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How To Smash Capitalism


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Date: Sat, 08 May 2010 11:43:22 +1000

When your humble blogger commenced his tertiary education in our great southern capital Melbourne, in the late sixties, the political climate came as quite a shock! For a young lad straight from Perth, Melbourne was a hotbed of radicalism. The Vietnam War was an important issue and there was a growing protest movement concerned about the war and Australia's involvement in it ... There was even the occasional piece of graffiti urging us to "Smash Capitalism".

Sometimes we were urged to "Smash US Imperialism", as well ... Just exactly how we were going to smash capitalism (and/or US Imperialism) by studying physics, chemistry, maths, biology, arts and politics was never made clear. Many of the excellent graphics that accompanied these exhortations showed fit healthy members of the proletariat clad in overalls, clutching proletariat tools like hammers, shovels and wrenchs. Amongst the student body there was not a hammer in sight, and apart from a few feminists, no overalls! Fashion conscious students in those days were more likely to be wearing tight jeans or caftans and carrying books and notepads -- Note to younger readers: Back then "notebooks" were made of paper, and the user interface consisted of a "Biro" -- Interestingly enough those industrious US Imperialists spent millions of dollars making said "Biros" capable of writing in the weightless regions of upper space -- Those crafty proletarian Soviets employed pencils instead.

Ahh, but student radicals, space pens and "Paisley" shirts are now a thing of the past! And as it turned out the only real threat to "Capitalism" came not from the left but the extreme right. The only singificant terrorist attacks carried out against the US were put together by right wing extremists. The Oklahoma bombing on April 19 1995 (as a protest about the Waco Incident on April 19 1993) was one such incident. The "9/11" attack on America in 2001 was once again a right wing attack. And if there is any irony in such a tragedy it must be that the 9/11 terrorists were encouraged and in some cases funded from US sources that had been channeled into Pakistan and Afghanistan to promote Islamic terrorism in order to destabilise the Soviet backed government in that country.

Still despite the more credible right wing threat, that arose in the 21st century, capitalism has remained unabashed and definitely "not smashed".

And then just yesterday, we all discovered how indeed it might be possible to "Smash Capitalism". And there were no bombs, no marching proletariat, no crowds waving banners and singing revolutionary songs ... Just a guy (or gal?) with a computer in Chicago. Rumour has it this person pressed the letter "B" on his/her keyboard (instead of the letter "M"). And so instead of 16 million shares being unloaded a much more substantial 16 billion was dumped. It's is bit like confusing Megabytes with Gigabytes.

It's an easy enough mistake to make -- After all we have all pressed the wrong key on a computer keyboard. But what followed that tiny little finger problem was truly dramatic.

Because, inexplicably, the financial universe trembled ... And almost imploded!

Traders on Wall Street gripped their desks until their knuckles turned white. A huge virtual chasm had opened beneath the Rockport shoes on their trembling feet. Their Kelvin Klein underpants were stained brown over the next terrifying sixteen minutes. Some poor souls just ran screaming for the exits with their hair on fire.

A quarter of an hour later, those bewildered traders, whose hearts were still hammering, looked around in moist-eyed terror. WTF had just happened? The explanation offered is a so-called "Fat Finger Event". In the words of Graham Bowley, A New York Times columnist:

All the officials knew was that there had been what one called "a huge, anomalous, unexplained surge in selling, it looks like in Chicago, at about 2:45." The source remained unknown, but it had apparently set off algorithmic trading strategies, which in turn rippled across everything, pushing trading out of whack and feeding on itself ...

-- New Your Times Article "U.S. Markets Plunge And Then Stage Rebound", May 06, 2010.

And so dear reader, that is how one "Smashes Capitalism". All you need is one of those computers. Gosh! Would that a be Windows XP computer? Or maybe a Windows 7 computer? Although come to think of it, if it was done by a member of the ruling elite, it might have been a Mac notebook! Or maybe if it was one of those old-fashioned communists, clad in overalls, clutching a proletariat hammer in a strong, well muscled, tightly clenched proletariat fist ... While typing on the keyboard of a Linux computer with his/her free (left) hand?

Fortunately dear reader, there aren't many of you reading this humble blog ... So you won't spread the word ... Ok? Let's just keep it a secret between you and your humble blogger ... Cos' we don't want Osama Bin Ladin (or come to think of it ... Those Lunar Right American Tea Baggers) to find out about any of this! If those radical elements discover just how easy it could be to "Smash Capitalism" ... Well, dear reader we could be in serious trouble! If the radicals get themselves one of those algorithmic trading thingies ... And then ... Press the "B" key repeatedly ... Then "Boom"! No more capitalism ... It's like totally smashed ... From the inside! ... By electrons that can circumnavigate the globe in the blink of an eye!


Update: 2010-05-08: Mystery still surrounds this episode. Investigators are now begining to think that rather than being the result of "finger problems", the sudden hiatus was an artifact produced entirely by the automated trading systems that now manage a lot of the trading on the stock exchange. Without any human intervention!

Which is probably even more worrying ... Does this mean that Capitalism could be smashed by remote control?

Scary stuff dear reader. Very scary indeed!

Read more here.


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