Occupy Movement Hopes for New Lease on Life


But she has no answers for the rest of the world, and she also has little interest for the questions that people in Europe and the United States are asking, such as: How can capitalism be tamed once again? She believes that capitalism ultimately cannot be tamed. It's a clear position, at least, which puts her a step ahead of the Occupy people. She doesn't have to search for new ideas, because she simply assumes that the old ones are still valid.

At the moment, the "system" gives many people reason to call it into question, almost the way it was in the 1930s, during the Great Depression, when economist John Maynard Keynes wrote: "Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone."

But today, in contrast to the time of the Great Depression, the hope that a different system could be better for the common good is even more remote. That's why the activists are sitting around in tents, hoping that in doing so they will be able to make the system more humane. Those who have informed themselves about the theory of revolution know that revolutions come about when those at the top become increasingly incompetent while those at the bottom become increasingly dissatisfied. So far, the only thing that's clear today is that those at the top, the politicians, are becoming increasingly inept.

Old-Fashioned Ideas

"Personally, I feel that the social market economy is a good compromise," says Erik Buhn in Frankfurt. In their group tent, in the cafeteria at the Opera House and in their Internet forums, the Occupy activists have spent months discussing the system and its weaknesses. Now many of those who can be found in and around the camp are no longer searching for something new. In fact, they actually yearn for something that's decidedly old-fashioned.

They rave about family-owned businesses in which the owner feels responsible for the employees, and about the more generous social benefits that existed before former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, a member of the Social Democrats, pushed through the Agenda 2010 reforms, which introduced the widely unpopular Hartz IV benefits for the long-term unemployed.

There are even people who liked Schröder's ideas about reforms, like Wolf, the head of the Demo Working Group. Schröder wanted to make it worth people's while to work again, instead of being on benefits. That made sense to Wolf. But then German companies started paying low wages and making greater use of poorly paid temporary workers, which meant that many people found that they weren't actually much better off working after all.

Democracy has to become more democratic, the activists say. They dream of politicians who take the time to effectively explain decisions and who always keep their campaign promises.

Friendly Capitalism

Except for a few radical leftists, who ritually call for revolution on May 1 every year, hardly anyone in Germany wants to eliminate capitalism anymore. Capitalism has many critics, from the center-right CDU to the far-left Left Party, but hardly any opponents anymore.

How do the Occupy activists intend to make capitalism friendlier?

There are ideas that are frequently discussed in the camp, including the Left Party's plan for a wealth tax and the unconditional basic income that the Pirates now support. Other ideas include the minimum wage, a tax on financial transactions and more referendums.

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