4 Jan 2012

Should we 'take down' the banks
or try to save the best of capitalism?

It is November 1968, and a writer for Modern Mechanix peers 40 years into the future:
“People have more time for leisure activities in the year 2008. The average work day is about four hours . . . . Homes are practically self-maintaining. Robots are available to do housework and other simple chores . . . . You slide into your sleek, two-passenger air-cushion car, press a sequence of buttons and the national traffic computer notes your destination. Ninety minutes later, you slide beneath the dome of your destination city. . . . A typical vacation in 2008 is to spend a week at an undersea resort, where your hotel room window looks out on a tropical underwater reef.”

So what the hell went wrong?

  • It is now 44 years later, and instead of having too much leisure time, most ordinary people work long hours, while some take on two or even three minimum wage jobs to survive.
  • While the rich have their own cooks and maids, many people consume cheap, fattening processed food marketed by a handful of wealthy multi-national corporations.
  • While the well-off select their next $25,000 vacation from The Globe and Mail’s elite Travel Section, some people scrape together enough money for a week in Cuba while others never have a real vacation.
In 1968, Modern Mechanix author James R. Berry could not imagine there would be such staggering capitalist greed in this century. It appears that he assumed that poverty would be a thing of the past.

At that time Canada and other western countries were in what is known as the “Golden Age”, the period between World War II and the early 1970s when many countries experienced high levels of prosperity. The “welfare state” looked after the less fortunate. 
But then “liberal” capitalist economic policies began to fail. Unemployment and inflation increased. Some economists argued that liberalism, if tinkered with, could likely be fixed. However, those in favour of giving more power to corporations and loosening market control won the day.

A new breed of economics – “neoliberalism” – was born.

Totally untested, neoliberalism was promoted by the U.S.-dominated World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and adopted by Britain’s Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan of the United States in the early 1980s.

“Fair” was out. “Greed” was in.

Under neoliberalism, corporations have become all-powerful. The so-called “free market” is much less regulated. Regulations that had prevented business from getting out of control were removed. Taxes on the rich and corporations have been greatly reduced. Public expenditures for social services were cut. Government-owned corporations were privatized. The concept of “public good” was replaced with the notion of “individual responsibility.” 

In Canada, the government of Brian Mulroney implemented some neoliberal policies, but the changes that hurt ordinary people the most were brought in by Finance Minister Paul Martin under the Liberal government of Jean Chretien.

Despite the fact that neoliberal policies have not helped the vast majority of Canadians over a 30-year period, Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper pushed ahead with even more devastating policies.

While some Canadians have some understanding of “supply side economics,” it is disturbing how few people know anything about neoliberalism – especially since they have been living under it for the past six years. Just as disturbing is the fact that the mainstream media never identifies the Harperites as neoliberals.

Attack neoliberalism leading up to 2015

Barring the unforeseen, Canadians are locked into Harper’s neoliberal capitalist world until the next election, which is expected in 2015.

So what can we do to try to gain control over our lives again?

Should radicals such as Occupy groups storm and vandalize banks as a demonstration of our displeasure? Unfortunately, the protestors would end up in jail. Even though the public hates the banks, people would turn against the radicals because they detest violence even more then they dislike the banks.

Even so, I think we need to target the banks by using non-violent tactics to show how they abuse the system – particularly the outrageously high incomes paid to their executives.  Research could be conducted to determine which banks and which executives abuse us the most. Then the Occupy Movement and other radical groups could carry out actions such as unannounced “hit-and-run” occupations of banks, making thousands of phone calls to banks to express their displeasure, and bombarding their website services with protest messages.

Canadians who want to see dramatic change could create a truly social democratic party that would have policies such as support the nationalization of key resources. However, it is unlikely that a radical party would have much success in the short term. The first-past-the-post electoral system discourages the creation of new parties because of the near certainty that they would not win any seats. Moreover, while Europe has both socialist and communist parties, the United States has successfully demonized socialism across North America.

Of course radical change often comes when we least expect it – think Arab Spring. It is possible that we Canadians will be shocked out of our complacency by what is still to come.

In particular, Canada could experience serious difficulties if the U.S. economy were to go into a serious tailspin. We are heavily dependent on the U.S. for food, and the U.S. is by far our largest export market. If we faced food shortages and the loss of a lot more jobs, it is impossible to say what could happen in terms of public unrest.

Push NDP and Liberals to back progressive policies

If Canada is to rid itself of the destructive neoliberal Conservatives, perhaps the best that we can do, given present conditions, is to push the New Democrats and Liberals to embrace some aspects of traditional liberalism and combine those policies with some tough, new measures to protect the public.

