What Does Occupy Wall Street Need?
Why would we want Occupy Wall Street, a movement dominated by the political left, to achieve any results at all? The answer is that if this movement directs its energy constructively and intelligently instead of merely protesting bad economic conditions, it can play a major role in keeping the United States out of the ash heap of history. James Harrington's "China: A Call to Action" shows why our country is indeed headed in that direction.
With only 19 percent of the world's population, China consumes 53 percent of the world's cement, 48 percent of the world's iron ore, 47 percent of the world's coal, as well as a majority of almost every major commodity. In 2010 China produced 11 times more steel than the United States.
These figures are unequivocal proof that China will soon become the world's dominant economic and military power unless the United States undergoes a full-fledged economic revolution -- or, more precisely, an economic reaction (going back to proven paths to affluence and prosperity). Occupy Wall Street can play a valuable role in this transformation if it follows a few simple rules.
(1) If you don't want to look like a circus, send out the clowns.
We mean specifically MoveOn.org, filmmaker Michael Moore, and Roseanne "Madame Defarge" Barr who called for the beheading of certain bankers. MoveOn.org meanwhile published an anti-Catholic photomanipulation of Pope Benedict waving a gavel outside the U.S. Supreme Court along with a defamatory insult to General David Petraeus. Moore's own Web site depicts as "Minutemen" terrorists who murder our soldiers in Iraq, whom he calls "mercenaries."
We will assume that Barr was attempting to be funny, but our country's economic situation is anything but entertaining. It is meanwhile impossible for any decent American to join hands with anything that involves Michael Moore or MoveOn.org; that is not the kind of hand that any decent person can clasp in friendship or common cause. Threats to "erase" the New York Stock Exchange are not helpful, either, and they serve only to relegate Occupy Wall Street to the lunatic fringe.
(2) Lose the Luddites
The original Luddites smashed machines they thought would take jobs away from workers. If one machine could do the work of ten people, they reasoned, nine would lose their jobs. Henry Towne, past president of the American Society of Manufacturing Engineers, described the actual effect of automation and increased work efficiency a hundred years ago in his introduction to Frederick Winslow Taylor's Shop Management.
We are justly proud of the high wage rates which prevail throughout our country, and jealous of any interference with them by the products of the cheaper labor of other countries. To maintain this condition, to strengthen our control of home markets, and, above all, to broaden our opportunities in foreign markets where we must compete with the products of other industrial nations, we should welcome and encourage every influence tending to increase the efficiency of our productive processes[.]
What part of "high wage rates which prevail throughout our country" and "jealous of any interference with them by the products of the cheaper labor of other countries" does Occupy Wall Street, and indeed, the rest of the country, not understand? Our country confronted the problem of cheap foreign labor more than a century ago and, as shown not only by Taylor's book, but also by numerous others by Henry Ford and his coworkers, developed proven solutions.
Machine-breaking is not, however, the only form of productivity-destroying sabotage that constitutes Ludditism. The Occupy Wall Street website also lists 350.org as a participant, and 350.org's agenda is to work against cheap energy from natural gas, coal, and other fossil fuels. The success of 350.org's activities will therefore be yet another incentive for the capitalists the movement despises so much to move energy-intensive high-wage jobs (e.g., chemicals, aluminum) along with all their carbon emissions to China -- which, as was shown above, now burns 42 percent of the world's coal. If you want high-wage jobs, lose the Luddites.
Now, does Occupy Wall Street want a revolution? A good revolution needs leaders, and here they are.
(3) Henry Ford and Joe Magarac Can Lead Americans to High Wages and Affluence
Henry Ford wrote in My Life and Work (1922), "The only true labor leader is the one who leads labor to work and to wages, and not the leader who leads labor to strikes, sabotage, and starvation." Ford led his workers to very high wages indeed, and thereby created the American middle class. This middle class is falling apart because our country has forgotten most of what Ford had to teach us.
My Life and Work, minus a chapter with anti-Semitic content that Ford himself later repudiated, is probably the best business book ever written. The reader will find within it what is now known as the Toyota production system, the elements of green and sustainable manufacturing, and also the commonsense need for a square deal for Management and Labor alike. Labor must understand that no job can pay more in wages than it creates in value, and the way to create more value is to make the job as efficient as possible. Management must on the other hand not be surprised when, if it seeks to pay Labor as little as possible instead of what the job is worth, it gets as little work and loyalty as Labor can deliver.
Joe Magarac is meanwhile the steel industry's Paul Bunyan, a symbolic figure who can extrude steel rails and beams with his bare hands. He might not actually need a hard hat and safety glasses because he is made of steel, but he should probably set a good example of workplace safety. We present him as the antithesis of King Ludd (aka 350.org), who can lead his followers nowhere but to poverty and unemployment or minimum-wage jobs in retail and fast food occupations. Joe Magarac wants to know why his steel mills are now in China and what we are going to do to get them back.
We also need a coal industry counterpart of Joe Magarac. Entry-level mining jobs pay twice as much as a typical retailing or "distribution" (warehouse) job, and coal can liberate our country from Middle Eastern oil barons. Coal can be converted into motor vehicle fuels, as it was by Germany during the Second World War, and the process is competitive when oil sells at $30 to $50 a barrel. The chemical process jobs that do this work also pay twice as much as retail and fast food jobs, and only high-wage jobs can sustain a middle class.
The Occupy Wall Street revolution needs leaders like Henry Ford and the mythical Joe Magarac, and not charlatans like MoveOn.org and the mythical King Ludd. Only the former can lead America back to its rightful affluence, prosperity, and economic opportunities for all its people.
William A. Levinson, P.E. is the author of several books on business management including content on organizational psychology, as well as manufacturing productivity and quality.