If you want an actual answer to the media ruckus about OWS, based on facts, by an informed political scientist/sociologist. Listen up. For those that dont care, dont read. Ironically, that indeed is the real problem here to begin with – a lack of education on topics political, economic, and such.
I am going to take directly from wikipedia most of my definitions here. Wikipedia is not 100% accurate. It is however close enough for the purposes of this text.
Ill try to make this as short as possible; but its not going to be short.
The definition of the problem that has arisen can be read about on wikipedia:
or on a plethora of other sites. People are in general protesting against the influence of monetary organizations on politics – which results in politicians making laws and policy directly for those monetary organizations which propped them up.
However, the root of this problem is in fact that the entire economic and political system in the U.S. was designed to work this way.
This is where a lack of education comes in. People are protesting the EFFECTS of the system and yet still supporting the system. Its imbecellic. Its the same as protesting that my car produces carbon-monoxides yet I fully support oil-fueled vehicles. So lets speak a bit more intelligent and mature here, and learn something factual:
First off – OWS claims that the problem is:
The participants of the event are mainly protesting against social and economic inequality, corporate greed, and the influence of corporate money and lobbyists on government, among other concerns. Adbusters states that, “Beginning from one simple demand – a presidential commission to separate money from politics – we start setting the agenda for a new America.” The protest’s organizers hope that the protesters themselves will formulate their own specific demands, expecting them to be focused on “taking to task the people who perpetrated the economic meltdown.”
However, the real problem is rooted in the structure of the system.
Lets take each of OWS arguments (“demands”) and analyze them.
1) “protesting against social and economic inequality”
Social and economic inequality is the basis on which the US capitalist system is defined. It is impossible to change this inequality without changing the structure of the socio-economic system. Therefore this argument is uneducated and too vague to achieve anything.
2) “corporate greed”
Once again, corporate greed is just a bit of slander on corporations. Corporations/Companies work for profit, because that is the system and such is its design. Those that do not make profit, collapse. That is also the system, and its design.
Wait a second though…What does profit mean in this type of system? Profit is when one entity gains monetary (resource) value from the cost of production or purchase – so profit can only be generated when, effectively, someone else loses. Stock trading is the ultimate example of this.
Corporations do not have to be greedy. They simply have to obey the systems rules and do “good business” ie: make profit. In making profit in the current system, a corporation will automatically push the status-quo which results in this economic inequality. Greed or no greed. Do you think the bankers who devised the sub-prime-loan system were actually sitting malevolently behind closed doors scheming how they would ruin american families? No…they were just being good bankers in the capitalist system and coming up with perfectly LEGAL ways to raise profit in their banks: by making more loans available for private purchases.
The corporate workers who came up with the devices that resulted in the economic meltdown, did nothing wrong. They were abiding the law, doing good capitalist business. Lynching them or even blaming them is simply an excuse by the masses of their own ignorance and dislike for the results of a system that they continue to support anyway. If you keep the system status quo as it is, then the next generation of corporate leaders will do the exact same thing – because that is *how the system is designed to work*.
3) “the influence of corporate money and lobbyists on government” … “Beginning from one simple demand – a presidential commission to separate money from politics”
This is also by design the exact method by which USA has structured its political machine. Therefore this demand by OWS is also impossible without a complete reworking of the system.
* In order to become an elected official in the USA, one must campaign heavily – otherwise nobody knows about you and you arent going to get any votes. This requires mass amounts of private funding, because it is each on his own, and there are no public funds for office seekers.
* Since it requires so much money to get a campaign going, the majority of people wanting to run for political office require backing and financial support of big money giants. These are typically corporate owners, wealthy businessmen, etc.
* Since it is more or less a requirement of political office seekers to recieve backing from wealthy entities, it is therefore a system of “making deals” with those who fund them. Obviously I am not going to donate money to your campaign if you arent going to make policies and laws that benefit me.
* This system in the USA has always been very unregulated, with few to no rules regarding what can be done in these monetary-for-political “deals”. Thus, the USA is a not a political system by definition, it is a “politics for sale” system with a very weak and nearly insignificant checks-and-balance system called “the general population” (because, apparently, the population still has to vote someone into office).
