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Having fun, writing about the stuff I like


Oscar Foulkes October 17, 2011 Uncategorized No comments

A few months ago I wrote a post in which I pondered whether democracy was making the credit crunch worse (read it here). The thinking is that politicians are in business to get elected, so they are highly unlikely to implement unpopular policies, even if they are the correct ones.

Of course, politicians not only need to keep voters happy; they also need to worry about the sources of their campaign funds, and in this respect the Occupy Movement represents a somewhat thorny problem. Having started in Wall Street – the symbolic home of the wealthy elite – Occupy has popped up in cities all around the world.

One of the issues being touted by Occupy is vast – and growing – economic inequality. Someone has helpfully put together a fabulous collection of graphs, which illustrates this phenomenon in the US.

Without that tiny, but fabulously wealthy, grouping about which Occupy is protesting, campaign coffers would be a lot emptier.

Thus far, Occupy does not have a straightforward list of demands or objectives. Based upon photographed placards, these are largely based on anger against the profits (and bonuses) at bailed-out banks. You couldn’t really argue against the obscenity of banks using zero-interest public money to play the arbitrage game. Especially when it was their bad lending practices that caused the problem in the first place, and the bail-out funds were intended to circulate through the economy.

However, I seem to also be getting a sense from some of the placards that portions of the Occupy movement are looking for their own bail-out, which looks far too close to ‘hand-out’ for comfort.

US unemployment of 10% is very, very high by their standards, and probably higher if discouraged work seekers get factored into the stats. I can understand their discontent, and have – in fact – been predicting civil protest for some time.

Steve Jobs was in the news last month because he retired from Apple. Then he was in the news again because he died. He is one of the world’s most revered business leaders for good reason. One thing I need to point out, though, is that he and Steve Wozniak started Apple in a period of economic recession (while you’re scrolling through the excellent graphs referenced above, pause for a moment on the seventies). #justsaying

Occupy can protest all it wants – and it may yet become an important catalyst for changing a political system that (especially in the US) is dysfunctional – but prosperous economies need entrepreneurs. It would be really sad if a protest against greed and inequality diverted its supporters’ attention from the need to take action in their own lives.

America became the world’s largest economy thanks to its entrepreneurs who started small businesses and made them big (in one of the world’s ironies, some of the same people that Occupy is protesting against). The country is in trouble because its government – and citizenry – spends more than it earns, and much of its manufacture has been outsourced.

Protest is certainly valid, but somewhere along the line someone needs to take positive, productive actions. I do hope that Occupy is as good at this part as it is at crowdsourcing.

I’ve subsequently come across one of the more positive tangible outputs/vehicles of the Occupy movement: Occupy The Boardroom. It aims to “encourage peaceful, non-violent, political protesting” by creating a medium for people to communicate directly with the board members of the large banks. The mailbag has its fair share of ‘fringe’ comments, but there are also heartbreaking stories of ordinary Americans battling to get through life. For those of you into this kind of thing, the home page is also brilliantly designed, from the perspective of making it really easy for visitors to know what action to take next, and then to do it. Check out the screenshot below:

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