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The Power of One

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Friday, 14 Oct 2011 07:59 AM Current | Bio | Archive

During the past few weeks, we’ve all caught the news about the Occupy Wall Street movement.

While I’ve watched with a detached bemusement, I do think that there’s one secret that members of this movement need to learn.

What’s this secret? The power of one.

You see, right now this movement is a disjointed mess. Between inarticulate speakers filled with socialist rhetoric and a dress code reminiscent of Woodstock, there’s one thing missing.

The protesters need one clear, specific course of action, not general outrage at some vague villain named “Wall Street.”

I can think of plenty of changes that need to happen to get the economy on firmer ground. Two, in particular, are ideas that this group of protesters, along with the general public, could rally around.

First, bring back some form of Glass-Steagall. This Depression-Era legislation was designed to separate traditional banking from investment banking. Its repeal in the late 1990s allowed banks to increase the amount of leverage they could use. Given this power, banks set out to create and employ products like derivatives that substantially increased the use of leverage.

While I’m not a fan of government interventions in the market, limiting leverage will do more good than harm. The original law worked. Its repeal allowed for the housing bubble. In your personal life, you separate the cash you need to pay your bills from your investments. If bankers are held to the same standard, we’d likely see less wild booms and busts.

Second, it’s time to impose term limits on members of Congress. The longest-serving members get top committee assignments, and huge corporate donations. It’s also the reason why a lifelong renter like Barney Frank could end up running a committee on housing, where he could claim that one of his top donors, Fannie Mae, was in sound financial condition right before it went bankrupt.

History doesn’t record much of the reason behind the twenty-second amendment, which imposed term limits on the presidency. But it passed Congress in 1947, just as America was starting to emerge from a Great Depression whose depth and severity was caused, in part, by the economic policies of a willful president with a poor understanding of market incentives.

I can understand the frustration of protesters. But blaming Wall Street or a weak economy for the results of your own choices isn’t the answer.

It’s easier to create change from within.

So, pick one change to rally around, then pack it up and go find work. I didn’t say find a job, because there might not be one. Create your own. Innovate.

Call me a protester protester, but spending your time outraged that someone has it better than you doesn’t make your life better. It just makes you look petty and jealous. It detracts you from living your life to the fullest.

If only a small fraction of the protesters created their own jobs and businesses through entrepreneurial derring-do, we’d all be too busy enjoying the fruits of a robust economy to care about those who have managed to do better.

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AndrewPacker
During the past few weeks, we ve all caught the news about the Occupy Wall Street movement. While I ve watched with a detached bemusement, I do think that there s one secret that members of this movement need to learn. What s this secret? The power of one. You see,...
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Friday, 14 Oct 2011 07:59 AM
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