Some thoughts mostly about financial changes that would serve Canadians well:

  • Banks and other financial institutions must be strongly regulated and prohibited from exposing themselves to too much risk. There needs to be strong controls on the amount of money banks make by making loans.
  • Canada should develop public-owned provincial or city public-interest banks, or increase the powers of co-operatives, to have them perform the old fashioned tasks of loaning people money, providing mortgages, and investing peoples’ money in simple financial vehicles such as stocks, bonds and GICs.
  • High-flying fools and speculators would be able to gamble with their own money through vehicles such as hedging, derivatives, and options – as long as these get-rich-quick or go-broke-quick vehicles were government controlled and that they did not interfere with “logical values” of basic necessities. 
  • The income tax system should be made progressive again. People earning $300,000 and more should be taxed at the rate of perhaps 45 per cent. The huge number of loopholes and tax breaks created for the rich by Paul Martin and Jim Flaherty should be removed.
  • Corporate taxes should be gradually increased to a base rate of perhaps 25 per cent. Instead, corporations should be rewarded through the tax system based on job creation and their performance as corporate citizens.
  • Government must carefully monitor the housing market and take steps to cool it down should there be signs of a bubble. Economic problems often begin with a crash of over-valued real estate.
  • Because Canadians themselves cannot manage to stay out of serious debt, government should place stronger controls on many forms of credit. No more getting your furniture now and not paying anything until 2015!
  • All of the professors and lecturers at Canada’s far too many business schools should be sent to Inuvik to be re-educated. lol!
All four opposition parties should be able to embrace policies of this nature. In addition, political parties, public interest groups, and the media must start explaining to the public what it really means to be a neoliberal Harper Conservative. Voting is meaningless if people are unaware of what one of the key party stands for. 

Then, the New Democrats and Liberals should be pushed into taking whatever steps are necessary coming up to the 2015 election to see that Harper does not win another five years in office. 

If this means working together to form a one-time coalition or cooperative government, or even working together in some ridings to run the candidate with the best chance of defeating a Conservative candidate, then so be it. The parties must place the country ahead of their own self-interest.
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Jabs and Left Hooks: Caterpillar, the giant U.S. corporation that has locked out 420 employees at its London plant, has routinely made the list of worst corporations in the world. Caterpillar has provided the Israeli military with modified bulldozers used to destroy Palestinian homes. A peace activist is among four people killed by the giant ‘dozers over the years . . .  . From The Globe: Brian Topp may be a boss at the union that represents Canadian television and film stars but Peggy Nash, one of his rivals for the NDP leadership, has received the endorsement of award-winning actor Sarah Polley. The performer issued a statement saying she believes Ms. Nash, more than any other leadership candidate, has the ability to reach out to people who have not supported the NDP in the past.


  1. Great stuff! Peggy is a good connector and a fine candidate and she will always be an assest to the party but Brian has the larger skill set and the depth of experience that is the prime requisite for the huge but invaluable task ahead. So there is another opinion!

  2. Good article, Nick. Greed was not invented by capitalists. Capitalism does not in and of itself usher in greed as a human failing. Greed has been present since humans began to create surpluses of basic goods. My main issue right now is not with capitalism (competition and profit are useful for society), but with economic policies that allow for profit to be unhooked from the real word and reasonable expectation. The "financial technologies" that are at the heart of the current crisis are a great example. Things become so abstracted that nobody except mathematicians and statisticians can see what's going on. Add to this Wall St.-friendly governments failing to protect average folk and you have the recipe for the disaster we're in. Check out the movie "Margin Call" as good expose of how things went down.

  3. Great article...BUT...it doesn't matter what the NDP and Liberals do for the next election. The average voter does not pay attention to anything but scandals and leadership popularity contests. The "orange wave" has hit the shore. The Liberals likely will not find a leader to bring them salvation. Unless we have a genuine co-operative unification of the NDP, Liberals and the Greens, our first-past-the-post system will elect the Regressive Conservatives to power again. I wrote to the NDP, Liberals and Greens urging them to work in co-operation to defeat the Cons. Granted, the NDP are preoccupied with their leadership race, but the only response I received was from the Greens, and they said any offers that they had made for co-operation were refused by the NDP and Liberals. Even if the economic situation gets worse, the Cons will easily dismiss it as being beyond their control. If the US elects one of those wingnuts running for the Republican party, I think things could easily get a lot worse.

  4. Nick: great overview of a very complex problem. Some economists are of the view that increased socialism will result in decreased political and economic freedom, when in fact the opposite is true (look at Sweden). Unfortunately it takes a long time to break down these biases. But if people like us keep hammering away, we will make some headway, I just hope we get there sooner than later!

  5. In the last federal electıon the NO shows were equal ın number to the Tory vote, larger than that of the NDP and made the two rumps insignificant.

    Progressives need to go after this POTENTIAL and use it to hold the NDP feet to the fire.

    Too man in the NDP are now searching for the C
    "centre" in the wrong place. They are in the 19th century whereas today's centre is starting to awaken to the INCLUSIVE ideas championed by Occupy 99%.

    As for the Liberals, the only centre Bob Rae-days knows is the one between his buttocks; he needs two hands to find it.

