Another way to occupy Wall Street

How about a movement of moral reform?

Or as my friend Lydia Fisher puts it, how about a financial dissident movement?

Challenging the establishment is as old as history. Sometimes going out directly to the public is the avenue needed to have one’s voice truly heard. The collapse of the former Soviet Union was sparked by the Polish human-rights activist Lech Walesa who stood up in a shipyard and spoke. With the support of a handful of political and religious leaders, the Communist State eventually crumbled.

When leaders and governments fail to address justice, people mobilize. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” wrote Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his Letter from Birmingham Jail.

Is “Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs” just the beginning of a movement for those within the financial industry to speak up directly to the public, about “There Were Once Things One Just Didn’t Do” — as a recent article by John Bogle, founder of the Vanguard Group puts it?

Maybe that’s the checks and balances big money power needs.

One can debate the motives ad infinitum of a financial dissident who steps up to challenge the establishment for the “toxic and destructive.” One too can debate the motives of the establishment’s rush to stem the fallout. After all, a financial firm’s assets are largely its people and customers.

Good to have this reminder.

It’s not private profits that are the issue, it’s that private profits have been monopolized by those in control of capital. Little wonder, then, the wealth schism. And, in an increasingly technological and consolidation age, we can expect more of the same as we can do more with less. The human consequences — we’re already facing the lowest labor participation rate in decades of just 63.9%.

As the American philosopher Mortimer Adler notes, we need economic democracy (wide diffusion of economic wealth) to have political freedom (participation and voice in one’s government). There’s much at stake here…

Do we need a financial dissident movement to help start the ball rolling that wrong is wrong, no matter how powerful one is — to bring back competition and failure risk, to restore economic democracy?

Let’s generate awareness again of what we once knew and can’t afford to forget. ParaphrasingFulton  J. Sheen’s popular teching, ”Right is right, even if nobody believes it. And wrong is wrong, even if everybody believes it.’

Follow the link to John Bogle’s commentary.

“Everywhere in American life, the professions are triumphant,’’ an article in Daedalus magazine noted only a half-century ago, “serving responsibly, selflessly and wisely to establish an inherently ethical relationship with society.” But since then, professional relationships with clients have been recast as business relationships with customers. I do not regard that as progress.

And it is not. How clarifying is truth.

Unchecked market forces and the overwhelming importance of making money have driven us to today’s “bottom line society,” with the wrong bottom line: form over substance, prestige over virtue, money over achievement, charisma over character, the ephemeral over the enduring.

So focusing on the bottom line…

In the short-run, greed is as good for the providers of financial services as it is bad for clients. In the long-run — a perspective seemingly lost in today’s society — failure to hold high the interests of clients is a certain route to failure of those very providers. Wall Street, take heed.

Moral reform is afoot.

Sheila Gribben Liaugminas


Sheila Gribbens Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago journalist with extensive experience in both secular and religious journalism. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of the Church, faith, culture, politics and the media. For more than twenty years she reported for Time magazine out of the Midwest Bureau in Chicago—and at WMAQ-TV, Chicago's NBC-owned station, she was co-host of the program 'YOU'. She has hosted three radio programs, “The Right Questions” and “Issues & Answers” for Relevant Radio, and "America's Lifeline" on the Salem network. Sheila currently is the Host of "A Closer Look", an hour long news analysis program on Relevant Radio and serves as the Network News Director. She can be heard reading the Sunday Gospel and doing narratives on in the English edition. She has been published in the Chicago Tribune, Crisis Magazine, National Catholic Register, Catholic New World, MercatorNet and the National Review Online.

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