William Pfaff is the author of The Irony of Manifest Destiny, published in June 2010 by Walker and Company (New York) -- his tenth and culminating work on international politics and the American destiny. He describes the neglected sources and unforeseen consequences of the tragedy towards which the nation's current effort to remake the world to fit America's measure is leading. His previous books and his articles in The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, and his syndicated newspaper column, featured for a quarter century in the globally read International Herald Tribune, have made him one of America's most respected and internationally influential interpreters of world affairs.   [Read more...]
Columns : What Occupiers Should Ask For but What They Won't Get.
on 2011/11/17 18:30:00 (2614 reads)

Paris, November 16, 2011 – The program to oust the
Occupiers’ movement from its sites of Occupation is now underway. The
Occupied, who own the police, have grown tired of the Occupation.
The advantage they possess is that the Occupiers have not provided a
coherent statement of what they want. Their other advantage is that
Americans are not revolutionaries – after all, isn’t the American
system the best in the world?

The Occupiers dismiss this demand for a program as contrary to the
spirit of the Occupation. There is not and cannot be an agreed
program because that is not the nature of the movement, which is
anarchistic in quality (yet having nothing to do with anarchism itself).

It is against “the system.” The system is how the world
economy works today, and is responsible for creating the
international crisis of which Occupation has been a response:
original, spontaneous, seductive, but incoherent and directionless.

How, after all, can “the system” be changed? Well,
first, justice could be done. This is what people want: justice.
We could indict and prosecute the bankers who were involved in the
conception, organization and conduct of the vast organized swindle
that foisted home mortgages on poor people who wanted homes, or the
cash from refinanced mortgages, and were sufficiently unsophisticated
to be persuaded that the international, and specifically American,
real estate price balloon would automatically absorb the mortgage debt.

We could indict and prosecute the brokers and financial operators who
conceived and organized the “securitizing” of those mortgages so as
to make of them an undifferentiated mass of anonymous debt that could
be chopped into individual securities and sold to criminal or
credulous bankers, who would sell them on to ignorant or credulous
institutional and individual investors. That, however, is so vast a
project, and the American public so passive, as probably to be
unfeasible.



We could remove rating agencies from private ownership. As private
enterprises, they currently play a sinister national and
international role (against which the EU in Brussels is now searching
to develop legal remedies). Their self-generated, unsupervised and
unregulated, client-subsidized, and market-moving rating
pronouncements (or “mistakes”) have undermined securities and the
weaker European governments in a manner readily exploited by market
speculators.

The feasible but distant possible reform is to elect a new American
administration and Congress which would reform the Wall Street system
by separating the securities industry from banking, while
nationalizing major banks and placing local banks under public
ownership or supervision and control. They would re-regulate
corporations (and legally nullify their legal “personalization”), as
was the case in the past as the result of the Progressive Era reforms
and the New Deal. They would restore independence and legal
protection to unions.

While theoretically feasible, this too is unlikely. As I have argued
in the past, is unlikely ever to happen so long as the electoral
system is not changed so as to regulate electoral campaigning in a
way that provides all qualified candidates with equitable access to
national and local media, removing the money barrier to public office
that now exists. One salutary result of this would be to destroy the
Washington lobbying industry as we now know it.

Can public opinion, awakened by the Occupation movement, produce such
results? The cynical, or perhaps the realistic will say no. In that
case, not only is the long-term American outlook depressing in
political as well as economic respects, but the longer-range prospect
is of continuing unemployment and family poverty, American economic
deterioration, and American political decline in world affairs as well.

A useful article just published by the Financial Times commentator
Martin Wolf observes that it was not the hyperinflation Germany
experienced after the first world war. It was the brutal and
seemingly interminable Depression and unemployment that followed the
Crash that created the conditions in which German democracy
collapsed. Its successor, National Socialism, ended the Depression,
and put the German economy back on its feet. In case anyone has
forgotten.


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