Yoav Susz

The Social Protests – Where to now?

Greed, as Gordon Gekko in the movie “Wall Street” famously quipped, is good. Or so we have been led to believe over the past twenty years. Yet this last year, has really turned the tables. No longer is it fashionable to dine at the finest restaurants and drink expensive wine, the current rage is tents in the centers of big cities and second hand clothes. From worshiping money and profits we are now told that fraternity and social responsibility are the order of the day. The pendulum seems to be swinging from one extremity to another, it’s either Greedy Capitalism or Liberty-less Communism. We must stop it, before it’s too late. A successful state must be a mixed economy, driven by business, yet protected by the Government. Not all is fair in business, and the Government must ensure that it protects the weaker parts of our society.

Protests and calls for Social Justice have erupted the world over. From Sydney to Tel Aviv, people seem to be fed up with the current political and economic system. Yet are there any solutions or productive suggestions or is it simply heated and empty rhetoric? Throughout social protests in Israel this last summer the prevalent slogan was “The answer to Privatization, a Revolution!”. For the first time in 20 years “Nationalization” and “Revolution” have become the order of the day and Capitalism has become the root of all evil.

Undoubtedly the foundations for the current wave of social protests are grounded in reality. The “trickle down” effect promised by Capitalism and Neo Liberals hasn’t been happening. The gap between the rich and the poor has been growing the world over leaving more and more people disillusioned with the benefits of the current system.

Yet we must still remember that the major competing ideology to Capitalism has failed miserably. There are those which will immediately claim that the problem with Communism or Socialism was not the ideas but rather the way in which they were implemented. How can one be disconnected from the other? An ideology is only as strong as its implementation. Complete material equality is unnecessary and unwanted, it tries to make all humans fit one mould and doesn’t take into account each of us with our own preferences, hopes and dreams. Equality is an essential value in democracy, yet so is Liberty.

States must decide what their core functions are and make sure that they control them  alone and never privatize them. Israel was a country founded on the values of Social-Democracy and still, it felt the need to veer slightly away from it’s rigid ideology throughout the years. The state originally controlled most of the industry causing state run monopolies which gave bad service to the people and wasted inordinate amounts of public money. Israel’s decision to privatize some of its services has been absolutely right. Nobody in their right minds can claim that it would be better that the state still own the “National Weeds Control Company”. We can still see today that in the places the Government allows a state controlled monopoly, those that suffer most are the people. The case in point being Sea Ports and the Israel Electric Corporation, the two must inefficient and wasteful bodies in Israel.

All of this is not to suggest that we must value market efficiency over all else. The failures of the free market are here for all to see. The manipulations on the system which have caused these widening social gaps must be stopped and controlled. Yet the cause has not been Capitalism but rather greed and irresponsible deregulation or lack of regulation in the first place. We must  rekindle the values of social responsibility and that at the end of the day, we are all in this together. We do indeed all have a stake and responsibility to each other, yet we must remember that business and entrepreneurship are what has made our society great and has pushed us forward. The current climate of hating the rich and successful is counter productive. We must not try to limit ambitions but rather make sure that all people have a fair shot in life. We must find the middle ground or face disaster. As the great President, Teddy Roosevelt, once said “The fundamental rule in our national life – the rule which underlies all others – is that, on the whole, and in the long run, we shall go up or down together”.

About the Author
A native of Tel Aviv, London and now New York. A lawyer and political activist. Currently an MBA candidate at NYU Stern.