This initial statement by Occupy London’s Economic Working Group reached consensus at the General Assembly by St Paul’s Cathedral on 6th December 2011.
Our economy is in crisis and urgently requires profound changes; both small and immediate as well as radical and systemic. This statement is intended to be a springboard for discussion, both within Occupy LSX and beyond, about how to achieve this transformation.
Occupy LSX has been labelled as many things but what unites us is our commitment to economic justice and social equality. We are part of a worldwide movement working to create a more equitable, democratic and sustainable society which will ultimately benefit everyone. Below we outline some of the major issues in the current economic system that need to be addressed.
1. Banks and financial institutions need to be accountable to society
Financial institutions have increased in size to dominate our economy but have not become socially accountable in line with their increased power. Since 2008 hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs and millions have experienced pain and hardship because of reckless financial practices. The debts incurred have been loaded onto almost every person in this country while a wealthy elite further enrich themselves. Despite promises of reform, banks have been allowed to continue business as normal. Remuneration practices that irresponsibly reward risk and speculative behaviour must end, and deeper structural changes must follow, or our financial system will inevitably continue to fail.
2. Current austerity measures are making a bad situation worse
The UK government’s approach is damaging its own citizens now and the future of generations to come. Cuts to public services are having a disastrous impact on education, employment, business, health, social care and law and order. We oppose the unfair cuts and regressive taxes, currently inflicted on those vulnerable groups least able to bear the burden. Women especially pick up the pieces, often through unwaged work. Deep and painful cuts, coupled with increased taxation, have been put in place based on political motives and flawed beliefs. The strategy is misguided, damaging and not working.
3. The current economic system is unsustainable
Our economy encourages short-term profit at the expense of long-term sustainability. Not only does it precipitate environmental damage, it is also ill equipped to remedy it. It has fuelled a proliferation of financial debt and is piling up ecological damage that future generations may never be able to repair. The climate crisis and dwindling energy and mineral resources, land to build and produce food on, and the growing population, are incompatible with the prevailing economic strategy. We must rewrite the rules of the economy in the interests of sustainability and wellbeing.
4. Tackle systemic economic inequality
The economic system we live in increasingly benefits the few over the many. We believe it is fundamental to the future health of society to reduce economic inequality and its grave social consequences. There has been a widening of the chasm between rich and poor in the last 30 years and a persistent gender and age pay gap. Inequality has torn apart families, left children hungry and without care, pensioners to freeze and turned communities against each other in a battle for housing and other scarce resources. Many within society are burdened with crippling debt. It cannot continue. We must acknowledge the role of the monetary and current tax system in perpetuating and augmenting inequality. It is not enough to redress the excesses of the system: we must reverse the damage done.
5. Clamp down on tax avoidance
Our economy allows widespread avoidance of tax by those able to afford it. There has to be reform to the tax system to ensure that those with the greatest capacity to pay tax do not have the greatest capacity to avoid it. We must abolish the use of tax havens and complex corporate tax structures and loopholes that allow corporations, financial institutions and the wealthiest individuals to avoid contributing their fair share to society.
6. Independent and effective regulation
We call for effective regulation that works for the good of our society. Regulators must be totally independent, transparent, publicly accountable and provided with proper enforcement powers. Dangerous and highly leveraged trading practices have not been regulated properly. Britain must cease obstructing international efforts and take the lead in developing stronger regulation.
The St Paul’s Institute found that 75% of financial services workers agree with us that the gap between rich and poor is too wide . Occupy London is creating an open, participatory space to confront the problems at the heart of our financial system, outside of the confines of current political discourse.