* Media plays a huge role, of course, in elections. Media is newspapers, TV shows, magazines, billboards, radio, etc. These are, also, owned by someone – the bigger the media, the bigger the company, the bigger the corporation. Once again, privately owned media can say and do what it likes to support its own agenda. Thats why true journalism is dead and media is nowadays just propoganda for whoever is holding the media corporation’s hand (hint: it isnt always a politician).
* In the back-end, Washington is not a forum for politicians to go make laws and policies for the good of the people – rather it is a forum for big businessmen, corporate owners, media, and the elected politicians to make deals. Thats what theyre doing all day. Making business deals. On the offhand that some politician who actually cares about the public (whom arent present at these deals) actually slips into an elected office, then you sometimes see a politician like Kennedy who spends his entire career trying to make a difference for the normal citizen. Few are like this however, and those that are will not get funding from the people that they need funding from in order to truly make changes.
4) “taking to task the people who perpetrated the economic meltdown”
This demand is in itself nothing more than a public lynching. As I’ve said – the people responsible for making the policies, making the business decisions, and putting into place the mechanisms for the economic meltdown are spread far and wide – indeed *EVERY SINGLE* business person working within the capitalist economic framework is EQUALLY responsible for the economic meltdown – because *EVERY SINGLE* person perpetuating its practice is propping up the status quo and continuation of the system. The only thing that the masses – who are not in the 1% now – are angry about, is that they lost. They didnt win their spot in the 1%. So they are angry.
When you look at the reports of the 1%’s response to OWS it is quite clear:
They are quite satisfied with where they are, and they dont want things to change – because they won the game. Lynching them because they fairly won a game that all of the people agreed on playing is nothing shy of villiany. Of course, there is a small fraction of americans who are educated enough to know that the game is rigged and unfair by nature; so for those unfortunate few who would of course chose not to play the game, then they are indeed victims of it. However, the majority of americans support, quite blindly so, the entire capitalist agenda of their country. Well, shmucks, this is the result. This has always been the result. So if you support it, I dont want to hear your complaints about why you arent winning at it.
So, the entire goal of OWS is rather folly. I understand why they are protesting, and what they are protesting for – unfortunately they do not. This is, again, ironically, the crux of the problem: education. Education is not very good in the U.S. and it is purposefully not very good, especially when it comes to things like politics or philosophy. That is why nobody has so far been able to even understand the root of these problems, why they exist, how they work, and how to change them. For most people in the modern world, problems like this are quite easy to fix. Indeed in Spain and Greece, what they are protesting is much less of a corrupt and broken system than what the U.S. has. They are protesting against having privately owned debt being paid off by tax money AT ALL (they refuse to pay a cent, and rightfully so) – while in the U.S. this has been the norm since the early 1910s (its just seen a surge with the recent “crisis”). Spain is nowhere near the economic inequality and instability that the U.S. is in. Greece – the country in the worst economic situation in the entire EU – as a matter of fact, isnt either. On the contrary, they would rather default and declare bankruptcy than allow their government to pass legislation that requires Greek citizens to pay the bill for the mistakes of the top 1% – something that american citizens have been doing as a matter of course for nearly a century. The problem with Greece declaring bankruptcy however is an EU problem – if a country whose economy is using the EU dollar goes bankrupt, it is a huge blow to all other EU dollar using countries; especially the alpha of the pack: Germany. That is why there is such a huge pressure on Greece to not go bankrupt and to instead do anything possible, including american styled tax oppression, to solve the crisis for them. …but that’s the EU, and thats another topic.
The simple fact is that the U.S. economy and political system was designed to do, exactly what it is doing right now. It is a capitalist system.
Capitalism is an economic system in which the means of production are privately owned and operated for profit, usually in competitive markets. There is no consensus on the precise definition of capitalism, nor on how the term should be used as a historical category. There is, however, little controversy that private ownership of the means of production, creation of goods or services for profit in a market, and prices and wages are elements of capitalism. The designation is applied to a variety of historical cases, varying in time, geography, politics and culture.
(from wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capitalism)
For those that dont fully understand what this means, “means of production” implies a wide umbrella of things.
1) It implies that raw resources (metal ore, oil, water, energy, communications, transportation, fish, trees, food crops, land, animals…) are all up for sale – to be privately owned, and profitted on. Likewise the “means” of producing those materials is privately owned and sold (the licenses to access raw resources, the machinery needed to extract it, etc).
