Sunday, May 30, 2010

The asymmetrical revolution - part II

Just suck it up

David Seaton's News Links
There is an idea prevalent among many commentators that the "markets" are something immutable, some God-given law of nature, like the law of gravity. This is part of the "end of history", pensée unique, business. In fact the markets are just human social constructions like any other... that is to say they are political. What human beings have arranged, human beings can rearrange.

Admittedly the human animal can continue to flourish in conditions where any other self-respecting mammal would stop breeding and go extinct, but even so, if you oppress them enough, they turn and bite. That is what is about to happen shortly, certainly in countries with long traditions of taking things to the streets.

The welfare state is not socialism, but rather something created to stem the rise of socialism. The whole skimmed milk, social democracy business was concocted in the first place by the middle class (Bismark created the pension system, Roosevelt created Social Security, remember) to protect itself from violent revolutionary movements.

The reason we even had the recent subprime mortgage crisis in the first place was because a political decision had been made to make home owning possible for the savings-less working poor through easy credit -- by giving away money -- because the real incomes of everyone but the rich had either stagnated or had been in decline for decades.

Home ownership is considered socially stabilizing, the entry point to the prudent middle class. Politically it was thought positive to get  poor people (NINJAs) into houses they thought they owned, even if they really didn't and could never have afforded, if the lenders had been using traditional credit evaluation procedures.

Thus a fiction of prosperity was created through politics. The increasing inequality and impoverishment of the lower middle class and working class, brought on by decades of Friedman-Reagan-Thatcher-ism was papered over by easy credit and now the money is being shut off. Changing metaphors, root canal work begins after the anesthetic wears off.

So making endless cash available was a political decision to defuse social tension, but now it has been decided that politics must bow to the markets... we are expected to believe that the markets will decide the fate of nations, will decimate health care, education, pensions... and everybody is just going to resign themselves to that and say "Amen". People who believe this should take their eyes off the Bloomberg screen for a moment and read some history.

We have finally come to a major debt crisis because it has never been politically possible in democracy to ask people to resign themselves to poverty. It still isn't. They tend to rebel, especially when they see that those who are telling them to "live within their means" are drawing huge salaries and bonuses. Any ruler should know that if there is nothing left in the larder to throw to the "wolves", they will break inside and feed at will.

What is being cooked now is a huge social conflict... like 1968, but this time without the background of full employment; less festive, more "bread and butter", more widespread and more violent.

Hopefully democracy itself will survive this. DS

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Korean mess

"As we have learnt again and again in this long period of turmoil, the impossible can become inevitable without even passing through improbable." Anatole Kaletsky - The Times

David Seaton's News Links
We seem to be immersed in a period of cumulative disasters, rather similar to the astrological idea of the inauspicious conjunction of certain planets.

This is not how the "age of Aquarius" was supposed to turn out!

This feeling that everything is happening at once colors my reading of the Korean story. Certainly the world's tinder is very dry and any spark could set the whole thing alight. Sarajevo was such an unlikely place to start the Great War, wasn't it? Sometimes, events do pile up in a sinisterly random way, which is where the astrological metaphor of the inauspicious alignment of the planets has at least a poetically descriptive value.

There is this wonderful Spanish saying to describe such a situation, "there already were too many of us and then grandmother had a baby". As if we didn't have enough to worry about, suddenly North Korea looks like starting a war.

The first thing you notice when looking at this unexpected affair is that it couldn't have come at a worse time.

Perhaps that is the key to it all.

I really don't think anybody, not even the Chinese, has much of an idea of what North Korea is up to. The whole "selling point" of North Korea is its mystery. That is their major card in any conflict: nobody understands them.

The USA is bogged down in two inconclusive wars and the Washington neocons and Israel are pressuring them to start another one with Iran. The world economy seems to be entering into multiple organ dysfunction syndrome, as Angela Merkel becomes the "incredible shrinking German chancellor" ...a war with North Korea right now could have sensational knock-on effects.

