Paul Martin and Ernesto Zedillo are members in good standing of the global elite. Martin is a former Canadian prime minister, finance minister, deficit hawk and, in his life before politics, multimillionaire businessman. Zedillo is a former president of Mexico, holds a doctorate in economics, directs Yale University’s Center for the Study of Globalization, and serves on the boards of the blue chips Procter & Gamble and Alcoa.
Yet when I interviewed the two of them in a wide-ranging public conversation last week, hosted by the Center for International Governance Innovation, an independent, nonpartisan Canadian research organization, they sounded an awful lot like the people camped out in Zuccotti Park in New York.
Neither Zedillo nor Martin had sympathy for the complaint that Occupy Wall Street lacked a clear agenda. As Zedillo put it: “These criticisms — ‘Oh, they don’t have an agenda, they only pose problems and provide no solutions’ — well, they are citizens and they have earned the right to express a very serious, real problem.”
The truth, the two statesmen agreed, was that the protesters were articulating a real, important and global concern.
“I have yet to talk to anyone who says they aren’t reflecting a disquiet that they themselves feel,” Martin said. “I think really the powerful thing is that Occupy Wall Street has hit a chord that really is touching the middle class — the middle class in Canada, the middle class in the United States, the middle class right around the world — and I think that makes it actually very, very powerful.”