2) Labor itself is up for sale. When you do work, you are selling your labor to your employer. Employers are then able to set the terms of employment; ie: the price you get for your labor is decided by the employer.
3) Federal regulation of this system is usually frowned upon. If you have heard the term “free market” then you have heard politicians bashing someone who supports regulations. “Free market” in fact means that people are “free” (ie: unregulated/unrestricted) to do as they want in the market – which includes everything that has been going on which has led to the economic meltdown. There are many typical economic tools that businesses use to raise profit. For example: hoarding (keeping demand high by not releasing all of a product for sale), and flooding (making prices drop by flooding the market with a product) are the 2 most simple. There is no regulation on this, ie: “free market”. In fact the only federal regulation regarding market control in the U.S. system is the anti-monopoly laws that came into effect only more or less recently (after many markets had already been monopolized in the early 20th century). This policy however just minimally forces a company that has cornered a market – and can do whatever it likes with it (making huge profits on little work) – to allow competition to exist.
Ironically, capitalism is hailed (by capitalists) as the best system for stimulating competition – yet it is the single most destructive system ever devised towards actually doing that. U.S. capitalism has created markets with single leaders or at most a half dozen leaders, whereas a healthy product market should have hundreds of competitors.
4) Finally we get to the issue of wages versus cost of living – undoubtedly the real problem which has caused people to come out onto the streets: they can no longer afford to live. Afford to live? Sounds pretty scary, but thats exactly whats going on.
In unregulated markets, like what exists today, the owners of all of these “means of production” are able to chose all the settings: selling prices, buying prices, and labor prices for producing the product. Therefor, the price for everything from your cottage cheese to your salary is decided by the people that own that sector of the market. This is why jobs go overseas – because when an american engineer wants to make $150,000 a year but I can hire 10 engineers in India for half that price, why shouldnt I? If I dont, my competitor does, and is able to beat me out of my own business. Since the market is unregulated and cut-throat, I either sink or swim. This is also why prices rise on commodities yet wages stay the same or even shrink.
What it comes down to is that the system is designed to do exactly what its doing.
So any complaining about the effects, by the same people who support the system, is just hypocritic foolery.
Capitalism can work, if the people who gain all the power over markets are humanitarian and spread the wealth back into their employees. However this is not what happens. Back in the fuedal ages that is basically how things worked. Monarchies work this way still today. Fuedal lords naturally owned and controlled everything – but to attain sworn leiges to their soverignity they had to appease them; and so on so forth down the line (leiges had to appease their lesser nobles, nobles had to appease their peasantry = everybody lived adequately even though there was absolutely no equality). Today however the “lords” have no incentives to appeasing the peasantry, because the peasantry has no power to root them from their thrones.
A little example: Microsoft owns the majority of the OS market among other things. All it has to do is prop up the status quo, defeat any possible competition that might arise, and it will forever be the “ruler” of its market. It charges exorbiant fees for simple services, and outrageous pricetags on simple digital copies of its OS. Microsoft does very little work, and makes huge profit. In nearly every single market there is the same issue: one company, or a small handful of companies, have dominated the market and do whatever they need to kill competition and maintain control – so it is only natural that their successors will also have this control. They are in effect the new age lords – but they have no responsibilities to the people that make them rich.
The flaw in american education lies in the fact that americans idolize the exact same companies and people whose wealth has created their own poverty. From rock stars to NFL/NBA/MBLA/NHL players; from movie stars to Apple and Nike. Indeed, Apple has attempted from its outset to monopolize everything in the personal technology market – from phones to laptops to computers to the software run on them; monopoly has been its number #1 agenda. Yet people love Apple; even though Apple is one of the most tyrannical dictatorial powers in the tech industry – killing competition outright and forcing prices to skyrocket for the meager amount of effort put into its products. Of course, Apple just this year became a more wealthy corporation than the entire United States government. Will people stop buying Apple products though? I doubt it. These are all companies who have used the capitalist system to become huge corporations that have sucked all the wealth of the system into their vaults. Yet people idolize them, and want to lynch the people who manage their bank accounts? Can we even mention stupidity in this paragraph, please? The simple fact is that these people whom are so idolized, are the people that are in fact “responsible” for “winning the capitalist game” and taking all of your wealth away from you and into their own pockets. All the more hilarious is that a good deal of them have come out in “support” of this OWS movement – when they are the ones responsible for the causes of its effects. Once again however, I will state that they are not at fault for what theyve done. Because what theyve done is simply play the same game, by the same rules, as everyone else – and theyve come out on top. You cannot blame them for winning. It is the design of the system to work like this. What my point here is, rather, is that if you want to blame someone – at least blame the right people. Blame the stars and companies whose products you idolize. They are the ones you give all your money to, so obviously they are the ones who have all your money. Its quite simple.