Although we assume they would be defeated in short order, I understand that North Korea has enough concentrated artillery to destroy Seoul and decimate the token American forces in South Korea. Probably the American ground forces are too overstretched in Iraq and Afghanistan to react conventionally and this might lead to the use of atomic weapons. Certainly even a minor war ending in a mushroom cloud could be enough to sink the world's leaking economy.

This knowledge that they hold the world's economy in their hands is probably what is causing North Korea to take these chances.

North Korea observes the Greek bailout and suddenly wants to take sirtaki lessons.

No country is more precarious than North Korea and if it collapsed, China would have huge problems with refugees, South Korea would have to somehow absorb the dysfunctional north like West Germany did with the East... and the German Democratic Republic was Switzerland compared to North Korea. it would suck all the life out of the south's vibrant economy. Asia would be in turmoil for quite some time.

Just as a sailor uses the wind to navigate, but doesn't create the wind, anybody, who has grown up reading Sun Tzu and Lenin, might see opportunities in the chaotic world situation. I think that we live in a world which is overly exposed to random events, that nobody is really "in charge" and to quote another wonderful Spanish saying, "troubled waters make for good fishing".  Perhaps, the fact that so many disasters are happening at once and leaders are so distracted by the specter of financial collapse has led the the North Koreans to think they may be able to win something in this confusion.

So my guess is that the North Koreans want money, food, relaxation of sanctions, you name it. However they might miscalculate, or any of the other players could too.

Of course all these calculations of mine could be way off. There is always a chance that the North Korean leaders are simply bat-guano crazy. That doubt is their secret weapon. DS

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The asymmetrical revolution

Sexual intercourse began
In nineteen sixty-three
(which was rather late for me) -
Between the end of the Chatterley ban
And the Beatles' first LP.
Annus Mirabilis - Philip Larkin
David Seaton's News Links
As the English poet, Philip Larkin proclaimed, sexual intercourse "began" in the 1960s. Of course it really didn't or humanity wouldn't exist, but Larkin is a poet and there is "poetic" truth in what he says. The availability of reliable contraception  -- controlled by women -- meant that for the first time, one of the most traditional progressive utopias, "free love" was a practical reality and the intercourse part of sexual intercourse could take on its full meaning.

Larkin mentions the end of the ban on D.H. Lawrence's book "Lady Chatterley's Lover", with its graphic sex scenes and liberal use of the most descriptive Anglo-Saxon. Taboos came crashing down. The Greenwich Village "Stonewall riots", marked the beginning of the gay rights movement.

The 60s was a decade which also saw the civil rights movement in the USA: people of color took their place in the sun. People became freer then. Anyone who came to consciousness in the 1950s knows that we are freer now than we were then. Freer than we ever have been before.

It was also a time of great prosperity in the western democracies, with full employment, good wages and in most western countries, liberal social nets.

Freer from worry, plenty of work, plenty of money in their pockets, plenty to spend it on, freer to speak, freer to love... we are still living on the fading glow from that period.

But today things are looking rather grim.

The money is being taken away, the social net is going in the same direction.

What happens when free people who have been led to think that they have a right to be happy, who thought that the system they support gives them that possibility, begin to see that this system cannot or will not continue to provide the means to be happy?

That is going to be the question that defines the coming years. DS

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Rashad D. Chamberlain gets to the heart of American foreign policy

David Seaton's News Links
Through a mutual friend in Facebook,  I came across this video by Rashad D. Chamberlain of Chicago, Illinois. I am impressed by how Mr. Chamberlain has been able to get to the very essence of American foreign policy in only a few, well chosen, colorful, words.

Synthesis like this is what is needed in the midst of today's think-tank fog, and I felt I must share it with all my News Links readers, who I am sure will heartily agree with its arguments. DS

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Looking on the bright side of life

"When you're chewing on life's gristle
Don't grumble, give a whistle"
Eric Idle

David Seaton's News Links
Things are looking pretty dismal at the moment. The economic situation is the worst in my lifetime, and I was born at the end of WWII.

