The Occupy Wall Street movement has a new symbol, it is a Guy Fawkes mask. I used to think it was in reference to “V for Vendetta,” a movie about a shadowy freedom fighter who is leading a revolt against a totalitarian government. It probably is, but in history Guy Fawkes is associated with a November 5, 1605 attempt to assassinate King James I. Fawkes was assigned to guard gunpowder that had been placed under Westminster Abby. He was found, tortured, and while in the process of being hanged jumped off of the scaffold breaking his neck so he would not be mutilated. In either case, “V for Vendetta” or an attempt in assassination, the symbolism is clear.
Where does the Occupy movement fall within history? Is it an important event? What about the Tea Party movement? Are we in a transitional moment with Capitalism evolving into some new “ism.” Robert Heilbroner in 1991 made an interesting comment in his book, “An Inquiry into the Human Prospect.” This edition was an update of a book he wrote between 1972 and 1973. He wrote the original in a time when the people of the United States were dealing with a loss of invincibility. We began to see our leaders as fallible and our politics as suspect. His original premise involved a better understanding of the social contract. For humanity to prosper there needed to be a sacrifice of human freedom.
This sacrifice is not what I want to focus on in this blog entry, it is a later comment in the book that has me pondering. He is writing an afterword in 1991, after the fall of the Berlin wall. He states that, “. . . the fall of communism changes the standard by which capitalism must now be judged.” He answers by adding, “The crucial question is no longer will “capitalism work,” but “will capitalism work well enough?”
The fall of the wall had many contributors, but freedom of information and the desire for a better life were the main drivers.The people were dissatisfied with their current situation. Heilbroner continues by saying, “Can capitalism work well enough to forestall a mass disaffection similar to that which brought down the governments of eastern Europe?” Guy Fawkes masks are the result of this dissatisfaction. The question then involves whether capitalism needs to change to work well enough.
Football season gives us an example of how capitalism can work well enough. Among the NFL there is an example of how capitalism can work, and work in an exciting way.
The Green Bay Packers is an anomaly within the NFL. According the Business Week, “The Green Bay Packers are a historical, cultural, and geographical anomaly, a publicly held corporation in a league that doesn’t allow them, an intensely profitable company whose shareholders are forbidden by the corporate bylaws to receive a penny of that profit, a franchise that has flourished despite being in the smallest market in the NFL.”
Mark Murphy is the CEO of this franchise, and is the classic example of rags to riches. Here is an example of Capitalism working quite well. It is not a clear representation of the common corporation, but it is very successful. This corporation is successful for two reasons. “The Packers’ success is a tribute to the careful, constant maintenance of two things: the product on the field and the community’s warm feeling about that product.”
How the business is run, the business side, and how the business relates to people, the personal side. This is the capitalism in the future. It is recognizing there is no such thing as a business decision. It is business and personal. I hope the big banks learn this lesson before we have more transfer days.
And that is my thought for the day!