It is difficult to know what the “Occupy” protestors want but it seems they aren’t happy with the way Wall Street works and believe it’s rigged; salaries are too big, etc. But whatever the reason they are there, some of them are now using their tech smarts to build apps which help their cause. For example, a new “I’m Getting Arrested” app lets a protester tell their friends quickly that they are about to go to jail.
Many of the interviews with protestors I’ve heard show strong socialist/Marxist beliefs and I find a dramatic irony between these views and the launching of an app which requires a smartphone. Why? Well, the app now only works on Android and thanks to Wall Street, Google was able to amass enough cash via an IPO to not only pay back millionaire and billionaire investors but to invest in an operating system they provide for free to phone manufacturers so they can sell reasonably priced phones to people like lower income-workers and those out of work who would likely have the free time to spend at a protest.
An Apple app is expected soon and again, thanks to Wall Street, Apple has public stock which has been used to create millionaires and (sit down when you read this protesters) billionaires. Without these incentives, the only sure bet is we wouldn’t have as much innovation and investment and as a result the cell phone would likely not even exist.
The capitalist system is not perfect and we don’t even have pure capitalism – we have crony capitalism where corporations do get special favors in exchange for money and other favors they provide. Personally I am against crony capitalism and suggest those people who are against it as well vote for the most conservative candidates they can find.
But I digress. One other point of potential agreement with some of these protesters – we bailed out a lot of these banks and many of the people who took irresponsible bets not only didn’t fail but are able to continue making massive salaries.
No one knows for sure what would have happened if the banks were allowed to fail but many think things could have been worse. But at this point what’s done is done.
OK, one more potentially frustrating challenge we face in the US is CEOs who for lack of a better word, suck and walk away with tens of millions of dollars as they exit a company. No one benefits when compensation is as large for failure as it is for success but other than allowing free markets to operate, how else can such a system be corrected? Moreover, does it really change the quality of our lives if someone else gets more money for doing less or a poor job? Would our life get better if the moronic CEO was left penniless or beheaded? The world will never be perfect and free markets are the best at creating the most opportunity for the largest number of people. There certainly isn’t a better system which has been discovered yet.
One final point I have noticed is that there seems to be a rule of thumb that there is always someone who is far less qualified who makes more money for less work. It seems to just be the way of the world like Europe being in perpetual financial turmoil.
I was just at a meeting at the University of Connecticut yesterday discussing the fact that computer science major graduates are in huge demand but the number of incoming students who pick the major is not increasing. The prevailing wisdom among students I am told is all the tech jobs are in India while the fact is that salaries for US tech workers is as high as they have ever been. Moreover, computer science graduates of UCONN are getting hired not only in traditional tech oriented positions but also in the insurance space and on Wall Street (sorry protesters but someone’s got to work there).
Another interesting observation is just how many tech workers are foreign-born. In the US it doesn’t seem fashionable to go into a tech field but it is fashionable to protest about how Wall Street, business and life isn’t fair. I find it super-ironic that while in the US, thousands make public statements about how the world is unfair while at the same time thousands of penniless immigrants find a way out of their countries, make it to the US, learn English and become successful tech workers and often, successful entrepreneurs.
I hear many people being interviewed on TV talk about a lack of opportunity in the business world and at the same time I am getting deluged with news from brand new startups – many of which are cloud-based taking advantage of the growth in tech spending and the shift towards mobility. There is investment capital, there are new companies being founded and there is lots of opportunity.
Moreover, the next time you turn on that smartphone and download the latest occupy app, remember the capitalist system which is responsible for the chips in the smartphone and the hundreds of millions or billions of dollars which created a supply chain to get you that phone. Also remember the stock options which helped recruit talent to design the phones. And the credit card system which Wall Street helped fund which allows app stores to be monetized. How about the billions of financing provided by Wall Street for cell phone towers to get built and outfitted with the latest technology. And of course the funding which allowed the building of the malls and other locations where you find Apple, AT&T and other retail mobile technology outlets.
When you wake up in the morning and put on your protest Levis, you can thank Wall Street funded supply chains for getting you the pants inexpensively. When you get to the kitchen and pour the orange juice into a glass and start frying the bacon, you can thank the Chicago futures pits and the commodities exchanges which help price these items in the most efficient manner possible. Then there is the TV where we watch the protesters – without funding in-part from Wall Street, the multibillion dollar flat-screen plants would never get built. Ditto for all those Prius drivers in these protests (I would wager this is the top car there with Minis being second); without billions to fund these auto plants, you’d have to walk.
Oh and there are millions of jobs being fueled by Wall Street, I would venture to say that 70-90% of all US jobs are in-part available because of the funding from Wall Street or the wealth it helped create being funneled privately into startups either directly or through banks which take the savings of the super-wealthy and loan it out to small businesses and people looking to buy homes and cars.
I’m waiting for someone to come up with the “capitalist app” which displays a chart reminding these protesters how much worse off they would be living in a country like Cuba where communist leaders just allowed cell phones for the first time in 1998. Our system is far from perfect but without it, forget about cell phones, apps and group texting, we’d all be communicating with sea shells connected by a bunch of vines.