A good example of what a modern country can do when told that it needs to publicly pay for the financial mistakes of private companies, is exactly what Iceland is doing right now:
Iceland allowed its economic laws to sway towards the U.S. capitalist “free market” rules much more over the last 20 years, and thus its bankers were allowed to legally come up with their ponzi scheme or whatever you want to call it – making the country’s debt exceed many hundred times its GNP. When the banks finally went belly-up (which was inevitable), the foreign investors wanted Iceland – the tax payers – to pay the bill. This would have meant for Iceland – a country of 300,000 – that each citizen would have to pay around $150 a month for 10 or so years (not sure on exact timescale). Screw that, they said, and arrested the bankers, redesigned their entire democracy (to actually be democratic and participatory), and are currently drafting a new constitution that everyone in the country can login online to see each and every sentence being formulated; where they can vote and discuss what it should say. They also just plainly said “no, not a penny” to everyone who wanted them to publicy pay the private debt from the private banks – and wiped their “country’s” debt off completely.
Of course, none of those things would be possible in the US today…
Which is why I left the US when I was 19 and am glad I can sit here in more civilized countries thankful that I am assured a quality life, and so are my children – because I chose not to put up with that kind of system which is nothing but destructive and doomed to failure. Its a rigged game folks. Its a rigged game that, actually, from birth I was meant to win at – but honestly being given a winning ticket takes all the fun out of it – aside from the fact that it is completely inhumane and I dont want to play the game anyway. So you either support the rules, and suffer the consequences. Or you come up with new rules; and if that doesnt work, you leave the game. Playing the game and whining about the rules because you arent winning is a waste of breath. So what is it gonna be, folks?
In fact, Cubas political system is the exact solution that OWS is protesting for, ironically enough. “Separation of politics and money” is exactly what Cuba’s democracy has.
In Cuba, political campaigns are not allowed any financial backing. Everyone who wants to be a candidate for office fills out a standard form sheet and it gets posted up in their centro comunidad (community center). People go there and read each candidates form, which outlines their agendas, goals, political ideology, and even gives you contact info if you want to go talk to them about something. In Cuba practically everybody is involved in the government. Elections are the most free and fair in the world (also another scientific fact – you can find these details in the UN’s factbook) with a general turnout of more than 97%. It is truly a government by the people for the people. I remember living on a typical street, renting out a room, in Santiago de Cuba (ie: poor end of Cuba is the east end) where out of 25 houses on that street, in more than half of them lived people that had been in office somewhere – in the community, municipality, state, or federal level. I used to enjoy having coffee and learn about politics with a neighbor, a 60+ year old retired shoemaker, who was for 8 years a federal official in Havana when he was younger. All because he was elected first in his community – by his community, then in his municipality – by his municipality – and then in his state – by his state. A pure democracy without any monetary political backing, where candidates are given equal representation by the state-sponsored media. Where the “state” = the people.
Another amazing fact in Cuban politics: when you take office in Cuba – any office; your salary is paid by taxes and is equal to your salary from whatever job you had before going into office. If you were a mechanic, you make the same salary, if you were a doctor, you make the same doctor salary while in office. Your job is also “frozen” and you can get it back when you leave office. Those are the laws, and they leave next to zero room for corruption. (Of course, leave it to latinos to find ways to cheat it no matter what…thats just their culture.)
