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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Can the “Greed” be Bullied out of Wall Street?

Years ago, when I quit my job to be a full time parent to my two sons, there was a short period of time when – much to my shame - I was mesmerized by the sleezy talk shows that dominated day-time TV.  One common theme was for women to come up on stage and tell the host and audience about their loser husbands or boyfriends who beat them up and/or cheated on them and/or were deadbeats.  Then they would bring the man of the hour out on stage and a familiar pattern would unfold for our entertainment.  The host and the audience would engage in a sort of mob-style intervention intended to fix the pathetic excuse for a man.  He would be interrogated, berated and ridiculed in an effort to make him see the evil in his ways.  Sometimes the woman would partake in the haranguing too.  Other times she would just sit quietly, the helpless victim.

I was initially transfixed by this recurring spectacle for the novelty of seeing people behave this way, coupled with their puzzling lack of shame about putting their wretched relationships on display for an audience.  Eventually, though, what interested me was the psychology of everyone involved.  Why, I wondered, were the host and audience focused on the behavior of the man when the reason for his behavior was plainly obvious:  he’s a jerk and she tolerates it.  The audience should have asked the woman, “What’s wrong with you that you accept this abuse?  How did you end up with this guy and why don’t you leave?”  But they rarely did.

This same peculiar mindset is currently on display among the “occupying” protestors in various cities across the nation.  Supposedly, this “movement” is largely about anger over corporate greed and the failures of capitalism.  If we accept – for the sake of argument - the premise that the problem with corporations is greed, then the question is:  Do protests and mob violence do anything to eradicate greed?  No.  Just as the badgering by the audience did nothing to change the character of the men on the talk shows, waving signs, shaking fists and blocking traffic won’t change the character or natural motivations of the people who run corporations, if indeed that is the problem. 

To the extent that corporations take advantage of people they do so for the same two reasons that the men on the talk shows take advantage of the women:  because they are free to pursue their own self interests and because some people seem to invite such treatment by virtue of their own choices in life.  Given the two parts of that equation, the liberal remedy is always to seek to limit people’s freedom to pursue their own self-interest through laws and regulations and, failing that, through intimidation.  That’s because the alternative of putting the onus on the individual to make choices that give them greater control over their lives is hard, and hard is a four-letter word to liberals.  Certainly it’s harder than the mindless task of marching around with signs and chanting incoherent slogans for a few days here and there (although I’m sure it’s not always easy to find the proper hippie attire).

Going back to the women on the talk shows for a minute, the reasons were often obvious as to why they settled for bums.  There was usually little evidence to show that they put much effort into making themselves attractive as mates in terms of appearance, education, personality or in other aspects of life.  That kind of self investment typically requires sacrifice, discipline, patience and perseverance that some aren’t willing to invest. 
Consequently their choices in men were limited to those who were willing to overlook their shortcomings, and these were typically men with shortcomings of their own.

Similarly, those who believe they are being taken advantage of by evil corporations are often people who haven’t invested the time, effort and other resources necessary to develop highly marketable skills and/or experience.  Their unwillingness to do the hard things and make personal sacrifices to increase the value of their labor makes them their own worst enemy.

In contrast to the liberals' answer to corporate greed, real conservatives understand that the freedom to pursue and strive to maximize one’s own self-interest is a necessary component of a successful society, and the attempts to quash that natural instinct are akin to killing the proverbial golden goose.  They see the big picture, while liberals are forever blinded by the self-made bubbles they live in. 

I understand there’s a whole lot more at play here in terms of what’s motivating the various factions of the OWS clowns, but this is a blog, not a book.  I’m simply addressing one of their many phony grievances.