Sunday 13 November 2011 11:18 pm

Blame selfishness, not capitalism, for our woes

I LOVE a protest. So long as it involves a point worthy of consideration, and preferably a brazier, I’m there. I’ve spent quite a while wandering around the OccupyLSX site reading the bumf and trying to look inconspicuous. No mean feat when you’re 6’2” and wearing full TV studio make-up, but still. I think most people can empathise with the calls for genuinely independent regulators and solidarity with the oppressed. But the issues always come back to capitalists versus anti-capitalists and I simply don’t buy the analysis. Protesters are lumped together as anti-capitalists, which over-simplifies their complaints. The most radical free-market capitalists agree that bank bailouts are nonsensical. And capitalists are cast as the baddies, which is simply lazy. Capitalism itself doesn’t make people vile. Having money doesn’t make people obnoxious. People on average incomes and poor people are quite capable of being obnoxious too. But capitalism does reward some people with lots of cash and gives them a platform from which to broadcast their unpleasantness. In an ideal world the wealthiest would intersperse extravagant acts of consumption with extravagant acts of charitable selflessness. But the fact that this doesn’t necessarily happen is no surprise. You can’t force selfless behaviour on people under any economic system. Ultimately people need gainful employment, whatever the ideology. The best people to employ others are those who run business and are therefore in a position to pay and that gets us back, one way or another, to private ownership of the means of production – i.e. capitalism. There’s nothing intrinsic to capitalism that requires greed, cold-heartedness or blind materialism. So, if we’re not to blame capitalism for the current wave of dissatisfaction, who are we to blame? Selfish prats. They can be found across the political spectrum and in all socio-economic groups. They make poor decisions and screw things up for everyone else. Try removing “capitalist” from any slogan and replace it with “selfish prat” and you’ll find it makes much more sense. I don’t have the answers to the world’s economic woes, but I’m pretty sure of this: Any political or business leader or any average Joe would be well served by looking at any decision they have made and asking themselves… “Am I being a selfish prat?” Beccy Meehan is an anchor at CNBC. Follow her on Twitter @BeccyMeehan