Capitalism is in crisis. This is the proclamation of one of the banners at the St. Paul’s protest. What this means, or what the protesters stand for, no one is quite sure. The protesters’ demands are incoherent and often inconsistent. But their disillusionment with the current state of capitalism is entirely justified. The political elite have been unwilling to act upon the expressed concerns of the majority. So a motley group of ramshackle protesters have taken up the mantle, acknowledging the reality that ‘there is something rotten in the state’.
St. Paul’s, captured in an iconic photograph of World War Two, emerges alone and proud from the dust cloud created by Luftwaffe bombs, is now being humbled by nonconformists that have been ostracised by modern day society.
Whilst capitalism has been a force for good in the past, it has become inherently unfair for two reasons. Firstly, evidence demonstrates unequivocally that capitalism massively benefits the economic elite, reinforcing class division. In the UK, between 1999 and 2009, the money earned by the richest tenth rose by 37 per cent, whilst the money made by the poorest tenth fell by 12 per cent. Such trends are echoed in most other capitalist economies throughout the world. Wealth inequalities on this scale show that it is failing the average person. Archbishop Rowan Williams lucidly exposes the second unfairness in capitalism as it stands: “There is still a powerful sense around – fair or not – of a whole society paying for the errors and irresponsibility of bankers”. The taxpayer was obliged to bail out the banks in the financial crisis of 2008-09. One might expect that the necessary response to this would be increased regulation and accountability. Evidently not. Regulation is meagre and major investments banks have in fact grown in size.
Neither I, nor the St. Paul protesters have the solutions. I’m a lowly 19 year old whose understanding of economics is based almost solely on the book The Undercover Economist. But the protesters and I do not require a PhD in Economics to know that something is rotten. We know that there is a systemic crisis that demands a systemic reformation. The current financial system is fundamentally undemocratic. The economy disproportionately serves the will of the elite and the average person is powerless to change anything.
A poverty of ambition has paralysed our world leaders. But the greatest leaders in history are those that have been bold enough to challenge the norm, not because it is easy, but because it is right. They need to come together in order to thrash out a uniform systemic change to the banking system. There is not only a crisis in capitalism. There is also a crisis in the political process. History rewards leaders who dare to do what is necessary, however daunting the task and trying the journey.