In Wall Street, protests focus on wrong target

Published 6:00 pm Sunday, October 9, 2011

Separate one piece from a puzzle and thesingular segment can appear misshapen and unattractive.

    In setting up a cottage community around their protests, those inthe Occupy Wall Street movement in recent weeks have focused theiranimosity on only piece of the puzzle that our economic situationhas become. That narrowly focused anger is misplaced and illconceived.

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    Granted, Wall Street makes an easy target as a highly visiblesymbol of the American economic engine – a positive attribute – butalso one associated with corporate greed and all its negativeconnotations. Still, Wall Street is only one piece of thepuzzle.

    In the 1987 movie “Wall Street,” Gordon Gekko famously proclaimed,”Greed is good.” The mentality practiced by the real-life GordonGekkos of the world today is one factor driving the disenchantedcrowds to fill the New York streets in protest.

    No. Greed is not good.

    But the system of capitalism – which undergirds our economy -certainly is a good thing, and making a reasonable profit isvital.

    The system is so good it propelled the United States to become theeconomic envy of the world. It is so good that other nations – oncefreed from the oppressive bonds of government control – have triedto emulate.

    Under capitalism, the entrepreneurial spirit of countlessinventors, innovators and businesspeople through this nation’shistory brought about prosperous times and jobs for billions in theU.S. and around the world. Imagine the difference in our way oflife today if Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who died Wednesday, notbeen able to utilize his vast talents under a capitalisticsystem.

    While their most visible activity has been on Wall Street, theprotesters’ targets in New York and elsewhere around the countryhave not been limited to that area. Unemployment and the overalleconomic malaise, the 10-year war in Afghanistan and other issueshave been mentioned.

    However, corporate greed has been a repeated and seemingly centraltheme.

    Some observers have suggested the protesters should targetWashington for lawmakers’ inability to agree on any concerted planto effectively tackle the economic problems of the day. Lawmakers’passage of excessive regulations that stifle existing businessesand dampen the entrepreneurial spirit for new ones also could beworthy of the protesters’ consideration.

    Government activity, like big business and Wall Street, is butanother piece of the big puzzle that comprises our enormouseconomic system. All pieces must work together to bring about theright climate in which the most people – from assembly line workersto those at the top of the corporate towers – are allowed tobenefit.

    Protesting for the sake of protesting produces no good results. Andneither do protests that focus too narrowly on one problem facet ofan otherwise big picture that contains much that is worthadmiring.