Even before our Friedmanite economy showed us its athlete's feet of clay, we could see that fossil fuels were a finite source and that their continued use might make it difficult for our species to survive. The nightmare oil spill in the Gulf reminds us of that inconvenient truth, while we watch the gyrations of the world economy.

And if the economy does pick up again, the Chinese and the Indians imitating the American Way of Life with its phenomenal waste of fossil fuel energy could lead to God knows what kind of terminal ecological collapse.

Of course the problem is that to sustain itself our economy must grow constantly, like a bicycle that will fall over if it ever stops. The fact is that we may "running out of road", reaching some sort of limit, a sort of musical chairs, where the few chairs left have already been taken by the rich while the great mass of the world's population mills around with nowhere to sit and little to eat after the music stops.

It would seem obvious to me that if we are not going to see the world entirely degenerated into some Hobbesian dystopia, we are going to have to create and run a very tightly organized, strictly regulated and equitable order of society. If the trends we see today continue, I believe that will be inevitable, so fast becoming inevitable, that even a person like me, in their mid 60s, might live to see it.

The question, will be how to preserve the republican trinity, "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" in such a tightly ordered society.

These three things often don't go together or are mixed in very weighted proportions.

Lets look at Germany before the collapse of Communism:

In East Germany, for example, you had a very sinister secret police and steady repression of all dissent. You had very few consumer goods and no freedom to travel. However, you also had total job security, a good free school system (Angela Merkel is a product of that system) and subsidized housing and free health care.

That system was defeated because Western Germany had strong labor unions, good free schools and health and subsidies... and also freedom of speech, assembly, travel and abundant consumer goods... No contest. Obviously West Germany's "Social Market Society" came closer to "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" than "Real Existing Socialism" did.

However in the future we will probably find ourselves stripping out the abundant consumer goods from the mix and certainly mass tourism to the four corners of the earth will be a fairy tale that today's children will tell their grandchildren about.

If we are going to be moving toward a world of limited energy use, zero growth sustainability, less possibility to travel and fewer consumer goods and so forth, about the best we could hope for would be East Germany without the Stasi and with free speech, assembly and habeas corpus.

Right now the dynamic of our system seems to be to "Friedmanize" the world and break down social democracy wherever it is found, impoverish people and make their lives precarious.

This sort of society where the majority is impoverished, while a minority becomes amazingly rich, has been proven to only work with a military dictatorship and police state repression... and even then hunger and precariousness cannot go on beyond a certain point without engendering revolutionary movements.

Certainly if you increase the percentage of the poor and precarious beyond a certain level the word "freedom" begins to take on different nuances: freedom from what? freedom to do what? That is when some version of Equality, Fraternity, without Liberty, a version of East Germany "uncut" might seem very attractive to many desperately poor and insecure people.

If any young person is looking for something useful to do with their lives, helping to organize and build a world where free people live in brotherhood, sharing out the world's limited resources equitably, would certainly fill the bill. DS

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Rafting down shit creek under "Matthew's Rules"

Matthew's Rules:
"For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath." Matthew 3:12

"Them that's got shall get/Them that's not shall lose/So the Bible said and it still is news." Billie Holiday

David Seaton's News Links
I'm always on the lookout for the right metaphor, the one that sums something up with one image, and "rafting" came to me as one that describes the economic, soon to be social, crisis we are all living through right now.

Rafting isn't like sailing a boat, where, taking into account the direction of the wind and ocean currents, you chart a a course and sail to it with the possibility of changing your mind and sailing back. In rafting, once you are in the river there is no turning back; all you can do is hold on tight and try to keep your boat from hitting rocks, or turning over. This can be exciting when led by an expert guide who makes the descent several times a week or even several times a day, but no fun at all when the river's depth, speed, approaching rocks or waterfalls are unknown.

That is the case of the crisis we are living through now, nobody really understands what is going on or what is waiting around the bend.

