is between "us" and "them".

Tom Hickey said...

Well, it ain't over until the fat lady sings.

I think that this is going to be an interesting ride, and the outcome is uncertain. There are a lot of scenarios that could play out. Parlous times.

But, as Alexander the Great is reputed to have said, "I'd rather live a short glorious life than a long dull one."