Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Occupy Wall Street Mob Is Not the 99%

By Tim Dunkin


                For the past several weeks, Americans have been treated to the spectacle of the "Occupy Wall Street" protests (though these have since spread to city centers in municipalities across the country), ostensibly a "grassroots, populist" revolt against the excesses of Wall Street speculators and billionaire bankers who manipulate the economy and influence government policy for their own benefits.  Initially, I have to admit, there was some room for sympathy with these concerns.  After all, misconduct and fraudulent behavior within large segments of our financial industry contributed tremendously to the creation and subsequent collapse of the housing bubble, the tanking of our economy, and the funneling of money via "bailouts" to top bankers and other corporatists intimately linked into the incestuous public-private relationship that we see between the upper levels of many industries and the government in America.  Yes, it is true that while middle America suffered higher unemployment, stagnating wages, reduced standards of living, and a more tenuous economic outlook, the government was shoveling billions of dollars into the pockets of many of the same people and institutions which caused the problems in the first place, and was diverting billions more to establish cozy "buyout" relationships with companies like GM. 


                However, the protests quickly devolved into a freak show of communists, anarchists, anti-capitalists, and others who hate our free-market system and our liberty in general. 


                Let's face it – anyone who actually thinks these protests are still just about bankers colluding with the government to enrich themselves is either purposefully ignorant or hopelessly naïve.  It's pretty clear from what the protesters themselves are saying that they despise capitalism, the free market, and meritocratic economic advancement in general.  In other words, they really are a "mob," devoted to radical socialistic intervention of the government to destroy the wealth and prosperity of people who have worked hard to get where they are in life.


                This is shown easily enough by noting the hatred which many of these protesters have for "the rich."  There are protesters who want to kill the rich, others who merely want to tax them of 90% of their wealth.  A few want to eat the rich, apparently.  Note here – these are directed towards "the rich," not towards "the bankers who ripped America off via the housing crisis and subsequent bailouts, and who continue to practice the same unethical foreclosure and paperwork practices that caused the problem in the first place."  After all, not every rich person is a banker.  In fact, most of them aren't.  In fact, most "rich" people are people who worked hard, got educations, and who started businesses and/or excelled in their chosen fields that have absolutely nothing to do with banking or finance.  THAT is who the Occupy Wall Street protestors hate.


                If the protesters were really serious about demonstrating against corporatist corruption in DC and the financial sector, they would be up in arms about the government-backed Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae which funneled millions in government-backed capital to various banker cronies of high government officials on both sides of the aisle.  They would be just as angry about the government and its interventions handing out billions of dollars to corporate crony friends of the administration (both Bush and Obama).  They would be livid about the Community Reinvestment Act which more or less set the stage for the housing crisis and economic collapse by forcing lenders to make high-risk loans to financially marginal people who were not likely to pay them back, thereby precipitating the crisis.  The protesters would be just as worked up about that as they are by the banker cronyism that took its opportunities afterward. 


                But they're not.  Instead, these protests are just an excuse for calling for more wealth redistribution, free health care, free housing, free everything else, for taking away the property and wealth of those who actually worked for it, and giving it to those who did not and will not.  In short, these protests are all about exonerating the government (or at least the government that leftists control) of any wrongdoing, and placing into its hands additional powers to "punish" those who have been economically successful in their lives.  In fact, we know that these protests are neither spontaneous nor grassroots.  They are owned lock, stock, and barrel by the Democrat Party and its constellation of leftist financiers.  Soros and the left-leaning public unions have as much to do with these protests as anyone else.  The organizers of the events have even actively advertised for protesters on Craigslist, offering then $350-650 a week to show up and chant.  One protestor in Chicago even mentions that he's being paid $22 an hour to protest – which is, perversely, more than is made by many of the people whose money he wants to expropriate for the government-provided goodies he's demanding.   That money has to come from somewhere, and I guarantee you that it's not from the pockets of people who prior to the protests were playing X-Box and smoking weed in their parents' basements.  It's astroturf, bought and paid for by an internationalist leftist cabal seeking to agitate against our free market economic system. 


