Occupy Wall Street is the fringe of the political left
Over at Reason, A. Barton Hinkle explains that the message being carried by Occupy Wall Street, though part of it may resonate with an American public weary of bailouts, is the carries the same anti-capitalist we come to know and roll our eyes at from the Left:
The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement, obsessed with fairness, has benefitted from the lack of it. The protesters don’t think so—but that is because many of them have not thought enough.
The demonstrators resent disparity. So consider the disparity in coverage of OWS and the Tea Party. A single (still unsubstantiated) allegation that someone in the crowd at a 2010 Tea Party rally in Washington hurled a racial slur at Rep. John Lewis sufficed to prove the entire movement a kissin’ cousin of the KKK. But that “Google Wall Street Jews” guy? A lone nut. As for the signs calling for the “death of capitalism” and telling Wall Street bankers to “Jump, you [expletives]” and declaring “capitalism can’t be fixed—we need revolution”? Unrepresentative, surely. Ditto the 5:30 Oakland seminar on Marxism 101, and the dude in the Lenin T-shirt, and… .
Don’t feel bad if you missed such tidbits on the nightly news. Every movement has its whack jobs, but those on the left get politely overlooked.
a survey by Democratic pollster Douglas Schoen of OWS protesters in Zucotti Park showed 31 percent “would support violence to advance their agenda.” That figure is incorrect; it is closer to 100 percent. Never mind the occasional guillotine poster, this week’s rioting in Oakland, or the sometime enthusiasm for mass-murdering Bolsheviks. OWS demands more government redistribution of wealth—a process entirely dependent on the use of force. (Just ask actor Wesley Snipes, currently doing a three-year stretch in the federal pen for tax evasion.)
Then there is the hatred of capitalism (“DEATH TO CAPITALISM”; “CAPITALISM DOESN’T WORK”; etc.). The alternative to a free market is, of course, an unfree one, requiring that somebody make sure people do not go around exchanging goods and services through mutual consent. How do you stop consensual activity? Take a wild guess.
All of this makes it abundantly clear that OWS prefers forced equality over liberty. Many people do. But the OWS protesters seem singularly obtuse about what this entails. As J.R. Lucas observed some years ago, equality has more than one dimension, and efforts to tame economic inequalities can produce bureaucratic empires that crystallize “an inequality of power … more dangerous than the inequality of wealth to which objection was originally made.”
Granted, political inequality may not greatly disturb the consciences of OWS protesters, who in some locations have adopted a “revolutionary progressive stack,” which “encourages women and traditionally marginalized groups [to] speak before men, especially white men.” Lining up speakers by race and gender might not seem fair on an individual level. But for much of the radical left, individuals are irrelevant: The class struggle is all that matters, and the only way to end domination by one class is, apparently, to impose domination by a different one. Vladimir I. Somebody-or-other called that the dictatorship of the proletariat, if memory serves.
But then, serious thought about fairness is meager among OWS protesters—whose top concern, based on a textual analysis of the 99 Percent blog, is student debt. Repaying loans can be hard, and this evidently makes the obligation unfair in the eyes of many demonstrators. But loans are made because borrowers promise to pay the money back. If borrowers break their promises, the loans will dry up, which would not be fair to future would-be borrowers. The keeping of promises is a basic moral duty—and a self-imposed one to boot. But it can seem unfair, if you have the moral philosophy of a 4-year-old.
The OWS focus on money and economics only exposes the poverty of its quasi-Marxist critique. Equality has more than one dimension. William Niskanen, who died last week, once invited us to consider two young men: “One … is healthy and handsome, spends his days on the beach, has his pick of young women companions, and makes $10,000 a year. Another … is confined to a wheelchair, has congenital body odor, has never had an intimate relationship, and, with no other life, makes $100,000 a year as an expert computer programmer. In this case, who is worse off? Who should redistribute what to whom and how?”
The OWS “progressive stack,” redistributing the right to speak, already has provided a partial answer. For a fuller one, look up Kurt Vonnegut’s short story “Harrison Bergeron.” It is supposed to be satire. Turns out it was prophecy.
Even with the media attention given to Occupy Wall Street, it doesn’t seem like their message is gaining traction, merely bringing those that already had that point of view to the fold. As Jim Pethokoukis notes, a recent survey from The Hill shows that a majority of voters blame the federal government for the financial crisis, though a third fault Wall Street.
And it’s hard to sympathize with a “movement” that resorts to violence as part of its message, and that’s what Occupy Wall Street is doing in various places around the country. We’re aso seeing, as Tabitha Hale points out, a nasty anti-semitic side to some of the protesters:
Show that on the nightly news (though they never will) and you’ll see public opinion drop faster than it already is.