Posts tagged ‘Occupy Wall Street’

April 17, 2012

Former Soviet Citizen Confronts Occupy Wall Street Protesters

by Eric T. Phillips

This series of videos was posted last year, but after watching them, I think they’re well worth re-posting. In the first part here, the arguments start at 2:15 with a lady who insists that North Korean workers are well-paid:

January 29, 2012

Police and Occupy Protesters Clash in Oakland

by Eric T. Phillips

Yesterday Occupy protesters broke into Oakland City Hall and, while ransacking the place, burned an American flag. Meanwhile in the streets nearby, police, who accuse the protestors of throwing rocks and bottles at them, responded with flashbang grenades, tear gas, and beanbag projectiles. Here’s one video compilation of the events:

The protesters were clearly looking for a fight.

In NYC, occupiers ransacked an unoccupied apartment building with 10 units for sale for up to $625,000. NYPO reports, “The hipsters left empty cans of Schlitz beer behind and spray-painted graffiti, such as ‘Be the Crisis,’ on the walls.”

To those who chided me for not getting more excited about the libertarian potential of the Occupy protests–I’m guessing there weren’t dog-eared copies of Economics in One Lesson next to beer cans and spray paint.

 

 

December 12, 2011

Occupy Protesters Disrupt Operations at West Coast Ports

by Eric T. Phillips

Occupy protesters blocked the gates at several of the West Coast’s busiest ports today in an attempt to punish Goldman Sachs, which owns a stake in the largest cargo-terminal operator. Terminals in Oakland, Portland, and Longview were partially shut down.

Several hundred of longshoremen were sent home with little or no pay, and truck drivers, who typically get paid per mile driven, were stuck in lines for hours. Apparently, the protesters didn’t realize that hurting a corporation entails hurting the people who work for corporations.

That the Occupiers are targeting the ports as “economic engines for the elite” is just more confirmation of their profound economic ignorance. Ports are economic engines for the world economy because they sustain the international division of labor, without which, billions of people would be impoverished.

Goldman Sachs’ stake in the ports does not justify the protestors’ actions. It is true, the company has tremendous political influence and it has behaved unethically. But that does not mean that all companies, contractors, and employees who associate with it have abrogated their right to engage in the type of voluntary exchange that takes place at ports.

The only good news is that, by hurting some of the very people they’re claiming to represent and “protect,” the protesters have laid bare the destructive nature of their unthinking “action.”

 

December 8, 2011

Damn Kids

by Eric T. Phillips

D. Herbert Lipson’s recent article in Philadelphia Magazine is representative of an increasingly common response to the Occupy protests. The current generation of twenty-somethings has been coddled; we didn’t prepare them for the rigors of the real world; they’re spoiled and entitled, and as a result America is screwed. In other words, people who were 18-20 when the financial system imploded in 2008 are somehow to blame for the country’s decline–a convenient narrative for the people who presided over the construction of the whole rotten system for decades.

Lipson’s description of the Occupy Philadelphia crowd is accurate enough:

I walked to City Hall to see what sort of people would camp out there, and to hear what they had to say. I have to admit, I was not impressed—it was a ragtag bunch, a tent city of the terminally unemployed, more like the crowd you’d see on South Street.

But without justification, Lipson decides that the few hundred socialists camping out are representative of the entire generation of young adults coming to age this decade.

I believe there has been a fundamental decline in our competitive spirit. Barack Obama was right when he accused us of going soft—we have gone soft. And what disturbs me more than anything is how we’ve raised our current generation of young adults. There are very few 22-year-olds—excuse me, make that 25-year-olds, because most kids don’t graduate from college in four years—who impress me as going anywhere. They seem poorly educated and unmotivated. They strike me as lazy and immature. I’m generalizing, of course; there are exceptions. But by and large, the generation now coming of age is not ready for prime time.

Most college students don’t graduate in four years, but that’s not because the young generation is any lazier than previous ones. It’s because people who would have gone to technical school or have gotten a job straight out of high school in an earlier time are now going to “4-year” colleges. These unenthusiastic students populate schools like Heritage University in Washington state, which boasts a graduation rate of 17%. Harvard, on the other hand, has a four year graduation rate of 97%.