This is what democracy and true representation is. Of course…the americans reading this, brainwashed since birth, to hate these buzzwords “socialism” and “communism” (despite the fact that none of them can actually give a definition of either)…. Brainwashed since birth to support-unto-death the buzzwords “capitalism” and “free market” (likewise – though they dont even know what they mean)… even though “capitalism” and “free market” are the cause of the effects that they are protesting against now – and they dont even understand that. Yes, you know who you are. I know what your response will be. But guess what. I already left the US…and you are the reasons why. So I bid you to just give up, and enjoy living in squalor, in dirt, and in continually worsening conditions; to enjoy licking the boots of your capitalist masters. Because that is exactly what your country is about. Unless you really want to change it, stop complaining about it. You reap what you sow.
So what are the solutions for the US?
First of all, and I feel this is a very important note: I dont believe that the US even should be a socialist country. Thats really not what it was designed to be, nor would it work because socialism requires a population of people who understand their unity. The USA is not unified, it is a melting pot, a mish-mash of hundreds and thousands of different types of people, seperated into a federation of individual states. Americans do not really care about their fellow americans the way that they would have to in order to make socialism work; and we all know what happens when socialism goes bad: USSR. According to the US constitution, the system is supposed to be somewhat libertarian. However, pure libertarianism works via a capitalist economy and thus results in the same problem. The US is designed to be a unity of states each of which has a majority of self regulation and control, where Federal Government is the binding glue between them all. This unity of states is called a “Federation” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federation) – which the US technically is supposed to be. It is also technically supposed to be a “Republic” – which means the rule of law by elected officials (as opposed to Dictatorship or Monarchy – rule of one). However, a common misconception is that the US is a real democracy. A pure democracy is by definition incompatible with a Republic, because pure democracy means the rule of all (the rule of the majority), rather than the rule by elected officials (a Republic). The term “Democracy” has been misused by american politicians in order to gain support for their non-democratic rule for generations now. In very similar fashion to how the word “Communism” (the self rule of each community by the community) was used to garner support for Dictatorial leaders in eastern europe. The US is not a true democracy, and I dont think it should be; though there needs to be at least some democratic process such as elections (the current form of elections are completely rigged and corrupt however).
Therefore a solution that I can envision, in keeping with the design of the US while still fixing the problems that modern day americans want changed – is by mixing its libertarian/federation/republican roots with a federal-level market regulation and minimalized wellfare system. In general, I believe that americans want a base level of care for people who have nothing. Americans at least dont want fellow americans to starve, or to be homeless, or to get sick and have no access to healthcare. Therefore a minimalist wellfare system should be implemented at the federal level which demands by federal law that each state is required to provide its citizens with communal centers where homeless can sleep and get fed; and clinics where uninsured people can get healthcare. Another part of the wellfare system that americans want is the pension system. This system has already been in place, and needs to be kept in place, so that elderly who have worked their entire lives and paid taxes, are then compensated for their benefit to society by giving them an adequate pension to live out their senior years. The pension system is relatively easy to maintain – and it works on the basis of how much tax one paid while working. The US pension system never has been nor will it ever be a system that provides 100% of seniors living costs however – that is how the american economy is designed. People are required to save money for their retirement, and their pension is simply a minimal enough amount of money that would allow those seniors (who didnt or werent able to save for their retirement) at least a minimal existence.
Lastly, the final and perhaps most important part of the solution – is the economic side.
Capitalist economics is obviously not what americans want. Whether they understand the science of it or not, the very fact that OWS exists and people are out protesting the effects of the capitalist economic system is proof that people dont like the effects of it. However, I do believe that americans in general want to have a very open, “free” market system where they are allowed to do what they want with little restrictions. This type of system is completely viable, however there needs to be regulations in place that require 2 main things:
1) Public resources must be publicly owned, or privately owned and heavily regulated.
This means that life neccessities such as water, gas, energy, transportation (roads at the very least), sanitation (garbage collection and sewer systems), and perhaps even base food stuffs should either be run by public companies or regulated heavily on the federal level if run by private companies. Let me define what “public company” actually means, however. In the US “public company” simply means one that is traded on wall street. In the rest of the world and by scientific definition, a public company is one that is run by political regulation – by the people (the “public”). It is subject to public scrutiny, and perhaps even electoral leadership. When I use terms, I mean their scientific definition – and not their propoganda-invented ones. So by “public company” I mean the actual scientific definition – which is a company owned by the federal or state government (in this case, each states public resources should be owned by the state).
