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Saturday, November 05, 2011


Perhaps you should occupy your free time instead...

I’m surprised to find, in a blog dedicated to one of the more politically charged classes on campus, that no one yet has mentioned Occupy Wall Street. Media coverage of this movement is spreading as quickly as the gathering of demonstrators themselves. Everyone from Fox News, the BBC, National Public Radio, and all those in between have has put out extensive new coverage on the protests since they began in September. However, any well-defined explanation as to the purpose of their assembly is hard to find. Even for me, I had very little specific information other than the fact that their numbers were, and still are, rapidly growing. Herein lies my issue and the purpose of this blog—why assemble if not for common purpose? I beg the question, then, that If the purpose of peaceful assembly is to combine the voice of individuals to form a group in the effort to achieve a common goal, then what are they really doing? I offer a possible theory as to the real aim of this movement, as well as some basic facts about their purpose, in case anyone else finds that they are as confused as I am.

Unfortunately, however, it seems that there is so little commonality amongst the various off-shoots of Occupy Wall Street that almost no information about the movement is to be found from scholarly sources. The Economist magazine seems to agree about the cluttered nature of the protests: “Some want to tax the rich, others to decertify business schools. Hostile references to Wal-Mart and Starbucks outnumber those to any Wall Street firms.”(2011). It would be easy to simply say that Occupy Wall Street unanimously operates under the slogan, We Are the 99%. ‘But of course! They are protesting the widening gap in wealth between the infinitesimal minority of the super-rich and the growing number of those who live in poverty!’ However, it would be just as easy to claim that they are protesting government corruption being fed by corporate lobbyists, as indicated on the Occupy Wall Street website: “Our nation, our species and our world are in crisis. The US has an important role to play in the solution, but we can no longer afford to let corporate greed and corrupt politics set the policies of our nation.” The problem is that these protests are directed toward both issues, and even more still. Occupy Wall Street, while possibly having had a common end in mind in the very beginning, has grown into a network of increasingly smaller and dissimilar movements, each of which has their own reason for protesting.

As Mises would say, they have become special interest groups, each lobbying for the realignment of law in their favor. Because Occupy has fallen into this category, the strength of its movement becomes immediately less credible: “On the one hand, they are obliged to rely on only a small group, because privileges cease to be privileges when they are granted to the majority; but, on the other hand, it is only in their guise as the champions and representatives of the majority that they have any prospect of realizing their demands.” (Mises, 169). The very use of the 99% slogan indicates this behavior. They are referring to their cause as being an issue that affects the majority of the country, rather than the minority only, or the group with the special interest in mind. Ignoring the fact that the original reason for their protest is based in factual misdirection, the very method of their protest now bears no efficacy in their fight for the changing of the law.

Their methods are firmly set and are being followed by an increasing number of people every day. Whatever their goals are, I would not quickly assume that the Occupy Wall Street movement would die out before seeing those goals fulfilled, even in part. That’s what scares me; if their goals are not all similar, how can they all possibly be achieved? Let’s assume for a moment that the entirety of the Occupy movement in the United States had in mind only three goals whose accomplishment would end the need for their protest, those are ending government corruption, removing the power of corporations to create corruption within the government, and shortening the income gap between the wealthy and the poor. How would those goals be accomplished? The answers to the first two are easy, and can be accomplished through the reinstatement of policies that are more consistent with liberty. Particularly, this means the removal from law any policy that grants special privilege to any particular group. However, the answer to the inequality of wealth is non-existent. In any economy that adheres even loosely to the principles of free exchange and private property there will be inequality, and for good reason. Even Mr. Rockwell would agree: “In fact, that 1 percent includes some of the smartest, most innovative people in the country — the people who invent, market, and distribute material blessings to the whole population. They also own the capital that sustains productivity and growth.” (Rockwell Jr., 2011).

Whether or not it is Wall Street or Pennsylvania Avenue that is being occupied, the reason for the occupation must be consistent amongst all of its members. In the same way that I cannot simultaneously protest for lower tuition rates and wider availability of quality education, Occupy Wall Street cannot simultaneously protest for a multitude of different issues. With that being said, I invite the occupiers to protest randomly to their hearts’ content, while I sit back and watch the real issues unfold unchallenged by any serious-minded intellectuals.

Works Cited:
Not quite together. (Cover story). (2011). Economist, 400(8756), 73-75.

Von Mises, L. (2002). Liberalism: In the classical tradition. (3rd ed.). Irvington-on-Hudson: The Foundation for Economic Education, Inc. Retrieved from http://mises.org/books/liberalism.pdf

Rockwell Jr., L. H. (2011, October 24). The state is the 1 percent. Retrieved from http://mises.org/daily/5776/The-State-Is-the-1-Percent

I definitely wanted to write a blog about Occupy Wall Street, but I have gotten way too angry every time I try to sit down and formulate a good argument. The whole movement makes me feel really dissappointed in my generation. It seems like a group of people who want everything handed to them. They want the "one percent" to share the wealth. They also want jobs, better education, equality, and anything unlucky or unfair that has ever happened to go away. It would be nice if you could stand in the street and yell at people to get what you wanted. Unfortunately, it's not that easy. It scares me that my generation doesn't want to work hard to create change. If anything, those people are LUCKY to be in top 1/6 of the world. They just seem so ungrateful and lazy. I am really disappointed in the popularity of this movement.
I agree. To be fair, based on my own moral code, I cannot object to anyone's desire to peacefully assemble and demonstrate. This action, in itself, I support wholeheartedly. However, the fact that what is being demonstrated for are changes in our society that are economically and socially irresponsible leads me to oppose these demonstrators and their missions (Whatever they may be). Lazy, maybe not. Dangerous, very much so.
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