If Lipson was referring to the practice of pushing all students regardless of ability to attend college, then he would be right when he worries about “how we’ve raised our children.” But he seems to think we need more kids to attend college, seeing as how “the U.S. has fallen to ninth in percentage of citizens who are college graduates.”  But why would we want more college graduates when 44% of them are working in jobs that don’t require degrees?

Also, how exactly would we pay to send more people to college? Tuition continues to rise and the federal government is running a $1.5 trillion deficit. And that brings us to the real problem with America today. The economy is in shambles thanks to the inflationary policies of the Federal Reserve, which have enabled a reckless government to promise every American a house, a college education, and abundant health care, among myriads of other things.

If we’re going to blame whole generations for our country’s problems, how about the “greatest generation” and the baby boomer generation for saddling us with the New Deal, the Great Society, and the modern military industrial complex? These programs and institutions form the basis of the welfare-warfare state which has ruined any part of society it has touched. Health care, education, transportation, banking–these are the most heavily regulated and controlled segments of America today, and it’s no coincidence that this is where we are facing the most inefficiency and corruption.  And in exchange we get heavy taxation, debt, inflation, and the boom-bust cycle.

People are starting to realize that these policies are no longer sustainable, and that as a result, America is in decline. Many don’t yet realize how fundamental the problems with the whole welfare-warfare state are, but they are at least able to recognize, if only in an inchoate sense, that long-term and endemic greed, corruption, and profligacy among America’s ruling class is part of the problem. And then there are those like Lipson, who are blaming people who were 5 when Bush I sent 500,000 troops to the Arabian Peninsula to fight a country that the Reagan Administration allied with before they were born, who were 13 when Greenspan began inflating the housing bubble that would collapse in 2008, and who were 15 when Bush II used the blowback from his father’s war as a pretext to launch an endless Global War on Terrorism and to expand the police state to unprecedented levels. Damn kids.

December 2, 2011

Adam Carolla Blasts Occupy Wall Street and the ‘Participation Trophy’ Generation

by Eric T. Phillips

This following video of comedian Adam Carolla attacking the envy and sense of entitlement behind the Occupy Wall Street movement has gone viral. [NSFW]

I have mixed feelings about this rant. In general terms, Carolla is correct. Envy is a bad thing, and there is undoubtedly a strong undercurrent of envy driving the Occupy movement.

But I think his contention that envy didn’t use to exist in America is off base. The Socialist Party of America, for example, garnered 900,000 votes back in 1912–6% of the vote. That’s proportionally many more votes than an outright socialist would get today; Ralph Nader, at his best, attracted only 3%. The rest of the population wasn’t too much opposed to the redistribution of wealth either. At least not enough to prevent the top marginal income tax rate from rising to 73% in 1920.

And while I do think that the whole participation trophy phenomenon is ridiculous, I doubt that that has had much of an effect on people. I remember way back when I used to play tee-ball, the there was a rule that prohibited keeping the score, which a couple of do-gooderish parents tried to enforce. But the vast majority of parents didn’t care, and there was always someone who kept score and we’d all run up to him or her at the end and eagerly ask who won. And we did all get trophies at the end, even though no one officially won anything. Needless to say, I’m not camped out at one of those dingy Occupy camps right now.

What’s really at the root of the Occupy movement is the combination of a bad economy and a bloated system of higher education. Throughout the country there are thousands of over-educated, under-employed leftists. The sense of entitlement these people have comes from their very, very expensive degrees, not from their 15 year old tee-ball trophies. And they’re protesting because those degrees did not help them get the jobs they thought they would.

November 22, 2011

Creepy Chanting Occupy Protesters Interrupt Ron Paul

by Eric T. Phillips

On Monday, a group of Occupy Wall Street Protesters interrupted a question and answer session at a Ron Paul town hall gathering in New Hampshire. “Mic check!” their leader yelled, before he rattled off a speech about how the “99%” will be heard. The other Occupy people in the audience collectively re-chanted each line.

After their little spiel was over, Paul asked, “Do you feel better?”  This apparently upset a corpulent man with a pony tail, who jumped out of his seat yelling and gesturing in response. He was drowned out though, and Paul assured the demonstrators that he had opposed the Wall Street bailouts and was a supporter of the 99%.

