Monday, March 30, 2009

G20 - all fools' day for protestors?

Joseph Schumpeter - click to read moreclick here to go to update
Tomorrow, April 1st, is being called by some "Financial Fools' Day", as activists get ready to protest against the G20 gathering in London by marching in four columns representing the "four horsefolk [sic] of the apocalypse" to meet at the Bank of England at noon.

One of these is a former Playmate of the Month called Marina Pepper, who now writes books, including Spells for Teenage Witches: Get your way with Magical Power. Another is Chris Knight, a "radical anthropologist" who teaches at the University of East London, one of whose books is Blood Relations: Menstruation and the Origins of Culture. I am reminded of Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, wherein economist Joseph Schumpeter (above) states that capitalism is ultimately doomed because it "would spawn a large intellectual class that made its living bAtlas Shrugged - click to read a reviewy attacking the very bourgeois system of private property and freedom so necessary for the intellectual class’s existence". (Lawyers for Ms Pepper please note - I am not accusing her of being an intellectual.) This theory was bleakly and believably novelised by Ayn Rand in her classic Atlas Shrugged.

The main thesis of the protestors seems to be that through the capitalist phenomenon of globalisation, people in charge of investing other folks' money, chiefly bankers, have gotten out of control and led much of the world into a financial crisis which we, the people now have to pay for. So far so good, but the relatively few bankers who precipitated this crisis appear to have done so without the help (or indeed knowledge) of world leaders, and it is hubristic of those leaders to think they can cobble together a solution in a matter of hours when it took allied leaders and expert economists 22 days to put a shape to post-war finances in 1944's Bretton Woods conference.
ominous: a dummy in a noose hung by Professor Chris Smith of East London University
If the leaders are hubristic, then the protests' arrangers are living in la-la land in thinking that they can bring off a peaceful protest, given the inflammatory language used by Prof Knight et al, urging people to "take our protests to the belly of the beast", "burn the banks" and "eat the bankers" (no thanks, I get terrible heartburn). What do they expect?

If violence should occur, activists of this sort always have a convenient whipping boy. The first stroke was lashed last week when The First Post's Matthew Carr opined that levels of policing at this gathering of leaders representing "90% of global gross national product, 80% of world trade and two-thirds of the world's population" was asking for trouble.

What is, in fact, asking for trouble, is the financial situation which is neither going to be alleviated by any amount of horsefolk of the apocalypse in London, nor resolved by a big meeting of bigger egos that will last, at the very most, for less time than a police officer's shift.

Outside ofYulia Tymoshenko, Prime Minister of Ukraine - thanks to AFP/Getty for the pic the G20, Ukraine, which has signed a deal tying European Union to invest billions in the gas pipelines it depends on and aroused the ire of the behemoth to the north-east in doing so, looks to be heading towards bankruptcy amid a bitter struggle between its president and prime-minister that is benefiting ultra-nationalist parties; Pakistan, of course a nuclear power, is also cruising towards ruin as it half-heartedly struggles with the terrorists osmosing across the line on the map separating it from Afghanistan.

Within the G20, from China - vying with Russia for the title of the world's biggest rogue state - has come a book calling for French president Nicholas Sarkozy to be "punished" for meeting the Dalai Lama, and outlining its wish to do to the world what it is presently doing to much of Africa; and Argentina is also heading for the financial crash barrier.

But I get the idea America'll still end up getting blamed...
keep calm and carry on: Winston Churchill's government intended the poster for a post-democratic Britain should we lose WWII, but it has now become very popular
In short, things are bad. But then again, they've been bad before, and they'll be bad again. It's the good bits in between that make it worth it; the little graces that often have little to do with money. I don't know if we'll have to take the advice of the unreleased World War II poster to keep calm and carry on, but one thing that possibly even Schumpeter failed to appreciate is capitalism's ability to make accomodations - that's how it survived the attritions of well-meaning liberal-socialist new beginnings all over the globe.

There's an old curse that I've heard attributed both to the Jews and the Chinese - "may you live through interesting times". I hope April 1 in London is as boring as it can be. But if there are casualties or worse, Professor Chris Knight can blame the traditional enemies of democracy all he wants, but he may have to answer to the University of East London, Great Britain and even abroad for his troublemaking.

I pray that the police have as uninteresting a day as possible on April 1.


On Wednesday, 1 April, a newsagent called Ian Tomlinson collapsed and died of a heart attack while making his way home close to where the riots were going on, but not taking part in them. An inquest has returned a verdict of natural death. Three witnesses say he was attacked by riot police. This is contested, but the witnesses appear to have forgotten the reason the police were there, being their own aspiration to "storm the banks" and "burn the bankers". Mr Tomlinson is survived by a wife and children, who have not blamed the police.

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  1. May your April 1 be dull!

    Who's the woman in the coronet braid? I couldn't tell.

  2. Sorry, I put it in the alt-text so it should show up when you hover the cursor over it, but maybe it works differently for different browsers. She's Yulia Tymoshenko, Prime Minister for Ukraine.

    Thanks for your wishes for a dull April 1!

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  5. Nope, nothing's happened. It's after midnight, so I'm off to bed - but I'll keep an eye on the blog you reccommended! Enjoy the rest of your day!

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