Who Are the 99% and Why Are They So Angry?

Occupy ProtestorsIn September of 2012, I saw a headline on the inner pages of my Wall Street Journal, “Occupy Movement turns 1 year old. Its effect still hard to define.” Under the headline were details of arrests for disorderly conduct and photos of what looked like the aftermath of a tornado. Clues to the protestors’ incongruent discontent were scattered through the crowd on signs and hand-painted placards in fractured disarray.


“IPO = I’m Pissed Off”

“Where is the CHANGE we voted for?”

“I’m so angry, I made a sign”.

Occupy Wall StreetThe obvious disconnect was that the protestors were actually beneficiaries of the successful ventures of the 1% they so willingly maligned. The entire Occupy protest was conceived, coordinated and thoroughly documented on various forms of social media from Tumblr to Skype to Facebook to Twitter. The protests were photographed on Apple iPhones and Android phone cameras. The protestors kept up their energy by chugging Red Bull and eating LUNA bars. They filled Zucotti Park with nylon popup tents from Ozark Trail, slept in North Face sleeping bags, kept warm with Coleman heaters while sipping a Starbucks latte. Some signs were hand-painted, but many were printed professionally at FastSigns or FedEx Office. FedEx also delivered the Guy Fawkes masks and tri-corner hats that were ordered off EBay. Donations to feed and support the long-term “committed” protestors were raised through KickStarter. Corporate logos adorned hoodies, shirts, shoes and denim jeans everywhere. No matter how socially aware and progressive the 99-percenters fancied themselves, this disgruntled and unfocused multitude seemed blissfully ignorant of the fact that if it wasn’t for capitalism, none of the resources they had relied on to fuel their righteous indignation would even exist. This global exercise of political democracy was only made possible by the economic democracy afforded by the brand of capitalism which has been practiced in America since the latter half of the 20th Century. As American philosopher and educator Mortimer Adler wrote in the preface of The Capitalist Manifesto (Random House, 1958), which he co-wrote with Louis Kelso,

Democracy requires an economic system which supports the political ideas of liberty and equality for all. Men cannot exercise freedom in the political sphere when they are deprived of it in the economic system.”

In other words, the Occupy protestors were right to be angry at the excesses and abuses of the elitist few; but their anger and frustration had been hijacked by those with a subversive political agenda against the only economic system that has actually improved the lives of all mankind. Fraud, deceit and corruption in both the financial system and in the government regulatory sector are the true culprits. Michael MooreThe “crony capitalists” definitely need to be brought to justice in order to restore the integrity of the real free market system; however, history has proven conclusively that socialism, communism and anarchy are not the remedy for the excesses of criminals and evil doers.

The irony of the entire Occupy movement is that it was made possible by the very thing it decried – capitalism – and venture capitalists in particular. Each of the companies represented by the countless logos and slogans that pervaded the Occupy protests and their multiple locales benefited, early in its conception, from an infusion of capital made by private investors who saw enormous potential and bore personal financial risk to fund the particular technology, product, or service that enabled the movement’s effectiveness and the protestor’s comfort. The return on that investment came about through a persistent work, the maximization of available resources, the public’s perception of a fair exchange of value, and YES a lot of luck. It is the true manifestation of the American Dream.

Capitalism, especially in the free market paradigm, is not the zero sum game the Occupy evangelists would have you believe. Every time someone takes a risk with their own money and ends up winning does not mean that someone else lost. That is a ludicrous proposition believed only by the ill-informed or the Leftist ideologue. That is the Big Lie told to fuel the envy and bigotry of the ignorant in order to promote a political and economic agenda. There is a much larger percentage of Americans who have achieved financial success than one percent of the population. Neither is 99% of the population shut out of opportunities which are still afforded to those who live in this greatest of nations. That is propagandist distortion of statistics to the grossest extreme for purely nefarious reasons. The political paradigm put forth by the inciters behind the Occupy movement calls for sublimating the individual for the good of the collective; surrendering the inherent greed of private property rights for the altruistic enrichment of the community; achieving a fair and equitable outcome for society by redistributing the ill-gotten gains of the successful in order to supplement the lifestyle choices of the underachiever. Really? The demonization of the economically successful is not at all about fairness and equality. It’s about political power and economic control; the seizure of political power by those who cannot possibly gain it through reasoned public discourse and the theft of wealth which they desire but are unwillingly to obtain through traditional, legitimate means. It is not fair. It is not democratic. It is unethical and it is totally antithetical to what it means to be an American.

America was built on the premise that if you have a dream, set your goals and work hard to achieve them, you can accomplish anything. How did we become the global vortex for demonizing success? How does transforming our commercial and financial centers into landfills of consumer excess serve to bring about constructive resolution of the gulf between the have-lots and the have-nots? Whining pithy slogans based upon entitlement expectations and offering no comprehensive solutions are not synonymous with civil disobedience. We must confront the fact that the American people have allowed a few sociopathic narcissists to steal their dreams along with their money. And we must refuse to accept the hysterical, illogical and unfounded rhetoric that it is “unfair” and “evil” for an individual to use their own vision, analysis, courage, due diligence and invest money to underwrite someone else’s dream of starting a private business, creating jobs and contributing to the economic health and social well-being of the community.

From the Introduction to “The Little Book of Venture Capital Investing” by Louis C. Gerken and Wesley A. Whittaker (Wiley, 2014)

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