Matthew's Rules:

We may not know where we are going, but we do know where we have been. A tiny group of men and women (almost all of them men, really) have created a speculative bubble and burst it, and those who created the mess made enormous fortunes blowing the bubble up, made enormous fortunes betting against their own bubble, received enormous bailouts of taxpayer's money when the bubble burst and are making enormous fortunes while you read this. And all of this is something which is creating untold pain and hardship for most of the world's population and may be the beginning of a historical period as dark as the 1930s.

Here is how William Pfaff puts things into perspective:
A feature of modern capitalism, in which the United States seems currently the leader, is that the country where corporations are effectively headquartered have impoverished schools, rotting, rusting infrastructure, and third world social and health facilities, while billions are paid to corporate and banking executives. This is a moral scandal even though economic elites promoting the dominant economic theory prevailing until now in the leading free-market countries have identified morality as a source of market distortion and economic inefficiencies. Self-admittedly profligate Greece did not invent the world crisis, nor did Portugal, Spain nor Italy. The guilt lies with the United States, source of modern intellectual global leadership and exemplar of democracy. It did not even have a serious reason. Americans did it to make money gambling with other people’s money.
That's pretty cold stuff, but, as usual, Pfaff has nailed it. The frivolity of the whole thing adds insult to injury.

Perhaps the only bright spot in the whole mess is that the crisis has finally eviscerated what the French call neo-liberal "pensée unique", the intellectual structure of this particular chapter of capitalism, which Pfaff calls, "the Ronald Reagan, Alan Greenspan, Ayn Rand, School of Chicago fantasy".

With the Soviet Union's brand of "real existent socialism" and Milton Friedman's version of "real existent capitalism" both now in smoking ruins, maybe some serious new thinking may arise.

What is obvious, at least to me, is that things like human rights and financial regulation have to be packaged together so tightly that no daylight appears between them. I don't think this is going to happen in China, I'm sorry to say that I don't think it is going to happen in the USA, in any foreseeable future, either.

The historically unique crisis that is transpiring around the euro, may have the seeds of this human rights and multinational regulation model, that is surely the only path forward if globalization is going to be anything but a raft to hell. DS

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Milton Friedman's "Full Monty" makes its European tour (soon in theaters near your home)

Deep down, the crisis is yet another manifestation of what I call “the political trilemma of the world economy”: economic globalization, political democracy, and the nation-state are mutually irreconcilable. We can have at most two at one time. Democracy is compatible with national sovereignty only if we restrict globalization. If we push for globalization while retaining the nation-state, we must jettison democracy. And if we want democracy along with globalization, we must shove the nation-state aside and strive for greater international governance.  Professor Dani Rodrik, Harvard University
David Seaton's News Links
"Economic globalization, political democracy, and the nation-state are mutually irreconcilable." You might say it louder, but it would be difficult to say it more clearly. Here, in one sentence, Dani Rodrik has encapsulated the cross currents that are creating the turbulence we are living through today.

If you mull over the entire quote at the top of the page you can see that of all the "trilemma", democracy has the roughest row to hoe.

Right now now the IMF style austerity programs are beginning in Greece, Spain and Portugal, with severe cuts in public spending, pensions and other entitlements, labor rights reform.  Next will be Italy and the United Kingdom. But, carrying the debt it carries, even the United States can expect to see it "playing soon in a theater near your home".

This is perhaps the first time that the IMF's full Monty has ever been performed on  rich and a powerfuldemocracy... not just one, but several simultaneously. The financial disaster brought on by irresponsible, if not criminal, speculators, who are making millions at this very minute, is now going to be paid for by widows and orphans (literally).

As Naomi Klein points out in her groundbreaking book, "The Shock Doctrine", extreme Friedmanism normally is executed (choice of word) by people like Indonesia's Suharto, Brazil's military dictatorship of the 1960s, Pinochet or the Argentinian junta. This could be taken as a working illustration of Rodrik's "trilemma".

