Reflections from Occupy Wall Street
As the tents are carted away from Zuccotti Park this morning, just blocks away from Inc. Magazine's headquarters, I've been reflecting on the leaderless "Occupy" movement message as interpreted by prominent thinkers in academia.
In Sunday, November 13’s, New York Times, Jeffrey Sachs articulates a “New Progressive Movement” arising out of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement. He proposes these three legs to this movement’s stool:
• “A revival of crucial public services, especially education, training, public investment and environmental protection.”
• “The end of a climate of impunity that encouraged nearly every Wall Street firm to commit financial fraud.”
• “Re-establish the supremacy of people votes over dollar votes in Washington.”
To this I would add a fourth, as articulated by Professor Tyler Cowen elsewhere in Sunday’s newspaper. Entitled “Whatever Happened to Discipline and Hard Work?,” Professor Cowen reminds us that “The United States has always had a culture with a high regard for those able to rise from poverty to riches. It has had a strong work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit.” Cowen goes on, “the best approach for fighting poverty [is to] stress achievement and the pursuit of excellence.”
The 99% would be well advised to acknowledge that righting the financial ship has much to do with emulating the top 9% (those Americans who are neither the “top 1%” nor the financially insecure middle-class). These are individuals who have managed to accumulate wealth without being a part of the oligarchy – local business owners and successful professionals, among others – representing a crucial part of the American story: the realization of the American Dream.
If Occupy Wall Street wants to fight for a future where there’s more financial security to be found at all ranks and levels of society, they should encourage ways to participate in business—for example, through worker re-training—and not confuse “wealth creators” (entrepreneurs) with “wealth speculators” (the capital markets).
Add that fourth perspective to Professor’s Sachs three-legged stool and I think you’ve got a four-legged table, even more stable.
LEWIS SCHIFF is the executive director of the Inc. Business Owners Council. His latest book is Business Brilliant: Surprising Lessons From the Greatest Self-Made Business Icons.
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