December 6th, 2011

Critical Masses

As the protests in New York City continue, you begin to wonder where all of this is headed. Interestingly enough, these protests have spread, not just around the country, but around the world as well. In major cities across the US and in far flung locations like Seoul, South Korea, people are taking up the cause against Wall Street and the perceived injustices that the iconic thoroughfare gives rise to.

The problem here – a problem with the potential of becoming much more severe – is that the real message of these far flung protests is a little bit unclear. The anecdotal complaint that the bulk of the world’s wealth is controlled by only 1% of the population is the subject of scrutiny by economists all over the world. Whatever the actual number is, there should be no question that there is clearly a disparate distribution of wealth.

But the protesters are not offering up any solutions, other than to bring the problem to light. Certainly in a capitalist society you can’t take umbrage against people who have taken control over their own destiny and risen to the pinnacle of personal and financial success. Hopefully, these protests aren’t zeroing in on that – the ability of a hard working person to succeed. That’s the American way.

On the other hand, if someone succeeds at the expense of others, and violates rules and breaks laws along the way, then that is clearly a legitimate source of complaint. The protesters though have not made any such distinctions. Instead, these protests seem to signal something deeper – a growing sentiment that things just aren’t right. And the fact that it’s happening all over the country and the world makes it something that obviously resonates with a lot of people.

Anyone who dismisses these protests as the idle passion of a few bored individuals is underestimating the potential scope and impact of these events. Revolutions start when there is a fundamental imbalance of power and wealth, and when people start reacting to it. Even though this is just getting started, one needs to wonder whether something like that is at the very early stages of growing into something much bigger, and potentially much more dangerous. When the masses reach critical mass, things will start moving rapidly.

The bottom line is that if you are planning out your financial future, you need to keep an eye on this. The global redistribution of wealth is already underway. These events might well serve to accelerate it. Make sure you’re ready when it happens.

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