A general election, Benjamin Disraeli once observed, “inflames the passions of every class of the community. Even the poor,” he added, “begin to hope.” In 2015, Max Keiser argues, the power of global markets has rendered election fever something of an anachronism: “Tony Blair personified the shift away from democracy, towards control by bankers.” In modern politics, the prime minister “is really taking orders from finance”.
“What if Miliband had won?”
“There’s an impending scheme called TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a proposed EU-US agreement) whereby all complaints – against US companies fracking in Britain, say – would go to a global tribunal, moderated by corporations. They don’t care who the prime minister is. Why should we?” David Cameron’s role, “is being eroded to the point of insignificance”.
Keiser, 55, is a New York University graduate and former high-achieving Wall Street trader whose mischievous wit and renegade instincts have made him one of the most widely viewed broadcasters on the planet. His flagship show, Keiser Report, is carried by Russian state-funded channel RT; for that alone, some fellow-Americans consider him a traitor. But Keiser connects with a predominantly youthful audience otherwise indifferent to economics.
“Rage against kleptocrats is building incrementally,” says Keiser, a tireless scourge of JP Morgan, Lehman Brothers and HSBC. “All over the world, people have had enough.”
Untroubled by controversy, Keiser conducted the 2011 interview with Roseanne Barr during which she explained that a fitting reward for “banksters” would be to bring back the guillotine. He once advised Cameron to “go back to Eton and get some of that back-stall shower pleasure”.
When we first met, three years ago, just after Keiser moved to London with co-presenter and wife Stacy Herbert, he told me that the modern voter was worse off than a medieval serf. “Back then,” he said, “at least the process of theft was transparent. The barons whacked you over the head, then took all your money. The mode of larceny has changed, that’s all.”
What he calls “the Thatcher-Reagan market model” has, he says, “been consigned to the dustbin. There’s no growth. There’s quantitative easing, which causes deflation. The global economy is collapsing.”
The EU, as Keiser likes to describe it, “poses as an elite club; actually it’s a leper colony where everyone’s comparing who has the most fingers left”.
“Could France, say, go bankrupt?”
“Absolutely. The forces killing Greece are active in France, Italy and Spain.” The EU, he says, “could be viewed as The Fourth Reich. Germany is a superpower. The Greek crisis is great for them – it keeps the euro low and German exports cheap. When countries like France go broke, EU federalisation will proceed through Berlin.”
“What if Britain leaves?”
“That’s great for Germany too. Business moves to Frankfurt. They’re playing their hand brilliantly.”
The only hope for the beleaguered citizen, Keiser says, lies in the digital peer-to-peer currency, bitcoin.
“How can bitcoin help a struggling family?”
“Bitcoin was specifically designed to challenge central banks,” he says. “In Argentina that revolution is occurring right now. Through bitcoin, the Argentines are developing an economy which doesn’t require the bankers. The same is happening in Kenya and elsewhere.” Initially, he says, “bankers mocked bitcoin. Now they’re scrambling to catch up. They never will.”
Keiser is collaborating closely with Russell Brand. One project involves establishing an overseas hedge-fund designed to short-sell shares from major companies and so “destabilise neoliberal economic domination”. Put more simply, Keiser and Brand aim to make profit by sabotaging the share price of multinationals, and redistributing the money to vulnerable individuals.
“Is it legal?”
“Totally. Our strategy exploits the market tools that got us into this mess. We’ve established our own cryptocurrency [StartCOIN] to fund the revolution.”
Assuming that Brand understands the details, some might consider revising their view of him as an entertaining irrelevance. “That,” Keiser says, “was never, ever, my opinion of Russell.”
“You’ve been predicting global meltdown for a while. When is it due?”
“I believe the world economy will crash when Russia or China moves to a gold-backed currency. They know that when this thing blows the old law returns: he with most gold makes the rules.”
Why did he move to London?
“Because Britain is the epicentre of financial fraud. Most major players outsource their fraud here because London is the unregulated cesspit of global finance.”
“Didn’t you once make that point less delicately?”
“I did,” says Keiser. “What I said was, ‘If you see me walking the streets of your town, then you’re probably screwed’.”