Protesting the G-8 Summit
Thousands of violent demonstrators flocked to the G-8 summit of the chiefs of the major countries in Heiligendamm, Germany
June 1, 2007
Fred Foldvary, Ph.D.
Economist

Thousands of violent demonstrators flocked to the G-8 summit of the chiefs of the major countries in Heiligendamm, Germany. Several hundred protestors and police officers were injured.

The G-8 is a group of the eight largest global economic and military powers: the United States of America, The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, The Federal Republic of Germany, the French Republic, the Italian Republic, Japan, Canada, and the Russian Federation.

The German police arrested over 1000 protestors. Several Greenpeace boats sought to invade the summit by sea, and one was rammed by a police vessel. Greenpeace also attempted to invade the summit by balloon. There were riots in Rostock, a nearby city. According to reports, this violence was not initiated by the police, who took action only after the protestors began their violence. The police even allowed protestors in the banned area along the fence that protected the summit leaders from the violence.

The themes of the G-8 summit were climate change, peace, debt relief, and economic development. It is rather ironic that the chiefs of the world’s powers met for dialogue and cooperation, while the protestors’ message was the use of force.

The violence was led by the “black block,” black-masked, stone-throwing, car-burning protestors calling themselves “anarchists.” This reinforces the meaning that most folks think of when they hear anarchy: violence. Real anarchists believe that there can be harmony without imposed government. Thus violent anarchists spoil the true meaning of anarchism. They are anarcho-socialists rather than the individualist anarchists who favor peace and personal liberty.

The violence of the protestors also ruined whatever message they attempted to deliver. As is usual, the mass media reports of the protestors focused on their violence. The protest leaders know this, so evidently their intended message was basically that they seek violent conflict with authorities. Perhaps the Greenpeace activists sought to demonstrate that they too had power. At any rate, the impact on the word’s public was that there were hooligans who used the occasion to indulge in force.

Some of the protestors were perhaps opposed to global free trade. Lacking any intellectual argument, they attempted to substitute force for logic. If that’s the best the opponents have to offer, this makes the argument for free trade even stronger. As German chancellor Angela Merkel commented, "Violence is no way to solve things.” Chancellor Merkel has been pushing president Bush to bring the U.S. into a global agreement to reduce pollution, and made some progress at the summit. It is not clear whether the protestors are for or against such an agreement.

These summit meetings began in 1975 when French president Giscard hosted the first one near Paris in 1975, inviting the chiefs of Germany, Italy, the United States, Japan and Britain, thus a G-6 meeting to talk about economics. U.S. president Ford hosted the next summit in Puerto Rico, and added Canada to the club of big boys. Russia was then put in, making the club the G-8.

Rostock is located on the Baltic Sea and is the largest city in the German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, which was in the former East Germany. The summit took place in nearby Heiligendamm, a Baltic coast resort that includes a nude beach. Naked Germans were sunning and swimming near the hotel where the summit took place. East Germans had gotten naked at beaches and camping grounds as a form of rebellion against the Communist rulers. The chiefs of the Democratic Republic of Germany tolerated it as a harmless outlet for free expression. Ironically, the western Germans are more prudish than their eastern cousins, and have sought to limit nude beaching in eastern Germany.

The naked beach goers could been an inspiration for the summit protestors. If they had stripped instead of burning cars and throwing rocks, they could not have been regarded as a security threat. They would have gotten much media attention, and then could have made their political message known to the world. Instead, their violence erased whatever policy point they wanted to make.

Protest leaders claimed victory for cutting off the routes to the beach. They prevented some East Germans from enjoying their naked tradition. So the main accomplishment of the protestors was to block one of the few freedoms that the East Germans had under Soviet-dominated communist rule, getting naked at the beach. The violent protestors were thus no better than the tyrants who once ruled the undemocratic dictatorship of East Germany.

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Fred Foldvary, Ph.D.
Economist

FRED E. FOLDVARY, Ph.D., is an economist and has been writing weekly editorials for Progress.org since 1997. Foldvary's commentaries are well respected for their currency, sound logic, wit, and consistent devotion to human freedom. He received his B.A. in economics from the University of California at Berkeley, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in economics from George Mason University. He has taught economics at Virginia Tech, John F. Kennedy University, Santa Clara University, and currently teaches at San Jose State University.

Foldvary is the author of The Soul of LibertyPublic Goods and Private Communities, and Dictionary of Free Market Economics. He edited and contributed to Beyond Neoclassical Economics and, with Dan Klein, The Half-Life of Policy Rationales. Foldvary's areas of research include public finance, governance, ethical philosophy, and land economics.

Foldvary is notably known for going on record in the American Journal of Economics and Sociology in 1997 to predict the exact timing of the 2008 economic depression—eleven years before the event occurred. He was able to do so due to his extensive knowledge of the real-estate cycle.