Greetings Expats in Lisbon! Today we are going to talk about the recent protests that have been going on here in Lisbon. These protests have been against austerity and have been aimed at the Troika in particular. The Troika has demanded more and more austerity and cuts in the public budget in exchange for tranches of bailout money. The problem with this is that it doesn’t solve the real issues behind the struggling economy: high levels of unemployment, wealth inequality, cronyism, and nepotism. Bailouts from central banks to central governments constitutes trickle down economics, because only those who get to spend the money first get the benefit. Governments spend the money first on themselves, on useless submarines, or otherwise waste it. Trickle down economics does not work, in fact it is nothing but an “upward redistribution of income, rather than a way to make us all richer, as we were told.” – Ha- Joon Chang, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
Youth unemployment is a particularly huge problem. In Portugal we have over 30% unemployment in youth and almost 50% unemployment in youth in Greece. These statistics are infuriating and ridiculous. Is this Weimar Republic all over again? This situation amounts to a lost generation of desperate youths that will have a harder and harder time finding employment as time goes on. Meanwhile, the 1% keep getting richer while the world falls apart. Isn’t time to do something?
Demanding regime change without a plan to replace the old regime is useless. The current system of free market capitalism and democracy has failed. We need a new paradigm of Social Capitalism and Meritocratic Democracy. What do I mean by that? Social Capitalism will be similar to free market capitalism except that the government will strictly regulate/prohibit certain practices in the market that are outside the function of the market for the interests of all people. The market should be a place where people can test the popularity and competitiveness of tangible products/companies and where legitimate businesspeople and farmers can hedge against fluctuations in price of their required input goods. What the government should prohibit is the excessive speculation in commodities, shorting, and rampant insider trading.
The market as it stands today is more powerful in determining public policy and the direction of society than our elected officials. It makes a complete farce out of democracy. Wall Street financial institutions and private central banks like The Federal Reserve (yes, it’s a privately owned, for-profit institution) wield more power than Congress. How can we let unelected officials wield inordinate power over the public economy? They control the economy and thus control everything.
A system of Social Capitalism would never let this happen and would put mechanisms in place such as abolishing high-risk financial instruments like derivatives, and using psychological profiling to ensure that only middle-aged, risk averse, and cooperative people have the highest power in finance. It would also de-incentivize risk and make financial managers personally, financially responsible for their mistakes with other people’s money. The current system “privatizes profits and socializes losses”. In other words, the Wall Street cabal bets the house, rakes in the winnings when they win and dumps the losses on the tax payer when they lose. This is not a system that can be perpetuated any longer.
A Meritocratic Democracy is different from a regular democracy in the sense that not everyone gets a vote just for achieving the stupendous accomplishment of making it to your 18th birthday (sarcasm intended!). As Plato and other intellectuals have noted, democracy is “rule by the ill-educated mob”. Indeed! Any system that gives mathematicians and Ph.D.s in public policy the same political power as a barely literate 18 year old is a system that is guaranteed to fail over time. We have reached that failure tipping point. There are simply far more stupid and easily manipulated, irrational idiots on this planet than there are sane rational people. Any system that gives these two separate camps equal say in the direction of society is destined to fail.
A Meritocracy is rule by the smartest and the most capable within their respective fields of expertise. In a Meritocratic Democracy only those who have demonstrable merit, intelligence, and experience in a given field are given a voice for policy within that given field. For example, only doctors have a voice in determining a nation’s healthcare policy. Do you want to have a say in how healthcare is run in the country? Ok, get an MD first! The same goes for economic policy, education, energy, and indeed all facets of government. The current system where the President of the United States can appoint his campaign buddies to the highest levels of the aforementioned governmental departments is grotesquely stupid. What do bureaucrats and yes-men know about running a country? Nothing.
If there is one institution that is most responsible for the economic inequality and global instability, it is the Giant Vampire Squid Goldman Sachs. This is truly an “evil” institution if evil can be defined has having complete contempt for the well-being of others. Goldman Sachs’ crimes against humanity have been well documented and I won’t enumerate them here. All I ask is that you join me and all others who want a better world in turning Goldman Sachs into the ultimate pariah. Sneer at and insult their name whenever possible. Boo their employees. Make them the face of the 1%. Make them into the walking dead. They deserve it.
I have to say that protests here in Lisbon are far different from protests in other parts of the world such as Spain, Greece, and the United States. Protests are allowed to happen and police are there to ensure the safety of the protesters. I have never personally seen police brutality against protesters in the three protests that I have gone to. Here in Lisbon, protesting is a party!
So, is this a protest or a concert? Both! This would never happen in the United States. There is no way that the US government would ever allow a protest group to set up a band stage and play anti-establishment songs for the entire afternoon. But it happens here in Lisbon. How cool is that?
There was another protest a week after the one above that was much in the same vein, but this time it was in Praça da Espanha.
Austerity got you down? Interested in Meritocracy? Leave a comment below and I will send you more info. Thanks again fellow expats in Lisbon and until next time. Ate já!