Here’s the video:

I don’t understand how any independent thinker could participate in these creepy “one voice” human microphone chants. It’s supposedly just a  “non-tech means of public address,” as one commenter who doesn’t like me put it. But it’s much more than that. Any one of those Occupy people at the event could have asked the congressman an intelligent question, just like anyone else in the audience. But instead they chose to be disruptive and chant like zombies.

The Occupy Wall Street movement is by and large based on emotion, and the chanting is an effective means of collectively voicing anger. It’s completely anathema, however, to reasoned discourse. But, as I have explained, that doesn’t matter to radical leftists. Logic is irrelevant to them. As Mises explained, to defend their irrational theories they “attack logic and reason and substitute mystical intuition for ratiocination.” And the chanting is a great way to do that.

November 20, 2011

Taking the Occupiers at their Word

by Eric T. Phillips

Thanks to The International Libertarian for the following series of interviews with Occupy Philadelphia protesters.

The three stars of the clip–a member of the Philadelphia Socialists, a unionist nurse, and a Karl Marx impersonator–are representative of the nature of the Occupy movement. As William Jasper explains,

The leading activists openly display their Communist, Marxist, Socialist, Anarchist affiliations and orientations. One would have to be willfully blind and totally dishonest not to notice this. In this writer’s visits to Zuccotti Park, it was impossible to take more than a few steps without seeing publications of the Communist Party, Revolutionary Communist Party, Communist Workers Party, Socialist Party, Socialist Workers Party, Working Families Party, etc., as well as prominent posters with the communist hammer and sickle or the communist clenched fist symbol. In fact, the “official” OccupyWallSt.org website has adopted the communist clenched fist as the symbol for its homepage — as have many of the derivative websites.

Unfortunately, there are many across the political spectrum who are willfully blind towards the Occupy crowd. Such a situation is at least understandable, because for the numerous Americans who are upset with the country’s political and economic ruling class there’s a tendency to identify with anyone who’s protesting the status quo. The Occupy movement has played into this tendency by claiming to represent the “99%” and through some effective propaganda efforts (such as those pictures of people holding up letters detailing their economic plight).

In the end, however, you have to take the protesters at their word. They’re socialists, communists, anarchists, and radical progressives, and they’ll tell you that if you listen.

Some, though, are unwilling to listen. The first commenter on Jasper’s piece (quoted above) angrily dismissed the writer’s observations, ranting, “You can slander this as a ‘communism’ front all you want…”

Slander? Ask the member of the Philadelphia Socialists who the International Libertarian interviewed if he thinks that pointing out the salient communist influences on the OWS movement is slander.

Ask the Karl Marx impersonator too.

November 18, 2011

OWS is Not Interested in Free Market Economics

by Eric T. Phillips

One commenter on my recent article posted on Mises.org was very angry with me. He claimed that I was “perpetuating dichotomy,” and that by criticizing some spoiled Harvard kids who couldn’t even stand listening to one of the very few mildly non-leftists at their university, I was “nit-picking the opportunity of a lifetime.”

A second commenter agreed, and decided to start the re-education of Occupy Wall Street himself. He posted:

To any OWS supporter passing through this page: I will send you a free copy of Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson. Over 1m copies sold, only 200 pages long, best little book you’ll read this year.

I have 10 to give away. Just write to me at freehazlitt@hotmail.co.uk, specify whether you want a hard copy or a kindle version, and include a mailing address and I’ll send it to you from amazon.com.

He also posted the offer at occupywallst.org. Some time passed, and after several posters cheered him on and offered him extra books, he replied to one post:

unhappily, martin, I can’t even give them away. I still have 6 left, and even with the Bastiat bonus offered for the first delivery requested to NYC, I’ve had nothing. I even went on to the official occupywallst.org website and repeated the offer, and nothing.

It’s very depressing, and validates the lack of faith in OWS shown in the comments above. I really feel quite deflated.

Well, if any OWS supporter passes through this page, I assume the offer still stands.

But our commenter shouldn’t be so deflated. The vast majority of OWS people were leftists before the protests; they’ll be leftists during the protests, and they’ll still be leftists after the protests end. Their dingy little camps are not fertile recruitment grounds for libertarians, even though they’re mad at some of the same people we’re mad at. The enemy of my enemy is not always my friend.

Unnamed commenter: save those extra books you have, and keep an eye out for any friends or family members of yours that are interested in your ideas. Give them the copies. It might take a while to pass them all out, but be patient. In the meantime, your time will be much better spent supporting the Ron Paul campaign.

