Breaking Views

G-20 deserves better protesters

With all the world's financial woes, there is room for an alternative view. But the London protesters offer no more than the senseless slogans of a hippie festival.

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By Edward Hadas, breakingviews.com

(breakingviews.com) -- A great age of protest should be dawning. The global mismanagement of the financial system has led to a deep recession. Intellectual paralysis has gripped the authorities and their policy response has been risky.

After such failure, the political leaders gathered in London for the G-20 conference deserve a serious challenge. Sadly, all they are getting are the senseless slogans of a hippie festival.

The manifesto of the G-20 Meltdown group, which managed to collect a scraggly band of a few thousand malcontents on Wednesday, borrowed a piece of contemporary rhetorical vacuity from President Barack Obama.

But their "Yes we can" answered questions that were depressingly nave - "can we guarantee everyone a job, a home, a future?" and "can we make capitalism history?" The audacity of hope was not matched by a discussion of means.

Of course, demonstrations aren't the natural home for intellectual rigor, but this effort is particularly fragmented and foolish. It's a shame, as the world's leaders really do have a big ideological gap to fill.

In the two decades since the fall of Communism, they have mostly been guided by a slogan of their own: "Trust the financial markets". That now sounds almost as simplistic as the protesters' plan to "abolish all borders and be patriots for our planet".

The G-20 doesn't have time to develop big ideas during their meeting. There are too many disasters to be averted, not to mention petty squabbling over hedge-fund regulation and executive pay.

But the next generation of leaders needs to get finance right, to balance the global economy and to keep development on track. That requires a new intellectual framework.

Protesters who look like they just want a street party aren't likely to be up to the challenge. Sadly, the more intellectually sophisticated Left seems to be hardly more capable of helping out.

Any protester who can articulate a coherent alternative to the establishment's tattered notions really could change the world. To top of page

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