Now some of the most developed and democratic and historically creative countries in the world are going to experience the Shock Doctrine in full.

I find it simple to predict that many people in these countries are going to rebel and that the new technologies are going to empower that protest, and that the sort of protests seen in Seattle, instead of being confined to activists, will begin to mobilize the same masses of ordinary folks that filled the streets of Europe's cities before the invasion of Iraq. Will democracy survive? Will globalization? Will the nation state? Very dramatic questions, but as theater people would say, it reads better than it plays.

What all this reminds me of is the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of "real existing socialism". The same feeling of exploring terra incognita.

I wrote this awhile back:
When the USSR went down, most observers read it ideologically, that we in the west had "won". Our merit had caused it all to happen. This was probably a big mistake. Perhaps that collapse did little more than reveal that a huge, powerful, system, one that had industrialized an enormous, backward country and made it into a scientific, political and military superpower, one that had defeated Nazi Germany almost single handed in WWII, a power like that could just simply collapse mysteriously. Just up and die. Just like that. The United States, instead of taking a victory lap, might have been more prudent to murmur then, "there but for the grace of God go I" and gotten busy looking to its own vulnerabilities instead of crowing and preening, because it appears that good ol' Grace is seeing somebody else these days.
What is really happening? It's hard to say, but Rodrik and Naomi Klein have the neatest explanations of this supremely confusing moment that I have seen. DS

Monday, May 10, 2010

Forever Young: The key to the Tea Party movement

Forever young
"We may be prisoners of deep and poorly understood changes to the world economic system." Robert J. Samuelson - Newsweek

"(M)any companies will do whatever necessary to squeeze out added profits. And that will spell disaster – giant oil spills, terrible coal-mine disasters, and Wall Street meltdowns – unless the nation has tough regulations backed up by significant penalties, including jail terms for executives found guilty of recklessness, and vigilant enforcement." Robert Reich

It is hardly a new insight that much of the environmental movement is a Trojan Horse for socialist assumptions and ambitions (the British like to call environmentalists “watermelons”—green on the outside, red on the inside). Jonah Goldberg - Commentary

"Since the beginning of the modern period, expanding markets and communications networks had an explosive force, with individualising and liberating impacts on individual citizens; but each such opening was followed by a reorganisation of the old relations of solidarity within an expanded institutional framework. Time and again, a sufficient equilibrium between the market and politics was achieved to ensure that the network of social relations between citizens of a political community was not damaged beyond repair. According to this rhythm, the current phase of financial-market-driven globalisation should also be followed by a strengthening not only of the European Union but of the international community. Today, we need institutions capable of acting on a global scale." Jürgen Habermas - Financial Times
David Seaton's News Links
When I am subjected to an information overload, I occasionally experience some sort of intuitive flash connected to images, a sudden understanding/epiphany/gestalt.

The Greek crisis combined with the chaos of the volcanic ash episode and the hideous, Gulf of Mexico oil spill, followed close on by the mysterious Dow Jones electronic trading collapse the other day on Wall Street, set off such a eureka moment for me.

Suddenly the Tea Party movement revealed itself in a poetic metaphor to me in a way that put them into a different perspective. Something that although just as grotesque, is at the same time touchingly human in its vulnerability.

It came to me that the Tea Party movement with their confused and confusing agenda, the open carrying of fire arms in Starbucks, the birthers, the militias, the "Last Days" crowd, the Limbaughs, the Becks, and all the assorted, foxy, incoherent mishegoss that goes with them is one and the same thing as collagen lip injections, faces paralyzed with botox or toupees and comb overs: a self-deceiving escape from the inevitable. Fooling the mirror perhaps, but nobody else, certainly not Father Time or the Grim Reaper or the great undercurrents of events. This escapism from the simplest of realities is one of the hallmarks of our era.

The Tea Baggers, like the botox zombies, are just whistling past the graveyard.

