YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

March 10, 2012

Dan Loeb Speech 3-7-12

 

Daniel S. Loeb

Daniel S. Loeb Speech: On Receiving the 2012 Columbia John Jay Award for Distinguished Professional Achievement

“When I was in College I liked this Elvis Costello song, “What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding?”

I think today we need a new song, “What’s So Funny About Individual Freedom, Free Enterprise and Accountability?”

In fact, I might add what’s so funny about celebrating the entrepreneurial spirit that made this country great? This entrepreneurial spirit is applicable not only to business but also to the arts and to humanitarian efforts, as is evident by my fellow awardees tonight like Filmmaker Dede Gardner, Venture Philanthropist Ellen Gustafson, Venture Capitalist Ben Horowitz, and Tiananmen Square dissident turned fund manager the great venture capitalist Li Lu.

I think this is still an aspirational country, but there are some people who think it is fashionable to denigrate success, while others try to stir up class warfare. I was surprised last fall to see an Economics Professor ensconced in an Occupy Wall Street mob decrying the 1%, attributing all the country’s problems to an issue of poor distribution of wealth and accusing the so-called 1% of being lazy

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0UxtJTWahWM&feature=related, watch at 6:30 mark). Certainly he [Jeffrey Sachs, C.S.] did not speak for the University where he is tenured but for but an economics Professor to carry on like this – really? We have a problem when young people are taught that our country is fundamentally unfair and encouraged to see themselves as victims. It is even more upsetting when our leaders tell us that it is their role to make amends for these wrongs via increased and capricious regulation, excessive entitlements, ill-conceived subsidies and punitive prosecutions.

So, I am delighted to stand here tonight to celebrate not my own success but to cheer the idea of professional accomplishment and the role Columbia has had in so many people’s lives in achieving their dreams through the John Jay scholarships and the College generally.

Columbia’s ability to attract and cultivate some of the nation’s greatest leaders goes back a few years. My fellow classmate President Barack Obama and I may not agree on everything, but I congratulate him on his phenomenal political career. And I’ll go back a few years further…

The namesake of this evening, John Jay, attended the College in 1760, was our first Chief Justice, and will always be remembered for his commitment to justice and successful efforts to emancipate the slaves in New York State. After two failed efforts in 1777 and 1785, he finally succeeded in 1799. It took almost another 30 years for all the slaves in New York State to be freed. Imagine that! What an inspiration John Jay’s grit and tenacity is for those of us who have been fighting for civil rights of marriage equality and education reform today. A worthy hero of Columbia College indeed

Alexander Hamilton began his studies at Kings College in 1773. From a shady Caribbean slave-trading Island, a bastard child orphaned at age 11, Hamilton studied military strategy with his fellow Kings College students, became one of the greatest leaders our nation has ever known, and created many of the institutions which define who we are today. An underprivileged student from a broken family who managed to go to Columbia and make good thanks to the generous support of others…sounds familiar.

For me, Columbia was transformative. I don’t remember much about the specifics of the Economics courses that I majored in – I apparently internalized the key concepts – but I still remember vividly the thrill of reading Don Quixote, Epictetus, The Aeneid, King Lear and Candide, and how contemporary the stories and ideas in these old and ancient texts struck me. To this day, I still chuckle when I consider the bawdy tales of Rabelais, who seems now to have anticipated and channeled my own 6 year-old son’s talent for potty talk. I fantasize that our politicians have been moved by the dialogues of Plato, and thus contemplate the ancient conflict of the sophists versus the lovers of truth. (I guess they determined that the former was the more expeditious course)

But Columbia was not just professors and books, it was the friendships and the conversations, often at Tom’s or the College Inn, sometimes about girls or dreams

or aspirations but often about those very great books or art, which we all internalized and helped form the fabric of who we are today. Two of those dear friends, Maurice Rasgon, who convinced me to transfer to Columbia and my friend Robert Brown, who let me sleep on his dorm room floor when I was briefly homeless, have travelled here all the way from California. So has my mother Clare, a historian who recently read Chernow’s Hamilton Biography with me in anticipation of this occasion.

Perhaps I was always intensely curious, but my Columbia education gave me a framework and a perspective to investigate new things – things that could be put into a historical and philosophical lineage. As I have grown older, the statues on Columbia’s campus of Rodin’s Thinker, Founding Fathers like Hamilton and Jefferson, and the values they represent have come to life and resonate within me.

Lastly, whatever measure of success I have attained in my professional career would not have been possible without the love and support of my wife Margaret and pales in comparison to the happiness she and my children give me every day. Thank you very much for this award.”