Regardless if public resources are regulated privately, or run publicly, then there must be regulation implying that they are not a profit-driven commodity. This is very important, and although it is basically a cornerstone of socialism – the fact is that any modern society that wishes to progress as a civilization in our current age, needs to have this in place. Any kind of democracy, equality of opportunity, economic balance, and quality of life cannot exist without it.
A common used solution in modern countries with regards to regulation on food stuffs is simply that food cannot be resold more than a specific number of times. What that means is that the typical model of A)Farmer produces food, sells to salesman B. B)Salesman B sells the food to salesman C; and so on until salesman H or Z finally sells the food in a market to the consumer. This type of speculation and resale economic model results in the consumer paying a huge price for an otherwise cheap product, because each middle-man needs to make a profit. There are many law systems around the world which have different ways of fixing this. Ironically the oldest law system still in existence today – Jewish Law (“Halacha” in hebrew) – mandates that goods which are life necessities cannot be sold more than twice, and that profit cannot occur by more than 1/6th of the base cost of production. This law system is nearly 5000 years old and has simple fixes for todays problem. There are many other ways to fix it though, such as taxation, which is the next topic.
2) Taxes and wages need to be regulated.
Taxes need to be regulated so that those with higher incomes, pay more taxes. Taxes also need to be regulated so that profit – is taxed. Profit by definition in this kind of economic system is only created by someone elses loss. Furthermore, speculation and middle-man-handling (the sale of goods from producer to multiple middle-men before it lands in the consumers hands) results in a multi-tiered system of gains that is unregulated. This is such a simple conclusion that has absolutely no counter argument to it. If you earn more money, you do so because other people are earning less. That is just a fact. I cannot earn more money at my job, or by selling a product for more than I paid without someone, somewhere, taking a loss for it. Therefore my kickback to society should increase, as it is society that I am taking from. Right now, the top 1% of earners in the US pay LESS taxes than the bottom 80%. Thats completely backwards, of course, and even many millionaires and billionaires – like Warren Buffett – are coming forward supporting a raise in their own tax rates.
Wages need to be regulated. Wages need to be regulated by a mixture of employee unions and employer interests. Socialist style employee-regulated unions is not the answer for america in my oppinion. Americans dont want that. Rather, there needs to be strong worker unions whereby the only members allowed are the workers themselves. The entire concept of worker union has been either destroyed completely, or perversed completely in america. The only unions that exist today in america are nothing but capitalist styled “boss and employee” systems. This defeats the entire function of a workers union. A workers union is a democratic collection of workers that see after their own interests as workers. Unions need to be reinstated across all industries, available to workers that desire to be part of them, and likewise employers need to be accountable to their employees for the production and profit that their employees create for them. Therefore, there needs to be a 2 sided system of workers unions who represent the workers – and employer “HR” units (for lack of a better label) who need to represent the employers. These 2 entities need to have full legal access to their company’s financial records so that profit by the company is in essence “taxed” and a portion of it will always go back into the company’s employees. In effect – something like a bi-annual meeting, or quarterly meeting, where if a company reports higher profits and earnings, the employees then recieve raises or the company reinvests into better equipment or higher standards for the employees to work with. Similarly – if a company reports losses, then selling off of equipment, or lowering of wages or even firing of some workers can be justified.
With just these 2 solutions, the other issues which are effects of the system itself would also fall into place and solve themselves. Costs of living would normalize, wage inequality would normalize, and a base level of citizen support would exist so that everyone was garaunteed at least a fighting chance at life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
These solutions are also easy enough to implement given the current situation and circumstances in the US; they also take into consideration the goal of what kind of system americans themselves desire to live in. The problem, once again, is not about finding solutions. Solutions are easy. The problem is educating people to how things are actually working, and deciding on any of the many, many solutions that exist and are easy to implement.
If OWS would actually be organized by educated and informed people, who could make valid demands with valid solutions, then it might actually accomplish something. Unfortunately, as it stands, OWS is a lost cause doing nothing but sullying the identity of the 99% in their protest for social justice. The 2 points I’ve outlined above – if embraced by OWS and used as their cornerstone arguments – would in fact have the power to pressure change; because they are easily do-able solutions which actually attack the cause of the current crisis.
Power to the people…