Want the 1 percent to listen? Speak their language

The Ear.001The World Economic Forum gets underway this week at Davos, Switzerland. Apparently, OXFAM believes this group is the one that will do something about wealth inequality, the poor, rampant unemployment and corporate subsidies among other ills plaguing our global economy.

OXFAM published a report reiterating what we all know, then offered the uber-wealthy WEF attendees seven recommendations for fixing the problems:

  • Not dodge taxes in their own countries or in countries where they invest and operate, by using tax havens;
  • Not use their economic wealth to seek political favors that undermine the democratic will of their fellow citizens;
  • Make public all the investments in companies and trusts for which they are the ultimate beneficial owners;
  • Support progressive taxation on wealth and income;
  • Challenge governments to use their tax revenue to provide universal health-care, education, and social protection for citizens;
  • Demand a living wage in all the companies they own or control;
  • Challenge other economic elites to join them in these pledges

One thing you’ll quickly notice about all seven: none of them speak to the elites’ self interest.

A key element of any sales pitch (and yes, getting the 1 percent to budge is a major sales effort) is to speak the customer’s language. Equally important is to offer something aligned with their self interest. Imagine you’re a sales person.  A customer comes into your store. What do you do? Yell at them? Blame them for you not making any sales? Call them names? Threaten to take all their money? Shoot them?

Taking that approach do you think you’ll make a sale? Likely not.

Look. Not to discount hard work the 85 people the OXFAM report calls out, timing and luck played a huge part in how their fortunes were made. They know that. Beneath their bravado and opulent displays they ask themselves the same questions sole survivors of plane crashes and massacres ask.

“Why me?”

Gates and Buffet know luck played a big role in their success. I’m sure Zuckerberg knows it too. Perhaps that’s why Gates and Buffet committed to give all their wealth away. Not too sure about Zuckerberg. Trouble is, the significant work their philanthropy funds does little to solve The One Wicked Problem: a system that no longer works well for the majority of us. It doesn’t work well for anyone, as I’m sure Gates, Buffet and the other 85 already know.

While we’d give OXFAM an “A” for showing up to the party, their recommendations are terrible. Why? None of them speak to the self interests the audience OXFAM is addressing.

What does? How about these:

  1. Help create an economy that doesn’t put a burden on your ability to increase your wealth, especially that messy, social one called “the poor”
  2. Support efforts that will free your family from having to pay for healthcare and education
  3. Get behind efforts designed to eliminate taxes, debt, payroll and fees not just for your business, but for everyone, including the poor. They’ll love you for that
  4. Rather than giving your money to your kids, follow the commitments Buffet and Gates have made, but instead of supporting the Nonprofit Industrial Complex, put your money in an initiative that will keep government from meddling in your business affairs, forever
  5. Your legacy is intact as a successful business person, now, start building a legacy people will love you for by creating better opportunities for them than the ones you had to face in building your empire.
  6. You can do all this and not worry about anyone trying to take a dollar from you.

The 85 people OXFAM calls out could do all these things – things which benefit them directly – simply by supporting an alternative that promises to perform far better than Status-Quo economies, not just for the one percent of us, but for everyone. By throwing their weight behind Copiosis, they will make Davos an irrelevancy.

Until the rest of us start speaking their language, the 1 percent aren’t going to lift a finger to change things. Change only happens when it’s in our self-interest. That’s the key to getting them to listen.



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