    1. Don't waste matches holding insensitive feet to precious fire. Price of gas, a penny match is lookin good.:) Need them..don need no NDP.Lieberals or neolieberals.. sorry libs now neo cons..;0) wha...??
      Ya it's like a chameleons ball some time..people and parties change colors when the current color isn't working Iguess.. become the enemy right.. :)
      Need one party. AN honest party.
      A Canadian party.. a real Canadian party. this smells very Canadian to me.. the contention among the higher ranks is worrisome too.
      imploding from within already ?
      Death threats from Herr Harper followers?
      CIA stop by :)America's Berzerkers working Canada too ? Yes they are too :)
      How Canadian..lately.
      Oh not the centre of BoB's ass he is lookin at :)

  6. Hey Nick,
    Good stuff. I have placed it on the Canadian Dimension website.
    All the best - James

  7. Unfortunately the idea of "coalition" in Canada is just not popular; the votes any grouping would receive is far below the sum total of what the individual candidates would receive each running individually.

    In addition the "guess work" is no better than the inputs from previous results. Catch 22 found this out when they did not fully grasp the NDP surge and that it would peak on or maybe a few days AFTER the election. Harper used the "threat" of a coalition to successfully woo many who see it as defeatist and/or conspiring to thwart democracy.

    In any case Harper will continue to destroy civilization in any way possible; that is the right wing mandate.

    Nevertheless however much suffering the Cons inflict in the next three plus years, the way to beat them next time around is to get out the disillusioned stay at homes who OUTNUMBER any/all parties vote totals, Cons included.

    Perhaps the organisers of Catch 22 could work on a "get out the Vote" campaaign; being progressive their ideas of whom to vote for ought to resonate with the (young) type who presently are disgusted and turned off but need to see thay have the most to win/lose in the future.

  8. Capitalism did not invent 'greed' or even precede such but it is the ONLY system to DEPEND on GREED for its continued survival.

    More, more, more, take from the market place more than you put in! That is the nature of the momster and what makes capitalism an obstacle to conserving the planet as a life supporting base for ALL its creatures.

  9. Never forget that so called benefits that are funded by "deficits" rather than through equitable taxation are tasty morsels with hidden hooks inside.

    The 1% banksters are always happy to advance funds in the form of "sovereign debts". They are particularly happy that interest and repayment are part of the deal which would NOT be true if the 99% who produce all were to rightfully take the same funds as taxes for benefits earned.

    Subject to this reasoning, Canadian governance from Pearson onward, but in particular Trudeauville share the blame with the neos who followed up on their deficits.

    In fact if Martin had not come along and "balanced the books" at the when he did, Canada would be in similar shape as Greece and Spain. Go figure!

    I personally collect a pension that is approximately 20% below what I was originally promised by the hypocrites (who ran up debts to the delight of the banksters); of course the CPP was underfunded by LIARs so ALL the welfare state was an illusion that the elites could and did take back at their pleasure.

    Of course the supply side rightwing merely shifts the free spending from welfare to military and prisons.

    Incidently, Tommy Douglas in the 1940s was aware of the hooks imbedded in easy money deficits; first thing he did as Premier of Saskachewan was clear a very high level of debt before proceeding to lead all with REAL pay as you go benefits.

    Taking all the above in to consideration leads one to say "SREW the BANKSTERS"; DEFAULT on ALL sovereign debt. After all it is just sweet justice an eye for an eye!!

  10. Yes, absolutely..since the entire civil system is fraudulent.. they have no power. They will use force unlawfully defending their indefensable regime. Then we can hang the first shot at a citizen is our remedy.
    Then we kill them all yes :) Please sir.. I want to kill them all now. No law against wanting to kill monsters destroying the planet and us with it.. no no problem there..see.?
    Our service personel going to murder us too ?
    Are ya ? Blood and guts gung ho corporate hoes are ya.:)
    Remember rookies.. some been there already and you aint never been there yet at all !!
    Gustaffson lake..remember the day when the army went away :) cryin screamin.. shitting them selves. God bless the Wolverines.
    If they can kick Canada's butt so thoroughly why can't the rest of our populations unseat these A-H'S ?
    It's rigged that's why.
    Void. Unawful occupiers in Ottawa too long.. reset. blammo. Get a real job traitors..no we gonna hang you I tell ya.
    Canadian forces personel.. we have a rogue in the Parliament of Canada destroying us.. kill them all ok.. that's an order..I outrank all military officers being the civilian CIC.:) Only 34 million of us right :) Who ya gonna cal..:0)
    bad boys..CRAP Party Pervs. Not done with you scum yet :)
    My last breath is yours..til I die, I will resist you traitors/ criminals.
    CAP is my hero. :)
    The leader is being attacked lets see why.. really why not their excuses..power struggles within..CIA around ?
    Corporate sellouts maybe.. or maybe.. total loser.. but lets really look at this. Guy works hard forus and these3 executives are getting upitty.. oh oh..high jack.

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