I strongly support the intent behind the Occupy Movement and in an attempt to help it become an effective agent of change I have jotted down the following ideas to focus discussion and stimulate constructive action.
I considered posting this under Goals but I think it goes well beyond that so I recommend a new thread which shares ideas on the Occupy movement's BIG picture approach and focus.
Sorry it is so long, but hopefully you will find something useful in it.
An Approach for the Occupy Movement - Discussion Paper
Submitted by robsurfer (2011-10-23)
The Occupy movement has struck a chord with many by drawing public attention to the insidious accumulation of outrageous amounts of personal wealth and power by a tiny minority of financial speculators and corporate leaders at the public’s expense. To build the momentum necessary to begin fixing this problem it is important for the Occupy movement to continue to build public awareness and support, and to align and motivate its participants’ efforts towards the achievement of a manageable set of agreed common goals.
Lack of focus and coordination will risk most of the movement’s energy being allowed to dissipate in pursuit of too many individually laudable but collectively ineffective initiatives. This will play into the hands of those who profit most from maintaining the status quo.
- Central Problem: Extreme Concentration of Wealth and Power
Focus is needed on the 99% vs 1% issue, i.e. the extreme concentration and disparity of wealth and power which continues to steadily increase over time. This is the BIG problem that mainly stimulated the Occupy movement.
- Primary Goal:
The corresponding BIG goal is the creation of a stable distribution of wealth and power in which concentration is neither “extreme” nor “increasing”. This assumes that disparity of wealth and power is not in itself bad and should be expected to exist in a healthy sustainable society where the 99% are mostly content.
- Key Causes:
To tackle this goal effectively, it is necessary to identify the underlying causes of the Central Problem (potentially a very long list). In particular, they need to be critically reviewed/filtered to arrive at a manageable short list of those “key” underlying causes which are agreed to have the biggest influence (e.g. choose a “top ten” list).
- Transform Causes into Solutions:
For each of the selected “key” causes, review in depth and propose “what needs to change” in order to transform that cause from a major contributor to the “Central Problem” into a major contributor to achieving the “Primary Goal”. These transformations will typically require changes in government policy and/or legislation.
Some Candidate “Key” Causes of Extreme Concentration of Wealth and Power
- Reward the Wealthy:
Any society that rewards people for being wealthy (i.e., that makes it easier for individuals and families who are already wealthy to increase their share of the “Total Wealth” pie), can expect the result to be a steady increase in the overall concentration and disparity of wealth and power. To avoid this happening systemic changes are needed which make it more difficult, not easier, for individuals and families to increase their share of the available wealth as they become wealthier.
The problem can be easily visualised by way of a metaphor. For a given distribution of wealth in society to be stable and sustainable, everyone should find that the path to increased wealth is an upward climb that gets steeper the higher one gets. Thus it is only a matter of time before each climber reaches the point where the path is too steep to proceed further. Overall this natural limit would eventually produce a stable equilibrium (but not equal) distribution of wealth based on ability and effort. In contrast the system that currently exists has the opposite characteristic. It presents the steepest climb to those at the bottom and an increasingly easier climb the higher the climber gets. Those who are furthest along the path find a point where the wealth they have already accumulated overtakes ability and effort as the dominant factor in determining their ability to accumulate further wealth. This positive feedback is probably the most significant underlying cause of the extreme and increasing disparity of wealth that we currently see.
NOTE: Addressing this cause is possibly the Occupy Movement’s greatest challenge. Of course the reasons why it exists are many and complex and need to be further broken down into secondary causes. The mobility of wealth across the globe indicates that success in rectifying this cause will depend on widespread international adoption of systemic change. Perhaps this should be explored as a goal to be pursued by a coordinated campaign involving Occupy movements around the world.
- Corporation as Sociopath
The charter under which corporations are created and operate places shareholder financial profit above all other priorities. Consequently the broader public interest is deemed important only insofar as it is judged (by the CEO and the Board of Directors) to have potential to impact the reputation and profitability of the corporation. We have regulations that constrain corporations (and their CEOs) to behave as sociopathic entities and yet we are surprised when they do so.
This problem has been well described in Joel Bakan’s book “The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power” and the documentary film based on it: “The Corporation” http://www.thecorporation.com/index.cfm?page_id=2. Proposals to address this problem are described in an excellent article by Garth Woodworth in the CCPA Monitor “Putting the Public Interest First” http://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/monitor/putting-public-interest-first-part-1.
- Corporate Political Influence:
Corporations have undue influence over our political processes:
- through well paid and, more importantly, well-connected lobbyists,
- through promises and threats involving jobs,
- through corporate donations to political campaigns made directly or even via individual employees.
This problem is much worse in the U.S. than in Canada. There is no more graphic example, however, that illustrates the preferred priority that government policy makers give to corporate interests over ordinary citizens, than the “secret” CETA negotiations between the federal government and the European Union. Not even Parliament is privy to the behind closed doors deal making which, among other things, threatens to privatize control of water.
If any of the above seems to make sense, I further suggest that the following steps be considered:
- First stimulate Forum discussions around the merits of focussing the Occupy movement’s energies on identifying and tackling the underlying causes that are agreed to be among those most responsible for creating/perpetuating the concentration of wealth and power among a tiny elite (the Central Problem).
- If there is broad support for such an approach, use the Forum to discuss/agree a brief summary description of the approach to be followed (see "Proposed Approach" above as a possible starting point). Bring result to General Assembly for adoption. This should be a living document, periodically reviewed and updated as necessary.
- If an approach similar to the above "Proposed Approach" is adopted, invite submissions (green light) to identify and briefly describe candidates for key underlying causes of the Central Problem.
- Collect the submissions into a single long list and devise/agree/apply a filtering/prioritization process to choose a short list of “key” causes. Agree short listed causes in GA.
- Create a working team(s) of volunteers tasked with proposing, for each “key” cause, “what needs to change” to transform this cause into a solution.
Author’s closing observations
I am under no illusions that the Occupy Movement alone can bring about the societal changes necessary to achieve the above mentioned “Primary Goal”. I do believe, however, that the movement has a golden opportunity to define and focus public attention on the key underlying causes of increasing wealth and power concentration and outline what needs to be done to fix them. Hopefully this will provide the catalyst for increasing public support and act as a call to action to those who have the skills and influence to pick up the challenge and drive the necessary changes. I see this as a long overdue initiative to focus public attention and energy on halting and reversing the trends created by a global economic system that is running rampantly out of control.