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October 10, 2011

Populist catharsis on Wall Street

Jeffrey Sachs, Columbia U. professor

The Occupy Wall Street movement has the support of Old Leftists (Stalinists, Trotskyists), populists, tenured professors steeped in Keynesian economics, Big Labor, and an assortment of young people worried about their student loans and the lack of job opportunities. Some pundits on Fox News have been interpreting this protest movement as a product of disillusion with Obama, and a movement to his Left. My view is that it is a calculated event and part of his campaign for re-election, and perhaps even managed and instigated out of the White House, expressing Obama’s own Leninism as reinterpreted by Keynesian economics and a long-lived “soak the rich” philosophy that is directed against imputed Jewish control of everything: As “the money power” [the obscenely bloated Jew] controls banks, hedge funds, the media, advertising, and plants computer chips in our brain so that the ‘Jewish’ mask is not penetrated by ‘Jewry’s’ victims and sets them against their parents.  I.e, Through the control of “public opinion” the money power perpetuates its oligarchical, illegitimate control, and celebrates “corporate greed.”

No one should see OWS as anything resembling a leftist revolt, and those [New Leftists] who are crowing over it should hang their heads in shame, for they have sold out, possibly in the expectation that they would be rewarded with advancement in the new Obama dispensation.

This is how 19th century Marxists (not Leninists) operated in the past; unlike OWS, they were generally analytical, focused, disciplined, and had a goal in sight:

1. They identified a revolutionary agency—the new working class that, in their analysis, would be increasingly immiserated and would stop production in a general strike and take over the reins of power, this time abolishing classes altogether and, with a more just distribution of resources, would institute communism: “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” It was vague, but Marx at least saw the bourgeoisie as a progressive class that had created and developed  the productive forces that would enable capitalism’s transcendence into a society of abundance and the defeat of needless toil.

2. Along with this optimistic prophecy, at any particular stage of struggle, the Marxists asked themselves, “given the correlation of forces, what is the task of our generation?”  This required constant study of every institution; also focus on the likely allies to revolutionary struggle. Marx himself predicted that parts of the bourgeoisie would break off and join the working class. Crucially, one didn’t expect “the streets” to be the site of structural transformation. There had to be a ripened situation, such as a crisis of capitalism. So it seemed in the Great Depression, and hence hordes of intellectuals, workers, and small businessmen joined the Left or the Popular Front with its antifascist agenda. (Some even stayed there after the Nazi-Soviet Pact in 1939, and their children often remained tied to some form of Leftism, no matter how attenuated .)

3. The romantic part of Marxism is this: there could be no preconceived plan for the just society—a plan that we could all look at. There were no Federalist Papers or copies of a proposed Constitution for the working-class revolution.  Rather, it would evolve organically out of revolutionary struggle and the leadership of the “conscious” working class. It could not take place in a technologically backward society (here is the point of divergence from Leninism and Maoism or Third Worldism).

Surely, only a half-educated demagogue such as Keith Olbermann or a “progressive” neo-Keynesian college professor such as Jeffrey Sachs would see the present situation as ripe for revolution, in a series of demonstrations populated by frightened, undereducated youth and opportunistic labor unions or diehard Stalinists. Is there socialism ahead? I doubt it. Maybe fascist dictatorship given the populist rage and Jew-hatred that is cropping out even as I write this, and not only in the U.S.

I am not a Marxist myself, but one who appreciates the wealth-creating potential of free markets and limited government. The Republican Party should do a better job in explaining supply-side economics and defending those aspects of conservation and environmentalism that are grounded in sound science and medicine. And responsible historians and journalists should remind the public that Hitler’s base consisted of right-wing populists*: the petit-bourgeoisie, including small producers (peasants and artisans), unemployed and unorganized workers, civil servants, and everyone who profited from the expropriation of “Jewish” property and “Jewish” jobs. It is a canard of the Marxist-Leninist Left** that fascism is the triumph of finance capital and big business, though, to be sure, elements of those groups (in addition to monarchists or the army, including the Freikorps) served in coalition with Hitler until he kicked out such officials as von Neurath and Schacht, 1936-38.

*I am not forgetting the left-wing populism of the Strasser brothers. But that militant anti-bourgeois wing of the Party was decimated in the Night of the Long Knives.

** Lenin was influenced by the populist antisemite J. A. Hobson, see https://clarespark.com/2009/09/18/bad-sex-in-the-new-york-times/.  How many students today can describe the debate between Rosa Luxemburg and Lenin or Stalin about imperialism and backward societies?

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