Everything we are living right now, from global warming to the juking and jiving of the financial system, from exploding population in poor countries, to aging populations in the rich ones, is crying out for more regulation, more control, more transparency and more taxes to pay for it. This is either going to happen or our world is going to disintegrate into a devil's stew of famine, pollution, explosively intolerable inequality and endless war... not necessarily in that order.

The world of the future will be a world of control or it wont be.

The world of the future will be a world of iron rules and regulations and with all the privacy of a nudist camp, or it will be a nightmare beyond our powers to imagine.

This process is as inevitable as aging leading to dying.

People do some some weird stuff when staring down the one that the Spanish call "the bald lady"... death.

Just as an aging woman who has had her lips blown up like Donald Duck fools herself into thinking she is still desirable, someone who walks into Starbucks with a pitiful little pistol on his hip fools himself into thinking he has power over his life and future. He sips his latte made from coffee grown in an impoverished third-world narco-state and sits there worrying about a dark skinned "socialist" coming and taking his little gun away.

The word "socialism" is thrown about with so much abandon. The word is used as an automatic disqualification, something both strange and sinister, touched with the "Mark of the Beast".

However, the world we are fast approaching would be fortunate if it were somehow connected to Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, somehow an expression of international solidarity. Because the alternative, at best, would be a global version of a huge Indian slum, a human ant's nest crossed by open sewers, filled with hunger, anger and disease or living skeletons listlessly wasting away in starved apathy: the world's misery huddled at the feet of a few gated communities, heavily guarded by... Predator drones. DS

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Down by Gulf, oil my blues

"A man's true homeland is his childhood" Rainer Maria Rilke
"Oil-covered birds on fire. Another name for dinner."  Rush Limbaugh
David Seaton's News Links
The Gulf of Mexico is in the news again and just like in Katrina days I feel all messed up by what I'm hearing and seeing.

A while back I wrote here about Biloxi Mississippi, down near where all the oil is spilling. Feeling lazy, I'll just plagiarize myself and fill it out a bit.

Although I come from the Middle West, in a very special way the Gulf of Mexico is the only place I ever felt at home

When I was just learning to talk my parent's marriage was breaking up. This was in the days before "no fault" divorce, so to get a divorce my mom had to "abandon" the home. She took me with her and we lived for a couple of years in the old Tivoli hotel in Biloxi Mississippi, long since closed, whose ruins are still some sort of "historical" landmark down there.

This all happened at the end of the 1940s and Biloxi Mississippi at that time was a charming place, in its final days as the "American Riviera" and not the tacky nightmare it has long since become. All of that schlock was blown away by Katrina, I understand, but I'm sure it will be even worse when reconstructed.

Anyway, neighboring Keesler air force base was a tiny thing then and there were no casinos and all that goes with them either, just warm breezes off the Gulf of Mexico, Forrest Gumpy shrimp and oyster boats and soft-voiced people, young and old, white and black, who loved small children and sweetly and patiently took endless pains with them... nothing like Chicago.

My late mother in those days was  a young divorcee and a drop-dead redhead, so I didn't see much of her  either by day or by night and I spent most of my time in the ample laps of the African-American ladies who actually ran the hotel. They made a huge fuss over me, in a way that nobody up north, even my own family, ever would again, and I still remember the warm sound of their laughter and the high pitched, slow cadence of their speech and the smooth, warm touch of their skin. Looking back, I have often thought that those were by far the happiest days of my childhood.

Unlike Chicago, older children in Mississippi, like the adults, were also kind and patient with small children and let them tag along. I had one friend, who must have been eight or nine years old, a veritable ancient for a toddler like me, whose daddy owned a couple of oyster boats and  we had the run of the boats when they were tied up at the wharf. On discovering that I liked oysters, he would sit me down next to a barrel full of them  freshly caught and with a special knife, skillfully shuck oysters for me and feed them to me on the half shell. I could easily eat what today would be about a hundred euros worth at a sitting and to this day I have found it hard to ever pay for them.

