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Roger Altman reminds us we don’t live in a democracy

May 9, 2013

Wall Street financier and former Clinton Treasury official Roger Altman steps forth today to yet again inform us that we’re ruled by the bond market and not democratically elected leaders.  Few with a reasonably sound grasp of events would disagree with his assessment, but it’s always grating hearing it from one who so clearly glories in it all.  He penned a similar article a year and a half ago in which he praisingly identified the “markets” as the second most powerful force on earth behind nuclear weapons.  I was motivated then to write a post comparing this adulation of power to that of Wagner’s gods as they entered Valhalla in Das Rheingold.

In the current article, he now tells us quite rightly that “It was not Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany, or other political leaders who pushed austerity on to Italy, Spain, Greece and others”, “it was private lenders”.  “Markets triggered the Eurozone crisis, not politicians” and “21st century markets are much more powerful than any government leader”.

The terms he uses here, “private lenders” and especially “markets” need to be quickly branded as mere euphemisms, though, for the harsh underlying reality that hovers over us.  National governments are mere small town functionaries compared to this larger force; real power isn’t in their hands, and it’s not in the hands of a neutered faceless invisible creature of implied fairness called “markets”.  True power rests with an extraordinarily tiny gang having immense power assembled through their tight grip on corporate ownership, wealth, and banking.  In short, they rule by the concentrated ownership of money.  The traditional term for this form of rule, going all the way back to Aristotle, is oligarchy.

Altman is telling us nothing less than that we don’t have agency over our lives, that we don’t live in democracies, and that we live instead under the tyrannical rule of an oligarchy, albeit he understandably prefers the term “markets”.  It’s not necessarily too smart for the oligarchs and assorted mercenaries to emphasize this hard political fact as it risks waking up a confused and dozing population who still tend to see their real rulers as elected through some type of however imperfect democratic process.

Altman’s a bit too confident for his own good it seems; he’s dazzled by the radiance of his gods, and assumes way too easily that the “political” can forever be safely segregated from material well being, i.e. the “economic” and that “markets” will always be identified with the fairness of, say, the local farmer’s market.  He tells us that “History is not likely to view these austerity trends in political or moral terms.  Rather, the context will probably be a financial one”.  As if overruling popularly elected governments and forcing hundreds of millions into destitution isn’t the very purest example of what politics and morality actually are; and as if “finance” somehow exists in some strange dimension of the universe completely disconnected from politics and morality.

The immoral, fully political system for which Altman speaks is a brutal tyranny that will begin its final collapse when majorities start realizing its true nature; when they stop blaming the Merkels of the world and see the oligarchy for what it truly is.  We should thank Altman for aiding in this great educational process.

  1. Andrew permalink

    In some small way might the fast food worker strike in Saint Louis be a light in the darkness? There comes a point where you don’t have much to lose by not showing up to work.

  2. I think it’s definitely a small light in the darkness, especially since it seems to be catching on in other cities as well. I’m quite sure Roger Altman won’t approve one bit!

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