Do things look different from north of the border?

November 8, 2011

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.

–Christopher Varley


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Mr. Varley’s comments are just more lame rhetoric from a merchant who sells to the 1% bolstering his own market by ‘siding’ with the greedy corporados. If he can say at his next opening that he spoke for his clients, he is more likely to gain both their welfare and money.

The fact of the matter is that the 1% care only for themselves and whether their narcissism is faith-based or not, their attitudes towards the 99% are craven.

Posted by ragged_soul | Report as abusive

“…a recipe for societal collapse.”

Yep. The past three decades have given greater power to fewer hands.

Do the math.

Many CEO salaries for a month equate to roughly 695 minimun wage jobs for the same month.

Are we saying one person is worth 695 lesser people? Yes.

The same $10,000,000/year salary equates to 153 wage earners @ $65,000/year. Are we saying one person is worth 153 middle managers?

Indeed we have been. With zeal. And we hold these people up as celebrities of capitalism, as if no other could fill their shoes…

And in America shareholders have been greedily forcing executives to cut domestic jobs and move manufacturing offshore, while relocating their headquarters to tax freindly countries that do little to protect the world (like our military’s soldiers and sailors do). Then they pat each other on the back for giving Communist China vast revenue streams with which to build the next great globe dominating military. Awesome. You’ve earned your eight figure salary. Let’s celebrate your genius.

Crony capitalism that exports jobs and builds a communist country’s global dominance should be akin to treason. Or am I too old school for the modern job killing eight figure executives?

But if it looks like good old greed supporting capitalism and makes a buck for those who can afford to buy shares, who cares?

We’ve just increased your payement in shares and your severence package (should you under perform) just got bigger. Congratulations.

Posted by NobleKin | Report as abusive

A number of prominent members of the financial community are supportive of the Occupy movement.

John Hussman wrote an article: 0.htm

Barry Ritholz, a frequent critic of the corrupt in Congress and on Wall Street: upy-wall-street-must-occupy-congress-ag- offices/ …. and a few other blogs.

I recollect the Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney thought OWS could be “constructive”.

There seems to me to be a general willingness on the part of politicians, bankers, and corporate chiefs to at least enter into dialog with OWS on a range of topics.

So let’s bring the issues into focus in the media, and let the ideas flow.

Posted by mind_emergent | Report as abusive

Thousands of years of history repeating itself. Unfortunately, the ones who will pay the price and suffer the most won’t gain much. Thousands of years of promises to educate people will remain unfulfilled, as always. Revolutions are a temporary setback to the powerful. Education is a more permanent threat to their status. Everyone is happy.

Posted by guest_who | Report as abusive

The reality (unfortunate to me, as an American) is that Canada is probably the last-bastion of what we used to think of as “American,” Norman Rockwell-style values.

Posted by Bob9999 | Report as abusive

ood Grief.

This “art dealer” claims common cause with “Martin and Zedillo’s” views which he describes as favoring “…equal opportunities over equal outcomes…” and “…no problems with financial, professional, and social rewards based on merit.” He proudly boasts of “…good relations with a significant number of Canada’s “elite” (as defined by money), and [has] only heard sneering, disparaging remarks about OWS from a couple…”

The clear inference is that these good people support OWS simply because they do not publicly “sneer” and “disparage”. I strongly disagree. The “inconvenient truth” would seem to be that those comprising OWC seem to prefer equal outcomes over equal opportunities, and are demonstrably unhappy that superior skills in the financial, professional, and social arenas (i.e. “…based on merit”) likely separate those that still have jobs and a life versus those camping out in public asking that such be given them simp[ly because they live and breathe.

This makes me seriously wonder if the deficit is in comprehension of the subject matter or individual intelligence when such obvious discord is compressed together like tofuturkey. Is there such a thing as intellectual indigestion?

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

you 2 trying to work out a relationship by exchanging letters over reuters!?

Posted by Shukla | Report as abusive

“.. real democracies are built on much broader bases …”

It is amazing to me that someone who makes a statement like this fails to understand the simple fact that America is straying very far from a “real” democracy.

It is true, there are many who agree with the principles of OWS, “elite” or otherwise. The difference lies in action. How many of the “elite” do you see stepping up to drive change for the betterment of society as a whole?

Posted by MJGSimple | Report as abusive

With all due respect Freeland is operating upon egregious assumptions abut Mr. Martin the former primeminister of Canada.
Mr. Martin as do so many of today’s elite represents extremem Liberal Fascism. Take other peoples taxes and hand it out for votes as generously as possible. Former Prime minister Martin moved all of his vast Canadian Fiancial holdings “Off Shore”. So he can wax eloquent in supporting the complaints of the “OW’s” becsuse tax wise in Canada Mr. Martin if virtually unassailable.
Mr. Zedillo is also cut from the extreme Liberal cloth but for a differnt reason. He sees the only future hope for Mexico and his family is via a Fascist power block that can literaly execute the Narco Czars into oblvion. A task impossible under Mexico’s present Constitution.

Posted by PierreMontagne | Report as abusive