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Charles Ferguson's 'Predator Nation: Corporate Criminals, Political Corruption, and the Hijacking of America'

AlterNet Executive Editor Don Hazen talks to Ferguson, the Academy Award winner for "Inside Job," about his new book on the rapid rise of "Oligarchy America."

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Can you imagine that scenario a little bit further? What it would look like?

Ferguson: I don’t know if we’ll see the emergence of a single, charismatic figure in the mold of say, Martin Luther King Jr., or if we’ll see the emergence of a more partisan/political figure who might successfully run for president, or some combination of the two. Maybe this won’t happen. It’s not that I’m in some Pollyannish way, completely optimistic that everything’s going to be fine, I’m not. I’m worried about this condition. But on the other hand, I don’t think that I should just kind of slit my wrists because there’s no hope, either. America’s had problems before -- America’s had very serious problems before, and it has recovered from it, and made progress. Sometimes very painfully, and sometimes very slowly, but it has done so. So I wouldn’t count out this country’s and the American’s people’s capacity for self correction.

And what’s the scenario if it doesn’t self-correct?

Ferguson: There are a number of scenarios. I mean, you could either go relatively slow, relatively gradual, long, decline like... maybe like Argentina between 1920 and 1985. Or maybe more like England or, European countries, Europe in general, much of Europe, Greece. We could end up looking like a really big Greece. That’s one possibility. Another even more disturbing possibility is if we get a really nasty demagogue. Unfortunately, I don’t rule that out.

Do you think that Occupy Wall Street is doing anything to raise awareness? And should Occupy Wall Street take a more electoral focus and consider endorsing candidates?

Ferguson: Yes, I do think that it’s evidence of something. And I think that things like it are going to grow, and we’ll see what they’ll turn into. But demonstrating, raising popular public awareness, basically making life a little more uncomfortable for people who need to be reminded that their actions have consequences is all good.
In terms of elections, no, it’s good they’re exposing the broken system. Occupy Wall Street doesn’t have to be -- and I’m sure won’t be -- the only movement or the only group that addresses these issues. The environmental, the women’s movement has a half a dozen major groups. The civil rights movement had several major groups. So I think there will be several major groups, and Occupy Wall Street and the kind of things they do will be one and there probably will be others that are more focused on partisan politics and getting people elected. There will probably be several slightly different, maybe even substantially different points of view, which is fine.

Is there anything else you want to say that we didn’t touch upon?

Ferguson: I would add one other thing and I hope and believe the book does help this -- which is to look in both a very detailed and also in a very broad way at the financial services industry and its conduct, and point out that what it did in the bubble and the crisis really was criminal. And that it’s really important and dangerous that the criminal justice system has not been used. If the criminal justice system were used properly, these kinds of things would be much less frequent and much less severe than they are in fact becoming.


Don Hazen is the executive editor of AlterNet.

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