Sunday, 23 October 2011

A Label for the Rest of Us

Every revolution needs a handy slogan, whether it's "No Taxation Without Representation" or "Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité". The latest revolution, born of the economic crisis hitting the world, seems to be centred around the notion of "99%" to distinguish the rest of us from the "1%" to describe our oppressors. Now that we have our slogan, the 1% had better start shaking in their boots. The revolution is on.

The slogan of the Occupy Wall Street protesters was "We are the 99%". Now the respected Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has further fuelled the collective ire in a hard-hitting article by identifying "the 1%" as the cause of all of America's troubles.

This in a country so scared of socialism that a presidential candidate got into trouble for wanting to "spread the wealth around". One could argue that the irrational fear of socialism is what has landed Americans in this mess where 99% of the population is worse off than before, and 1% is far better off. I think it's the misunderstanding of the term "free market". It isn't about laissez-faire, it's about keeping markets truly competitive. I don't believe it was capitalism that has brought the US and the rest of the world to this pass. I think it's crony capitalism as perfectly described in Stiglitz's article, which is a horse of a different colour.

Somewhere, the ghosts of both Karl Marx and Adam Smith are laughing.

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