                And when they say that they want to destroy capitalism, I tend to assume that this is what they really mean, rather than that just being a dog whistle for "corrupt bankers."  They want to destroy the economic system in toto, and replace it with something else. 


                Many of the protesters are there because they can't find jobs.  Yet, the protesters themselves, and millions of people like them, are the reason why they can't.  It's simple, really.  "The rich" are the people who engage in most of the job creation in this country.  When you make it more difficult for "the rich" to create jobs, then there are fewer jobs to go around.  When you steal trillions from the private sector and hand it out as welfare (of whatever sort) or waste it on bureaucrats, you have essentially sunk that money in a huge pit of job non-creation quicksand. 


                And if you pay attention to what they're saying, you see that "the rich" aren't the only people that the Occupy Wall Street hooligans want to pillage.  They would also like to rob the middle classes – that broad swath of American society that forms the backbone of the American economic system – of our wealth as well.  This is made obvious, for instance, by the OWS protesters in Los Angeles who recently called for the overthrow of the "bourgeoisie" via violent insurrection a la the French Revolution.  Now, who make up this class?  Just the rich?  Nope.  The middle classes fall squarely into this category, according to historical Marxist principles, since the middle classes constitute the shopkeepers, the professionals, the small business owners, and the like, and make up the single largest property owning class in the country.  So when these protestors talk so blithely about revolution and redistributing wealth, they most likely are including your wealth into their economic program as well, even though you may not be (and indeed probably are not) "rich" by more reasonable definitions of the term; you may not own a private jet, or own a huge McMansion on Long Island, or hold a position as the CEO of some hypersized financial or industrial organization.  It doesn't matter – you are a target as well.  These people, claiming to be "the 99%," are certainly keen on doing away with a goodly portion of the actual 99% in this country.


                And why is that?  It ultimately comes down to greed and laziness – which the protesting Left has in abundance.  They want your stuff because they think they should have it, instead of you.  They want you to pay for what they're not willing to work for themselves.  If only all of these protestors were as straightforward about this as this one young gentleman, who rather directly says that we should pay to put him through college…because he wants us to, and that's that.  A distinctly poor investment on our part, I would think. 


No, these protests are not about addressing corruption and government-financier collusion.  They are about stealing from the productive, and giving it to the unproductive.  Let's face it, the reason many people do not like capitalism is because it does not reward laziness.  Instead, it rewards hard work, effort, risk-taking, and ingenuity.  The lazy, the unwilling, the fearful will not be rewarded.  This is exemplified by several common sense proverbs in the Holy Bible,


"As the door turneth upon his hinges, so doth the slothful upon his bed." (Proverbs 26:14)


"Slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep; and an idle soul shall suffer hunger." (Proverbs 19:15)


"The desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labour." (Proverbs 21:25)


                In other words, to paraphrase the apostle, you have not because you work not.  Further, if you make poor life's decisions, you will find yourself distinctly unrewarded by a system that asks its participants to be responsible for themselves.  If you take drugs, or have kids out of wedlock and apart from the nuclear family system, or choose to waste your youth playing video games instead of getting an education, you can expect to have a rough go of it in life. 


                Yet, people don't want to have to be responsible for themselves, or to be asked to pay their own way and rise or fall on their own merits.  However, in a laissez faire system in which the government largely leaves the market and the individual alone, those who make good choices and work hard will rise, those who don't will fall behind. 


"The hand of the diligent shall bear rule: but the slothful shall be under tribute." (Proverbs 12:24)


                This is why capitalistic systems (existing to varying degrees) will inevitably develop inequalities in wealth, and is why some become rich and some stay poor.  It's not that "the rich" take away wealth from the poor, but rather that the rich produce wealth, while the poor do not.  Keep in mind – wealth is not a zero-sum game.  Wealth is created by applying labor, effort, and intellect to producing something that others will value – be it a manufactured good or a life-enhancing service.  When a company started by an entrepreneur takes steel, which was itself refined from iron ore and then alloyed by a company, and produced frames for automobiles, or I-beams, or fancy ball point pens, that company is creating wealth.  It is taking raw materials which were worthless on their own, and making something useful and valuable to other economic actors in the system.  When this takes place a billion times a day all across the country, this adds total aggregate value to the economy, allowing business owners to make profits, and allowing employees to keep their jobs and earn paychecks for their share of the effort put into creating the wealth. 