I'm sure that, if my friend is still alive, he has been retired for several years by now and I wonder if he has sons who are oyster men too and is wondering how they are going to feed their families with the oil spill having shut all the fishing down.  DS

Sunday, May 02, 2010

"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. " - Albert Einstein

The 2010 Sunday Times Rich List, published today, reveals that the 1,000 richest people in the country increased their wealth by £77 billion last year, bringing their total wealth to £335.5 billion — equal to more than one-third of the national debt. The number of billionaires has risen from 43 to 53, with nine seeing their wealth rise by £1 billion or more during the past 12 months. Philip Beresford, compiler of the list, said: “The rich have come through the recession with flying colours. The stock market is up, the hedge funds are coining it. The rich are doing very nicely. “The rest of the country is going to have to face public spending cuts, but it has little effect on the rich because they don’t consume public services.” Sunday Times
David Seaton's News Links
If I were a hard core Marxist-Leninist of the old school, one of those stone washed and sun dried, grizzled, lucid, implacable types, free from all my petit bourgeois sentiments, I would be licking my chops right now. Because boy, oh boy, do we have a lineup of "objective conditions" and baby, baby, baby, have we ever entered into contradiction!

Somebody should keep a close watch on Lenin's mummy in Red Square, Moscow these days, cause I expect him to be up and doing a "dancing baby" number at any moment.

This is classic stuff.

Again one feels the ghost of Karl and Friedrich breathing down our necks... they would see all this as inevitable. The inescapable creation of advanced capitalism. And, strangely enough, many reading that phrase would still smile in contempt and commiseration.

Since the end of the cold war, we seem to have come to believe that the law of gravity has been suspended, that Bismark created the modern pension system and found the money to pay for it, because the "Iron Chancellor"  was either:
  1. Just a tender, warmhearted, sentimental old Prussian Junker, or
  2. He was a closet pinko.
Since the end of the Cold War many appear to be under the impression that Roosevelt's New Deal and the European welfare state had their origins in a orgy of brotherly love. Or that Marxist-Leninism or Anarcho-Syndicalism were created in the Silicon Valley garage spirit of "if we build it they'll come".

Sorry folks there was no such, "Field of Dreams".

All of the above developed in answer to an objective reality of intolerable immiseration, which our system now seems bent on recreating without stopping for a moment in their imbecilic greed and ignorance to think that they might also be recreating an enemy that may devour them and all that supports them, just like its predecessor nearly did.

What made our system work rather well for a few decades was that the Blankfeins and Fulds, the Thatchers, Reagans and the Friedmans of our world were once afraid, as was Bismark, of a "spectre" that "haunted Europe" and now is being called from the dead by the necromancers of the IMF to haunt the entire world.

This is not to say that some of the more lucid of the good and the great have not caught the odor of a brewing revolt in the breeze.
The American people fear they are losing their place and authority in the daily, unwinding drama of American history. They feel increasingly alienated from their government. And alienation, again, is often followed by deep animosity, and animosity by the breaking up of things. Peggy Noonan - WSJ
But, it is not just the American people, it is people almost everywhere, this crisis is a world crisis and the villains of the story are just as clearly drawn as the villains in a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm. The system has been caught with its fly open all over the world. People everywhere are enraged simultaneously.

The British quote at the top of this post could work as well in the USA and suitably translated, probably in any other advanced country in the world. A lot of people, everywhere are demanding solutions, fairness, justice.

The classic answer of the good and the great to this kind of worldwide trend toward reform or even drastic change that might cost them money is to stimulate nationalism, xenophobia and racism. Divide and conquer.

This is simple reason behind the flowering of the Limbaughs the Becks, the Palins, the birthers, the militias and the Tea Parties, all of them under the tender nurturing of Rupert Murdoch, to whom all of this sort of poisoning of public opinion is as second nature as hitting a golf ball or shagging a cocktail waitress is to Tiger Woods. 

Will Murdoch and his ilk succeed?

Perhaps not.

Up to you, really. DS