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The One Percent's Quick History: "We Worked Hard, We Went to College, We Tried to Better Our Lives"

(p. F1) SOON after the Occupy Wall Street encampment was set up at Zuccotti Park in Manhattan last fall, 26-year-old Ryan Quick told his father, Leslie C. Quick III, a financier, that he might drop by the site.

"Don't you even let me see you over there," the father replied.

The senior Mr. Quick later said that he and his son were both "half-kidding" each other. But he need not have worried about any class rebellion. According to Mr. Quick, his son came back from his visit and said: "It just looks like a Phish concert. It's difficult to get engaged by something that doesn't really have a purpose."

As scions of a family that co-founded Quick & Reilly, a pioneering discount brokerage firm acquired for $1.6 billion by another company in 1997, the Quicks are undoubtedly among the "1 percent" -- the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans targeted by the Occupy Wall Street movement. Indeed, having made their fortune in finance, the Quicks might be particular targets.

. . .

(p. F5) "Almost all my clients are self-made," said Christopher J. Cordaro, chief executive of RegentAtlantic Capital, a wealth management firm based in Morristown, N.J., whose clients have at least $2 million in investable assets. "They're saying, 'We worked hard, we went to college, we tried to better our lives. Isn't that what I'm supposed to do?' "

That is also the Quick family's history. When he joined the year-old family firm after graduating from college in 1975, Leslie Quick recalled, "we didn't know if my father was going to declare bankruptcy or this discount brokerage thing was going to work."

For the full story, see:

FRAN HAWTHORNE. "Color the 1 Percent 99 Percent Conflicted." The New York Times (Thurs., February 9, 2012): F1 & F5.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the article is dated February 8, 2012.)


'We worked hard, we went to college, we tried to better our lives. Isn't that what I'm supposed to do?'

Well, apparently until you reach some arbitrary threshold of success, then you apparently "owe" society something back for it.

That's always something that "stuck in my craw": the notion of "giving back" to society what you gained from it in your success. I contend that people look at this in a very backwards way, even the successful people themselves. The statement implies that in order to be successful you have take something from other people. But spending any modicum of time looking at an Edgeworth box (or just taking the time to reason through the statement) shows you that in order to be successful you need to provide something of value to others, not take something of value from them. Success (and the accompanying income that goes with it) is a measurement of how well you provide something of value to society, not how well you take from it. If taking from others is the measure of success, then governments probably have a much firmer grip on society than wealthy people do for they certainly take a lot from people without necessarily providing anything of value in return.

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