Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Those angry men who want to change the World

Austerity has caused massive anger in Europe as it has hit severely the weak and very little the rich. The recent political elections in France and Greece are a reflection of this phenomenon. We have to understand the causes and the objectives that these angry men pursue and see how to channel this energy into a creative process rather than destruction.

Where do they come from?  The angry men belong to the middle class which has sustained the functioning of our economies and societies during the post war period. However, the situation has dramatically changed since the 90s. Inequality has hugely increased  because there has been a significant redistribution from middle classes to the rich due to the development of financial markets. The pyramid of income distribution has a widening base, mostly people with low salaries (say less than 25.000€ a year) and very few people with high salaries (say above 300.000€). The bulk of the so-called middle class is made up of people living in precarious conditions; they owe debts and have very few assets. They include pensioners, unstable or low paid workers, young people without a job. This mass of people in most European countries fears the danger of austerity and insecurity.

They express their anger publicly. They want to be listened by the government at all levels. They don't have a clear representation, ranging from trade unions, social protest movements and some parties.They reject traditional democratic parties and vote increasingly for the far right (massively in France) or the radical left (in Greece), the two being of course different. But the mass of angry men can be an easy target for demagogic parties of any kind which use scapegoats like immigration or taxation. The danger lies in the instability that it generates in our democracies. 

We need therefore a radical change in the policy agenda toward more growth and equity, without which the depression will persist for many years and cause a social disruption. Remember the lessons from the 30s with the rise of fascist and nazi movements. We should instead draw inspiration from wise men like Albert Einstein who said: “learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow

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