November 15, 2011

Libertarians and Occupy Wall Street

by Eric T. Phillips

Many libertarians hold out hope that the Occupy Wall Street people can be useful allies. The following venn diagram, for example, has been making its way around Facebook:

It’s true, the central position does represent a common position of libertarians and the Occupy crowd. And, if you’re a libertarian trying to convert one of your lefty friends, this is probably one of the best angles to start with. But once the conversation strays to taxation of the wealthy, universal health care, environmentalism, radical feminism, and whether the Civil Rights Act represents federal overreach, good luck. Seriously. Good luck. If you want to hand out free market leaflets and copies of Economics in One Lesson to the people in the Occupy camps, go for it. But why are we supposed to view these gatherings of leftists as some great opportunity? Yes, they’re angry, and they’re mad at the many of the same people we’re mad at. But libertarians are for something–namely, liberty and the free market. That’s why we oppose crony capitalism. The Occupy crowd, on the other hand, opposes crony capitalism because they’re opposed to capitalism. Period. Read their demands. Read their signs. Watch Peter Schiff interview some of them. They’re socialists.

Should we try to convince them that they’re wrong? Sure. There are former-leftist libertarians out there. But most of the Occupy people won’t be willing to listen to you. Those students who walked out of Greg Mankiw’s class didn’t walk out because they read Rothbard’s Man, Economy, and State and realized that Mankiw’s neoclassical models are based on a flawed positivist methodology. They walked out because he had the gaul to explain that the minimum wage causes unemployment. And they don’t want to hear that. They don’t want to think logically about it. That’s why they want to “start an all out meme war against our neoclassical profs and begin the task of ushering in a new bionomic, psychonomic, ecological economics paradigm.” Occupy Wall Street people are planning on running the last few relatively pro-market voices out of the universities, and all the while there are libertarians busy drawing venn diagrams showing how much we have in common with them. I’m imagining some credulous Russian libertarians in 1917 proclaiming: “Look at how angry those Bolsheviks are at the Tsar! This is such a great opportunity!”

Our time would be much better spent convincing the working population–which is a much, much larger group of people than the few thousand protesters camping out in New York and elsewhere–that they shouldn’t have to subsidize these kids’ gender studies degrees. And reminding them how evil the Soviet Union was. And approaching them from a hundred other angles. It’s true, this is not an easy route either. But after you’re done trying to convince that leftist protester that a billionaire should be allowed to keep all his money as long as he doesn’t accept favors from the government, give it some consideration.

November 4, 2011

Income Inequality and Federal Welfare

by Eric T. Phillips

The rise of the Occupy Wall Street movement has refocused the left’s attention on income inequality. It is immoral and antidemocratic, they allege, to allow the wealthiest 1% to earn so much while so many people are unemployed and indebted. But what is their solution? Ultimately, they agree on one central tenet: the government should take rich peoples’ money and give it to poor people.

Of course, the government is already doing this. The wealthiest 10% of households pay more than 70% of federal income taxes. A lot of this money does go to the military, but over the past half-century the federal government has progressively spent a larger proportion of its budget on welfare measures. As illustrated in the graph below, Social Security and other assorted federal welfare programs now comprise 60% of the budget, up from just 22% in 1956.

 

The turning point in the federal government’s spending priorities came in the 1960’s,when Lyndon Johnson launched a “war on poverty” meant to alleviate the sufferings of the poor. His so-called “Great Society” programs–Medicare, Medicaid, and dozens of other federal welfare programs–drastically increased the size and scope of the federal welfare state. Johnson boldly declared that, with the creation of these programs, it would be possible “to conquer poverty.”

But 56 years later, the war is a stalemate. Before Johnson’s administration, poverty was declining at the rate of about 1% per year. Afterwards, the poverty rate stagnated. The following graph shows the trend.

Instead of abolishing poverty, Johnson institutionalized it. Instead of giving individuals new opportunities, he fostered their dependence on the state.

Drastically raising taxes on the rich, nationalizing health care, bailing out indebted students and homeowners, and pouring money into “green” technology –as the left wants to do–will likewise not, in the long run, improve the lot of the 99%. On the contrary, such programs would stifle innovation and promote inefficiency. And a falling tide lowers all ships.

 

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