Friday, October 21, 2011

Occupy Wall Street Sends A Powerful Message


I continue to be impressed with the Occupy Wall Street protesters. They are a daily, hourly reminder of the dysfunctionality of our political and economic system, and of the power appropriated by a small group of people in this country. People say their message is unclear but I say their message is very powerful. Anger and dissatisfaction have been keenly expressed and their impeccable personal demeanor has been an essential aspect of why they have been effective.
The movement has been called unfocused but I question whether that is a problem at this point. I think this is the reason they have captured our attention. They refuse to be defined narrowly and instead give us a holistic, collective view of the perceived inadequacies and dysfunction of the present system.  But while OWS can and does stand as testament to the failure of our system but as it stands, it cannot reform the present system.
Simple continuity will not ensure that OWS can impact the next elections. They need to do more than survive if they want to introduce topics into political discussion the way the Tea Party has. OWS has to capture the imagination, the attention of the voting public in order to have impact. The issues have to resonate with the voter if they want to be noticed in Washington. And while the lack of definition and organization has worked to now, I’m not sure it’s a long-term strategy. 
So, what are the issues? 99% v. 1%?   Everyone agrees that is a very bad idea but that is too simple – where do you go from there?  And the counter argument is that the 1% or corporations may be too powerful but then they also provide lots of goods, jobs and taxes -- so what is the solution? 
Does OWS need a leader? It seems to me that the present movement doesn’t loan itself to leadership. The inclusive, holistic nature of OWS would change with leaders – and some will become disenchanted. Once the demands or mission or issues become defined then it ceases to be the same movement we see now. Still, in order to affect change it will need some of that.   So, what next? 
Being in a public place, a public park means the news agencies have easy access to the story and can chronicle the movement’s continued concerns. How does this happen when they move inside – and they’ll have to because winter is coming. The next steps – if they are taken -- leadership, specified demands, organization – could be difficult and telling ones.
What do I hope for the movement? In my mind, we need to see a clear, persistent message that identifies solutions in a way that people running for office are obligated to take a position on these issues of corporate power and economic inequality. To me, the failure of corporate governance is at the core of the problem. CEO autocracy must end and institutional shareholders must exercise their responsibility to monitor corporate power. I would love to see these people take their momentum, intelligence, enthusiasm in that direction but I know there are other issues of importance, too. And even if that doesn’t happen with OWS I am certain that someone will. Now that the issue has been broached – the anger expressed – it won’t go away. 
This is the beginning.
October 21, 2011 in CEO Pay , Corporate Power , capitalism , accountability  |  2 comments  | 

Post a comment


Posted by David Apatoff on Nov 3, 2011 at 1:17 PM
I have personally spent time with OWS, both on Wall Street and in Washington, and was impressed with their sincerity and passion but struggled to find the right label for their efforts. Where is the org chart? Is this the new Woodstock Nation, the new French Revolution, or a random collection of street vagrants who will dissipate as the weather changes?

It was therefore very helpful to see that the most thoughtful and articulate spokesperson in this area is able to accept OWS on its own terms, without definition or template, and still identify its potential for constructive change. Thanks very much for this, and for your piece in the Washington Post.
Posted by ShepherdCall on Oct 29, 2011 at 9:47 PM

I agree with above post; particularly the process of remaining undefinable, yet given voice to the fact that something is wrong.

First, let me say, I am HUGE fan of all your books and self-proclaim myself a Peter Drucker disciple - love ALL his work.

One observation that I would like to share here in general and hope to explore specifically is the revolutionary changes taking place in economics as science. There are new schools of thoughts that show that \"origin and distribution\" are not what we learned in out economics books. Complexity and Chaos Theory point in new directions that can shed light on the \"power structure\" .

For a while I mis-undertood power laws, like the Pareto distribution; as we understand more of the social sciences society \"randomly\" layers itself in a hierarchial power structure without the aid of all the bad policy and discrimination issues. Point being, there is will always be a 99% and 1%. The question is: How come the WORST ALWAYS get on top?

It is not that capitalism is bad; we are already starting to understand that as a factor of production, it has much more diminishing returns than previously thought.

There is a lot of studies underway showing that Knowledge (and I speak not just of Math and Science or the problems of K-12) IS a factor of production and it does not carrry the diminshing utility gene that Labor, Material, and Capital carry; it in fact carries a exponential and regenerative gene that we are only start to understand.

This ties directly in some of your theory of Equity Valuation and Human Nature. Drucker spoke of this is all thinking on the Knowledge Society; additonally, there is a treasure trove of insight provided by Edith Penrose in her book, The Theory of the Growth of the Firm.

While there revolution underway to properly understand Knowledge; the answer is a robust discussion of Knowledge Formation and that fact that Capital Formation is a result of the former and not the other way around.

We have to attack the capital investment process and pay heed to the lessons outlined in Clayton Christensen\'s Innovators Dilemna.

Global Investors have to have the courage to make investments in Knowledge Formation, as a rule, or they they will be swept away by the invisible hand of Creative-Destruction; these investments WILL not make economic value sense; but THEY point to the response in the undefinable (i.e. cannot measure with typical capital budgeting routines) more holistic outcry.

This is not simple a \"down-payment\" on education and not simply looking for the next entreprenuer; it is holistic down-payment; that the other two are the result.

I think the answer lies in the fact that the Global Investors, must be themselves, and must insist on a tangible mentor-mentee approach of a holistic nature, and not of the quid pro quo variety. I beleive what is lacking in Corporate America from the Global Investors, to the Board of Directors, to the Senior Management, Middle Management to the factory floor is this kind Mentor-Mentee holistic revolution. I think within and outside the Corporation this is the relationship to jumpstarts (with tangible INVESTMENT - time and resources) KNOWLEDGE FORMATION and as a result a capital distribution that is not as toxic to the disenfranchised.

The Mentor-Mentee program is a social revolution that I call Shepherd Call. It can start off as the typical Corporate Mentoring Program, but as one digs deeper into the depth and breath of the relationship, to me it is the key to Corporate Governance.

If I was to interview the OWS contingent, the Global Investors, the Board of Directors and tell them to show me their Mentor-Mentee tree I call Jacob\'s Ladder; I think you will find out where the issues really are.

Shepherd Call
Copyright 2022 by Robert A. G. Monks