A manifesto for Occupy Wall Street

October 5, 2011

By Richard Beales and Edward Hadas
The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are their own.

For public relations professionals, the wannabe protesters in Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan must inspire mixed feelings. The location works and the crowd makes for good TV, but crunchy soundbites are hard to find. The movement’s anti-corporate rant lumps together complaints ranging from mortgage foreclosure wrongs to torture. And the idea of “a feeling of mass injustice” is much less compelling than the Tea Party’s clear “taxed enough already.” Breakingviews offers a four-point program — a practical and sharper, if partial, manifesto for Occupy Wall Street.

First, make banks safer, and let them fail. Bailouts have left banks with handsomely paid bosses, some of whom are resisting sensible reforms. Regulators and legislators should not be scared to require more capital, however much bankers complain. And the authorities need to push on with making it easier for collapsing institutions actually to go bankrupt. That way investors, not taxpayers, pay the price for reckless financial behavior.

Second, name and shame fat cat salary-men. The Securities and Exchange Commission is expected to start the ball rolling soon with a new rule requiring companies to disclose the ratio of a chief executive’s pay to that of the median employee. Management theorists used to suggest that the top man was worth about 20 times as much as the average, but this multiple has rocketed in recent years. Disclosure might not change practices much, but it is a good place to start.

Third, free legislators from special interests. Long, expensive and frequent campaigns have left some politicians enslaved to extreme supporters and most too heavily influenced by free-spending lobbyists. Unless senators and representatives start to care less about re-election and more about the common good, there’s little hope of real progress in narrowing the gulf between the haves and have-nots in America.

Fourth, and probably least realistic, change the U.S. two-party system. The Democrats and Republicans are unimaginative yet entrenched by both rules and tradition. The political center ought to be fertile ground given the current dysfunction on fiscal matters, but why not the wings too? Occupy Wall Street’s hodgepodge of grievances is not yet a foundation for a coherent liberal left. But perhaps the spin doctors can help out. Given the epicenter of the protest, the “Z Party” has a nice ring.


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

First of all, this is nothing more than herd mentality run rampant. I question the intelligence of people who crowd together in public places because they ‘sense’ they have something in common. I’ve seen cattle do it too, right before the slaughter. It’s fear pure and simple, fear of an uncertain future they mistakenly feel powerless to change.

Secondly, wealth is a great thing. When you have lots of money, you have lots of opportunities. The problem is that it’s very hard to acquire large sums of money if you’re simply milling around the street complaining about other people’s wealth. These ‘occupiers’ probably don’t deserve our respect. They’re scared, confused, angry, frustrated. They’re all those things that breed failure, not success, generate poverty, not wealth. I don’t like them very much.

Mr. Dick Turpin

Posted by Dickturpin | Report as abusive

Sir, you are Wrong, insultingly so.

What these good people are protesting is the acquisition of wealth by deceptive means or by controlling the rules so that advantage can be gained over those with less access to information. This type of behavior used to be called “theft” and the practitioners called “con men” or “theives”.

I have yet to hear one of them ask for a handout – just a fair playing field and for deceptive practices to end and those who have used those practices to be punished.

Seems reasonable and quite intelligent to me.

Posted by mbfoster15 | Report as abusive

I have a better idea for a theme that the protesters can rally around.

Demand RICO prosecutions by the Department of Justice. RICO allows for long prison terms and more importantly, a criminal convicted under RICO can have all of his assets stripped away.

This is exactly the lesson everyone who is now in college working on their MBA needs to learn. Ethics are suddenly much more meaningful when breaking the law in the pursuit of vast profit costs the criminal a lifetime in prison and forfeiture of all of his accumulated treasure.

If you really want get a tycoon’s attention, take away what he treasures most… all of it.

Posted by breezinthru | Report as abusive

Crunchy soundbites? That is having high expectations with that group.
Based on what I have viewed so far, the media has either conspired to focus on the less literate member of the OWS crowd or many of the members may not have made it past first year english.
mbfoster15 must have missed the Official Unofficial demands of OWS. Al they want is to be given $20 per hour, have all their debt waved, have free college tuition, let the river systems return to its natural course, stop the use of all fossil fuels, take more money from the group who already accounts for nearly 50% of income tax collected today.
And if the crowd from the Occupy Atlanta is any idication of what one could expect in the Utopian world of the OWS, decent men like John Lewis do not have a voice in it. I may not agree with all of Mr. Lewis’s poistions, but I sure as heck will stand with him to defend his right to say them after all he has done for our society. In a legal and dignified manner to boot.

Posted by markwebb | Report as abusive

Dear Richard,

I read your article on the Occupy Movement with interest. Your Manifesto is a pass that asks for a reaction. I have put my reaction – a alternative proposal for a Manifesto – in a adobe-file. I’m afraid I can’t include this in this comment. But if you like to receive it, please send a mail to caspar.pompe@watergas.nu.

Hope you will like it, ‘met vriendelijke groet’,

Caspar Pompe

Posted by casparpompe | Report as abusive