Occupy Handbook Event Recap
Jason Chang, 04/23/12
An event that marked the publication of the Occupy Handbook was held last week at the New York Society for Ethical Culture, signaling the re-awakening of the Occupy Wall Street movement that caused ripples worldwide last fall. Featuring a distinguished panel of guests including Nobel Laureate economist Robert Solow, Martin Wolf of Financial Times, Pulitzer Prize winner David Kay Johnston, Bethany McLean of Vanity Fair, Jeff Madrick of the New York Review of Books and noted economists Jeffrey Sachs and Raghuram Rajan, the event showcased a diverse set of topics and perspectives that the Occupy movement has brought to light.
Although time constraints limited each speaker’s chance on the microphone, an overwhelming list of topics were addressed: Professor Solow focused on the explosion of compensation in the financial sector as dominated by broker-dealers, especially when compared to compensation of boring, ordinary banks or a S&P 500 company, and wondered aloud if higher taxes on income and capital gains are really a hindrance to effort. Martin Wolf stressed the role of “perverse” incentives in the financial system as well as the issue of global governance and national vs. global capitalism. Bethany McLean asserted that the housing boom was not really about housing, but a means to equity financed consumption with the house as collateral. David Kay Johnston pointed out that the current tax system overwhelmingly favors corporations while diminished collective bargaining rights made our society more unequal. Continuing the conversation on social mobility, Jeff Madrick observed that neoclassical economics has been on the rise since the ‘70s and concluded that inequality is turning into a case of injustice. Finally, Professor Rajan saw technical change, globalization and financial deregulation as the chief driver hollowing out the middle class, while Professor Sachs focused on the ethical discourse in America.
Before moving on to the Q & A session, each speaker also had an opportunity to point to one area where OWS can make difference. These include reasserting the right to organize, spending limits in politics, reversing the loss of responsibility, educating the 50% that are left out via globalization, repeal of Citizens United, a more vibrant public sector starting with healthcare, and a better sense of honesty, altruism and fairness in our economic life.
With this diversity of thinking available, Capital Institute seeks to encourage the active engagement of the financial sector in these necessary responses to the financial and economic crisis. We call for a change in policy and thinking that sees the financial, economic, social, and ecological systems as one.