New Internationalist

G20: dead cat bounce

 It’s not just the banks that are bankrupt - it’s the old political order as well. Shipwrecked on an alien shore by their own myopia, it should now be painfully clear to us all that the leaders of the G20 have no idea where they are, nor where to go next.

 Just one week on from the jamboree in London, and the ‘bounce’ they thought they had engineered has turned out, as their beloved markets might well have said, to be that of a dead cat.

 Of course, there has to be ‘regulation’ of the financial system. But that’s because finance is now self-evidently what it always was - a public utility, not a legitimate source of private profit. Regulation is an expression of democratic control, not a technical fix. So why ‘nationalize’ the banks and their loses but refuse to say so? Why allow not just the banks but, bit by bit, entire countries and societies to be bankrupted for the sake of the banks? How can anyone even dare to believe that banks are somehow ‘better off’ in private hands?

 Of course, a regressive global tax system has to be scrapped. But is ‘naming and shaming’ tax havens the answer? Why, not so long ago, ‘tax efficiency’ - not just for individuals but for corporations - was a laudable feature of the old world order. Mere months ago, billionaires and corporations were being fêted as the standard-bearers of a new world order. How much shame will actually be felt in havens that are ‘named’, rather than scrapped immediately?

 Of course, a capitalist meltdown aims to strike hardest of all at a weak majority in a deeply dividing world. But that’s what the old capitalist world order did anyway, depending as it did on on the super-exploitation of the people and natural resources of the Majority World. Spiriting up $1 trillion of ‘funny money’ for the International Monetary Fund, which merely mimicks the private banks it serves, isn’t even sticking plaster. Besides, China was supposed to be coming up with the money and now says it knows nothing about it. That’s the G20 for you.

 Such is their myopia that the one thing the G20 leaders could have done to save their own skins is the one thing they decided against. There will be no ‘fiscal stimulus’ to attempt to do for their victims what governments have done for the private banks. No global ‘Green New Deal’. Nothing for the upcoming Copenhagen climate summit except the assurance that bankrupt peoples, banks, governments, countries and societies can only afford to make the earth uninhabitable.

 So it was left to Barack Obama to provide a fig leaf for the G20 - the only one there, by the way, who has actually been elected on the back of popular outrage at the spectacle of the meltdown. Not enough to go on, for sure. But evidence, if evidence were needed, of where we have to go next.

 Like it or not, from now on we can be mere spectators no longer. After all, the old world order has little to offer but unemployment, homelessness, tax rises, public-service cuts, a trashed planet and penance for the sins of others, into the indefinite future. And for what?

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About the author

David Ransom a New Internationalist contributor

David Ransom joined New Internationalist in 1989 and wrote on a range of issues, from green justice to the current financial crisis, before retiring in 2009. He was a close friend of Blair Peach, once worked as a banker in Uruguay and continued to contribute to New Internationalist as a freelancer until shortly before his death in February 2016. He lived on a barge on the waterways of England’s West Country.

His publications include License to Kill on the death of Blair Peach in 1979 and The No Nonsense Guide to Fair Trade. He also co-edited, with Vanessa Baird, People First Economics.

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