Who would have thought it possible? In the U.S., the motherland of capitalism, a protest movement is growing that stands against the free forces of the financial markets.
A movement that no longer wants to accept that stockbrokers and investment bankers collect millions while the number of unemployed and destitute grows by leaps and bounds. A movement that that no longer wants to stand on the sidelines while financial capitalism completely perverts the idea of a more just society.
It is also seething in Europe, where the financial markets are driving whole countries. The fear of currency devaluation and recession paralyzes many people. They feel themselves fatefully at the mercy of developments that are apparently leading in the direction of the abyss and producing glaring injustice.
That cannot be surprising, because the finance industry has grown apart from the real economy since the 1990s. Speculation and maximization of returns won the upper hand. This was fueled by the custodians of the money in central banks who drove interest rates down and opened the monetary floodgates. Because the gigantic amounts of money could not be accommodated in the real economy, there was large-scale speculation, with increasingly wilder structures and risks, and when the speculative bubbles burst — as in 1999, 2001, 2008 — new money was just pumped into circulation to prevent a collapse.
However, the matter is becoming riskier from crisis to crisis. In 2008 the system would have already collapsed if countries had not spend tens of billions to save the banks and stabilize the economy. And what does the thankful financial machine do? It calculates for its rescuers that these actions were damned expensive and so national debts rose to irresponsible levels. Which is why the financial economy is now speculating against those nations that bailed them out before — a grotesque, yes, self-destructive act — because if the nations are now ruined, there are no longer definitive rescuers who can step in to assist in the next crisis.
And yet, it would be fatal to lose belief in the future right now. Just because the situation is so serious, so volatile, one cannot overlook the positive signals. The blueprints for a better and more just world have long since been drafted. On a small scale, they have already been implemented and brought to life. What is necessary is sustainable economic management, a more protective handling of resources. The conviction is growing in the world of finance that a paradigm shift is unavoidable: away from short-term profit maximization, toward sustainable economic management. Many people have reacted instinctively: Solidarity and cohesion are growing in neighborhoods and regions. One celebrates the originality of rural life. For it, people are more and more prepared to sacrifice material status symbols and career thinking. For many, time has become more important than money. The insight is also growing that the current excesses in the financial markets are the final highlight of a turning point: The epoch in which everyone wanted to and could have more and more is undeniably coming to an end.
That this will happen with a big bang can only be prevented if countries overcome the debt crisis and finally restrain the financial markets. The blueprints for civilized financial markets only need to be taken out of storage: strict regulation, a prohibition of highly speculative transactions and taxes on financial transactions.
Lately the signals are increasing that even Europe’s political elite are becoming aware of what a disgraceful role they have allowed themselves to be driven into. Now they must take drastic measures — in the markets, but also in their own budgets. It is presumably the last chance for the long overdue shot at relief.