Fonte: The Telegraph
There were riots and a general strike last week in Greece. In New York, several hundred demonstrators occupied Wall Street, in a sit-down protest against the finance industry that is being imitated in several other US cities, and may well spawn something similar here. The anti-capitalist movement is on a roll.
With the exception of a few anarchists and some old-fashioned communists, the protesters don’t have a coherent alternative. But if they’re not sure what they’re in favour of, they know very well what they’re against: bankers and their bonuses, and the system that hands them billions in bail-outs, while cutting the services relied on by ordinary folk. It would be a mistake to dismiss them. For their grievances against the form of capitalism currently operating in most of the developed world are increasingly widely held – and they can’t be disposed of simply by pointing out that the banks, and the finance industry, are necessary to economic growth.
It is certainly true that some form of banking industry is necessary to growth. It is demonstrably false that the sorts of banks that gamble with their customers’ savings, and pay enormous bonuses to the employees who do the gambling, are necessary to growth. From 1950 to 1980, when the economies of Europe and America grew, on average, at least as fast as they did for the next 30 years, most banks did not take these gambles, because the law prevented them from doing so. They also did not pay themselves colossal salaries and bonuses. In the Sixties, the average executive in the finance industry was paid around 20 times the average wage. Today, bankers are frequently paid several thousand times more than the average worker – a multiplier that cannot possibly be justified by the bankers’ greater productivity.
Gaps of that kind are tolerated when most people are reasonably content with their own economic position, and think things will get better next year. But they become intolerable to many people when recession takes hold, most of us feel poorer, and the only reliable prediction is that next year will be no better, and may be a great deal worse. Then the pressure on the government to regulate the finance industry and its profligate, wasteful ways becomes increasingly difficult to resist. It does not stop with the finance industry – for if the state can run banks better than bankers can, surely it can also run other industries in a fairer, better way? That’s how the policy pendulum swings against the free market and towards much greater state intervention in the economy.
We have just had 30 years in which the ideology of the free market has been dominant. And yet, during that time, what has happened to the percentage of the British economy controlled by the Government? It has remained static, at around 45 per cent – or, by some calculations, increased slightly. The state, that is, has been able to increase its control even when there has been almost unanimous agreement that it would be far better if it were to control a much smaller slice of our collective wealth.
What, then, is likely to happen now that free markets are going out of fashion, and state supervision is becoming an intellectually respectable alternative? The short answer is: a rapid increase in the portion of the economy controlled by the state. The process has its own momentum. It never stops of its own accord.
Everyone should know what it will mean: permanent economic stasis, if not contraction; a lack of innovation and development; a diminution of opportunity for everyone; and an enormous increase in bureaucracy, waste and inefficiency. That has been the long-term legacy of state control everywhere it has been tried.
Sadly, that truth has no traction at the moment. So defenders of capitalism urgently need to come up with a way to remind everyone of the dangers of thinking that things will improve when they are run by the state – because if they fail, the state will eventually take the lot.