And the Men Who Hold High Places…
- Joshua M Brown
- October 17th, 2011
And the men who hold high places
Must be the ones who start
To mould a new reality
Closer to the Heart
Today I had the audacity to disagree with Charlie Gasparino about the nature of the Occupy Wall Street movement and he wasted no time in going ad hominem on me, espousing that I don't "know anything". I felt bad for ten seconds and then checked his Twitter stream - it reads like the a menu of insults and defensive barbs against anyone who dares to feel differently than he does about any given issue. For a tough guy reporter, he has an awfully thin skin. I liked that guy, too, what a shame.
But what I'd like to do tonight is explain why I've got a banner across the top left of this site proclaiming my support for Occupy Wall Street lest anyone misunderstand where I'm coming from. I'd also like to reiterate how important it is for my colleagues on The Street -the proverbial Men Who Hold High Places - to give a fair shake to the kids down there and to give them the benefit of the doubt that they are not all "Marxists" as Charlie would have you believe.
The first thing to understand is that Karl Marx actually got it half-right; the philosopher taught that capitalism, left completely unchecked, would ultimately destroy itself. Marx said that the capitalists would figure out a way to industrialize to the point where workers were no longer necessary and that the result would be a social order and economy that would cave in on itself. If you can't see that this prediction was a shockingly accurate depiction of our current Jobless Recovery for the Few then you're simply not paying attention.
The part that Marx gets wrong - the most important part in my estimation - is that capitalism is astoundingly good at repairing itself after a major fall. This is because capitalism, while flawed, is, at the end of the day, the closest approximation to human nature that we find among all the different economic theories.
We can argue about when it was that capitalism began destroying itself for hours and hours. Some would say it goes back to Reagan and the logic of "deficits don't matter". Others would say that the orgiastic deregulation of the second Clinton administration and both Bush terms was the trigger. Regardless, the undeniable fact is that we tilted the scales too far and chainsawed the rulebooks, allowing that lack of regulation to chainsaw our economy and tilt it into the abyss. Business is guilty, government is guilty, banking is guilty and the voters are guilty - so let's accept that and move on.
The fundamental question facing those of us who seek a way out as opposed to political victories is whether or not things must change. I stolidly answer that question in the affirmative. To me, the fact that an Occupy Wall Street even exists after so much acquiescence and docility in the American public is a positive sign. Agents of change often scare the shit of the mainstream at first. Think of Jesus Christ overturning the moneychangers' tables at the Temple, think of the booming cannonfire at Lexington and Concord.
Is it a bit too precious to compare the outcry in Zuccotti Park to some of the most momentous rebellions in human history? Perhaps, but I am nothing if not dramatic and if I cannot be dramatic about something as thrilling as this, then what kind of blogger would I be?
The simple fact is that, as Suzanne explained, OWS is about checks and balances in an era of nearly unparalleled financial system dominance. It's about ripping back the opportunity from those who have hoarded it for themselves and bringing back an economy where students don't begin life as debt slaves forced to choose between dead-end jobs and no jobs. It's about punishing those who've inflicted so much punishment on the rest of us, enabled by their position on the crony capitalist totem pole. It's about wrenching apart the hand-in-glove coziness of Congress and Wall Street so that a few inches of daylight can shine through on everyone else.
I am not blind, and I recognize that there are anarchists, extremists and socialists among the demonstrators. But no one is forcing me or you to agree with every single sign held aloft at the various protests being held all over the country. One doesn't have to agree with all of the causes, only with the fact that there are causes currently worth fighting for, now more than ever.
Obama promised Change and didn't even attempt to deliver. But should his epic failure stop us from seeking to effect that change ourselves? Can we really afford to wait for 2012 and the next functional psychopath who is voted in by the disconnected electoral machine?
And so when I see The Men Who Hold High Places like Bill Gross and Mark Cuban and Jim Chanos and the like express their understanding for the protesters and their anger, I am encouraged to do so myself. When I see tandem movements start up like the 1% that supports the 99%, I am proud of the fact that there are Wall Streeters like myself who are both Capitalist and Humanist at once.
And to the elitists and defenders of the feudalist status quo, I say this: Pay close attention - closer attention than to anything else that currently occupies your thoughts - because when capitalism repairs itself as it always does, your role in administering it may be greatly diminished.
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The Reformed Broker is a blog about financial markets and the economy. Joshua Brown is a New York City-based investment advisor for high net worth individuals, charitable foundations, retirement plans and corporations... More.