Do things look different from north of the border?
My column last week on how a few members of the 1 percent are responding to Occupy Wall Street provoked some vehement responses, many of which appear in the comments to my post. One of the most interesting, though, was sent to me by email from a Canadian reader who thinks U.S. business elites are more sympathetic to OWS than my column suggested. I hope he is right — but I wonder whether his and his clients’ (he is a prominent art dealer) sympathy for OWS is partly a reflection of how much Canadian and U.S. political culture, particularly at the top, diverge. I’m publishing his comments below, and I hope you’ll tell me what you think.
Chrystia Freeland, editor of Thomson Reuters Digital, has fumbled the ball again.
Thinking that Occupy Wall Street (OWS) is the left wing alternative to the corporately funded Tea Party Movement, she finds it paradoxical that former Canadian prime minister Paul Martin and former Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo would be supportive. After all, Martin is a “millionaire businessman,” and Zedillo “serves on the boards of blue chips Procter & Gamble and Alcoa.”
Recalling a recent interview with them, she writes:
Mr. Martin and Mr. Zedillo would be welcome at any corporate dining room on Wall Street or financiers’ dinner party, but it was striking how strongly their view of Occupy Wall Street differed from the conventional wisdom among U.S. business elites.
I concede that Freeland has better access to the “U.S. business elites” than me, but I don’t think their hostility to OWS is nearly as deep as she believes. OWS has received lots of sympathetic coverage in the business press, and most of the red meat capitalists that I periodically cite feel the same.
As an art dealer, I enjoy good relations with a signify number of Canada’s “elite” (as defined by money), and have only heard sneering, disparaging remarks about OWS from a couple of them.
Most share Martin and Zedillo’s views. They are deeply concerned by the toxic mess that the borrow and spend, deregulating, tax cutting, trickle down, private wealth and public poverty oligarchs have created in the States. They value a social contract of shared rights and responsibilities, for they know that their own interests are best served by social stability. They believe that this is better sustained through education and general prosperity than by the coercion of a corporate police state. Like me, they favor equal opportunities over equal outcomes, and have no problems with financial, professional, and social rewards based on merit.
Freeland thinks that there’s a natural linkage between “crony capitalism” and a “meritocratic democracy.” Where the only value is money, that’s probably true; but real democracies are built on much broader bases. Money is only one of many measures of a man’s worth. To make it the only measure — and to defer to its power — is a recipe for societal collapse.