10th April 2012
As the economy struggles to rebound from widespread recession, citizen response has garnered more attention than the daily rise and fall of the Dow. Whilst the Occupy movement used its nonexistent focus as a characteristic of its anger, December 2011 saw those within the realm of academia seek to lend expertise to the discussion. Occupy Harvard unified professors within its Ivy walls to lend various perspectives to the question of how the financial meltdown happened. In his speech, "Why Has Inequality Grown in America?" Ford Foundation Professor of Democracy and Citizenship and Co-Director of Transparency Policy Project at Harvard Archon Fung explained that although the top 1% in the US owns 33% of accumulated wealth throughout the country, the average American thinks distribution of wealth is far more equal than it actually is, adding that executive compensation in the form of stock options, et al. leads average CEO pay to rise way above the average American salary.
Juliet Schor, Professor of Sociology at Boston College, used her talk to argue that the increasingly conservative nature of economics has led to the 1% using the Occupy movement to increase their own power and wealth, mirroring Harvard Professor and Department Chair Brad Epps' argument that the continuous construction of enemies ranging from Muslims to secularists has created an environment that is hostile to anyone who fails to conform to "the normative part of Patriot and person of faith."
Harvard lecturer Richard Parker discussed how the suffering of Greece has little to do with bad stereotypes of reckless borrowing and lazy ethics and much to do with Germany's unwillingness to re-channel surpluses back into Europe and assist with overall growth.
The range of opinions from those who practice economics lends diverse education to consumer anger. But lest viewers be wary that Occupy Harvard sought to patronise its audience, Fung was quick to object. "I should say at the outset that I'm not an expert on the distribution of income or even inequality," Fung declared. "I'm just a reader-somebody who happens to benefit from having a couple of university degrees, much like most of the people in this room. And I feel like it's part of my responsibility, as it is every citizen's responsibility, to try to read and learn about these things…I'm speaking to you just as a citizen trying to understand it, just like you are."
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