Acton Institute Powerblog

Occupy Wall St. Embraces The Hollow Men

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Acton Research Fellow and Director of Media Michael Miller warned of the dangers of over-managed capitalism.Washington’s foolhardy manipulation of the housing market brought our economy to its knees in 2008, but it seemed the gut-wrenching panic hadn’t had taught us anything. The recovery tactics weren’t fundamentally any different from financial policy in the mid-2000s, but the establishment couldn’t conceive of doing things any differently. Said Miller:

In The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith warned, “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.”

Smith, who published his landmark work in 1776, warned of corporate collusion, but we’re experiencing something much more insidious — not just businesses, but business and government and a host of others all meeting, and colluding, at the posh Swiss resort town of Davos. It is Adam Smith’s nightmare.

This isn’t free market capitalism. It’s Davos capitalism, a managerial capitalism run by an enlightened elite — politicians, business leaders, technology gurus, bureaucrats, academics, and celebrities — all gathered together trying to make the economic world smarter or more humane. It might even be, as Bill Gates famously said last year at Davos, a more “creative” capitalism.

As Miller was writing those words, the White House was shunting billions of dollars of stimulus into green energy projects like Solyndra. The use of funds was more “creative” than a money bonfire on the National Mall, I guess.

Ok so the Occupy Wall Street set, the ones protesting corporate greed — the ones protesting a third ski chalet for the chief of a Fortune 500 company — surely they understand what Miller was talking about. General Electric’s CEO Jeffrey Immelt is the poster boy of creative capitalism (or, as conservatives call it, crony capitalism). He makes millions of dollars a year, lives in New Canaan, Conn., and was even the president of his Ivy League fraternity. His company has benefitted from the largess of the Federal Government (Think Progress was enraged when it found out that GE has gotten $4.7 billion dollars back from the IRS in the last three years). In a free market, Immelt wouldn’t still be in charge of GE: the company’s share prices have fallen 60 percent since their peak in 2001 just after he took over.

But the protesters don’t want the government to get out of business. In fact, they seem to think that if the government were just more involved in GE’s operations, everything would be more fair. Miller explains why the last thing we need is further collusion between Uncle Sam and GE.

The late Samuel Huntington coined the term Davos Man — a soulless man, technocratic, nation-less, and cultureless, severed from reality. The modern economics that undergirded Davos capitalism is equally soulless, a managerial capitalism that reduces economics to mathematics and separates it from human action and human creativity.

And we looked up to Davos Man.Who wouldn’t be impressed by the gatherings at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum at Davos, a Swiss ski resort? Sharply dressed, eloquent, rich, famous, Republican, Democrat, Tory, Labour, Conservative, Socialist, highly connected, powerful and ever so bright.

Then, when the whole managerial economy collapsed, the managers and technocrats lost faith in markets. But they did not lose faith in themselves, and now they want us to entrust even more of the economy to them.

And who’s going along for the ride? Occupy Wall Street. When the jet set lost faith in markets, it was natural that they didn’t loose faith in themselves. How did they pull the wool over the eyes of anyone else though? How do they maintain an army of fiercely independent stooges?

It’s easy, it turns out, when that army’s economics is missing the understanding of human nature that ought to undergird it. The Davos men aren’t recognized for what they are — “soulless, technocratic, nation-less, and cultureless” — by camps of protesters who have no conception of culture, of fatherland, or even of soul.

Kenneth Spence


  • Anonymous

    Yet, no one is going to the occupy places and educating, speaking, curing their ignorance.

    But why is it expected that condensention and insults will accomplish this?

    • Roger McKinney

      Have you heard of the principle of casting pearls before swine?

      • Anonymous

        I was said by someone condemned for associating with publicans and prostitutes.  Like Zacheus.  But as he said, the well have no need of a doctor.
        The occupy movement are sinners in need of salvation, just like me, and I need the sacrament of reconciliation.
        You can thank God you aren’t like them, and assume that it isn’t grace which saves.Ought the roman church be renamed the Content, Condescending, Catholic church?Arrogance, no mercy, no patience?  Are these the new virtues?  For businessmen?

      • Luke Daxon

        I don’t know what you mean Roger. Is that the protestors are pigs? Is it that it is  beneath your dignity to converse with those with whom you disagree? Christ was prepared to share his table with and touch those who were ritually unclean under Mosaic Law. I repeat – what do you mean by your comment?

        • Roger McKinney

          I mean the same thing as Jesus meant.

          • Luke Daxon

            And what do you believe he meant in Matthew 7:6? “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.”

            This is generally considered one of the most obscure passages in the Gospels. The broad verdict of much exegesis is that this is reference to Gentiles, in a similar vein to his words to the Gentile women who wanted her daughter to be healed. The implication being that his message was only for the Jews during his earthly ministry. But I think you would find it hard to say there is a consensus on the exact meaning of this passge. Bear in mind the whole history of the Church is about the bringing of the Gospel to the unclean heathen, in obedience to Jesus’s command to make disciples of all people at the end of Matthew’s Gospel.

            I disagree with you on most points Roger, as you know. Yet you are still willing to respond to my comments. Do you think it is perhaps inconsistent to forswear any conversation with those who sympathise with the Occupy Wall Street crowd?

          • Roger McKinney

            I don’t know how anyone can consider Jesus’ statement
            obscure. He refers to people whose hatred of the truth is so intense that they
            will kill you if you offer it to them, as the Israeli leadership did to him. He
            violated that principle, but intentionally and with purpose. Many martyrs did
            the same. Sometimes you have no choice.


            Jesus and his disciples several times “shook the dust from
            their feet” (abandoned people to their unbelief) because of obstinate rejection
            of the truth. If people show signs that they seek the truth and are open to it,
            then we would be wrong to withhold it. But if they demonstrate that they know
            the truth and violently oppose it, we would violate Jesus’ principle by
            foolishly persisting in giving it to them.


            The question is, in which camp to the OWers fall? From what
            I have seen they fall into the camp of those violently opposed to truth.