L: I'm sitting in Doug Casey's living room, in Cafayate, Argentina, far, far from Wall Street, which is being "occupied" by protesters with a very clear message. Doug, as a prime cut of meat on the "eat the rich" menu, would you like to respond?
Doug: I assume you're being sarcastic about the clear message, but one can never tell in today's world. Otherwise, I would have thought Paul Krugman was joking when he said that a pretend alien invasion would be good for the economy. We increasingly live in an Alice in Wonderland world.
L: Truth is often stranger than fiction. We'd have been laughed at if we'd predicted that people in Spain would shine lights on solar cells at night, because the subsidies make it profitable to do so.
Doug: Indeed. But back to Wall Street. I have very mixed feelings about the occupation movement, because these people are 100% correct to be angry about these banks – from Goldman Sachs on down – that received scores of billions of dollars of taxpayers' money after doing the opposite of what banks are supposed to do (losing money instead of keeping it safe), and then paying themselves bonuses for doing such a good job.
L: It's actually the largest bank heist in history.
Doug: You could say that. Was it Al Capone who said that one accountant with a pen can steal more than 100 thugs with guns? A central banker like Bernanke can facilitate the looting of an entire country, though. You might also say it's the Chinese whose money they stole, because the Chinese will never be able to redeem their long-term Treasuries for anything like the value they put into them. You could also say it's the next generation's money, because they're going to have to pay for it all. No wonder so many young people are outraged – they have a right to be.
Doug: But on the other hand, a lot of these Occupy Wall Street (OWS) people seem to be of the same sort who would have been loosely wrapped hippies back in the '60s. I was also sympathetic with the hippies in many regards, by the way, because I agreed with their anti-war and anti-drug-law stances. It's hard, however, to see these people as allies when one of their most popular slogans equates me to a beef cow. They seem to have a strong collectivist/socialist animus. They seem to hate the 1% just because they have money. They don't have the sense to make distinctions as to how different people might have gotten that money.
I am, clearly, one of the 1%. So are you. In fact, almost everyone who has worked hard, saved money, and not invested it unwisely is at least in the top 10%. What the OWS people are angry about – or should be angry about – are the people who made their money through government contacts, or connections. They didn't produce anything; they're really just sophisticated thieves. I have only contempt for those who feed at the public trough.
But here we are in one of the nicest places in the world, where I'm living high off the hog, smoking an expensive Cuban cigar – that's probably a waterboarding offense in the US these days – so I guess that puts me on the menu.
However, I haven't yet been to one of these protests to speak with any of these people, so maybe I shouldn't presume too much about what they think. It's likely their level of discourse would be no more cogent than what you read in the New York Times, perhaps even less cogent than USA Today. But I don't like to be around angry people – although, to be honest, I'm angry myself because I hate to see what's left of America, and Western civilization itself, on the skids…
L: I haven't talked to any of the OWS people either, but, not wanting to rely solely on hearsay, I sent someone to the epicenter in Manhattan. We asked people there: "What does Occupy Wall Street mean to you?" I published the results in the current edition of the International Speculator. Here are some of the more comprehensible quotations:
"The 99% are getting more distribution. Corruption in government. Peaceful overthrow."
"There are people who have a lot of money and then people with nothing. I'm a student, and I don't want my future to be the way it is now. Make the country equal again."
"If something is not right, do something about it! Inspire unity. Everyone knows something is wrong."
"Mad at bailouts. Very little difference between political parties. [Everyone] knows Democrat = Republican! Lockheed Martin makes money from taxpayer-funded wars. Gold standard! Bitcoins! Disenfranchise the 1% plutocracy. Root out corruption."
"I don't have my clear answer for this."
One of the interesting things about this is that there's a clear streak of very strong anti-government sentiment from people who usually can't get enough government. Granted, they don't necessary call for less government, but they do seem to want to throw the bums out. All of them. Except maybe Ron Paul.