                People who can't be bothered to make the effort to take part in producing something other people want shouldn't be surprised when they fall behind.  It's not that "the rich" are holding back the poor, but that the poor who choose to stay poor are holding themselves back.  It's like a race – if one runner goes all out and the other decides to sit at the starting block and watch a TV show, the first runner will outpace the second and win. 


                Unfortunately, there are way too many people in our country, as there have been throughout the history of mankind, who choose to hate and envy those who earn wealth, instead of trying to earn some for themselves.  Instead of working, they want to destroy and take, temporarily benefiting themselves until they squander what they took, and are right back in the pits once again.  It seems that one of mankind's most basic, and basest, impulses is to envy and tear down those who have more than we do, instead of trying to pull ourselves up – and this has formed a political and social program that recurs across the millennia.


This is a program that history repeatedly tells us is terrible for maintaining prosperity and a high standard of living for all, but is great for enhancing and spreading human misery.  Take, for example, the plight of the various "middleman minorities" throughout history.  These are groups who form small minorities in the countries in which they reside, yet who somehow manage to rise to the top in wealth and social beneficence because of their roles as merchants (hence the "middleman" terminology), legal or medical professionals, and the like.  Examples would include the Chinese in many Southeast Asian countries, the Armenians in Turkey, Christians in the Islamic Middle East, and the Jews pretty much everywhere they've gone.  Inevitably, these groups – who wield greatly disproportionate wealth and influence – end up being exiled, expropriated of their wealth, or worse, because of the bad feelings against them among their neighbors.  Whenever this has happened, the persecuting society has been the worse for it, has suffered economic decline.  And of course, the effect this has on the middleman minorities is none too beneficial, either.


The Soviets created a system that made everybody equally poor and miserable – except for the small oligarchy of inner Party members who rode the Russian Revolution to victory and a life of ease.   They did this, in large part, by demonizing the "kulaks" in Tsarist society – the growing body of the middle class who were turning into a mass of small but independent farmers and shopkeepers in Russia and who were contributing to the growing industrialization and wealth of Russia before the Revolution.  These kulaks were "class enemies," people against whom the peasants and urban poor could be used to overwhelm them, kill them, and take their property and wealth.  This ultimately ended up making post-Revolution Russia worse off than before, to the point that Lenin was forced to re-introduce private landholding to encourage agricultural production to stave off famine in the 1920s. 


Chinese history also provides us with some pertinent examples.  With the establishment of both the Han (202 BC – 220 AD) and T'ang dynasties (618-907 AD), the founding emperors generally pursued a more or less "hands off" policy with regard to land ownership, commerce, and entrepreneurship.  As such, at the start of both these dynasties, despite the theoretically autocratic nature of the governing system, the practical laissez faire approach led to great prosperity, agricultural production, cultural enrichment, and population growth which have contributed to these two dynasties being considered to this day as two of the greatest golden ages China ever had.


 Notably, both of these dynasties began to decline and fall about the same time that, responding to populist agitation against great landowners and the wealthy, the rulers greatly increased their interference in the economy, redistributing land and putting other sanctions and hindrances on the ability of enterprising individuals to see the benefits of their hard work.  In fact, one later Han emperor, Wang Mang (r. 9-23 AD), described by some sources as "an idealist," put into effect a series of devastating "reforms."  These included policies purposefully intended to discriminate against merchants and their ability to conduct their business, the development of a doctrine that says that all land belonged to the state, so that land could be (and was) taken from large landowners and redistributed to those who had none, established state monopolies over a large number of industries, and reinstituted requirements for rich agriculturalists to "volunteer" produce to state-run granaries that were accessible to all at under-market value prices.  Wang's "reforms" failed spectacularly, and were soon rescinded due to their abject failure.  His reign was a disaster of epic proportions for Han China.


Further, another well-known dynasty in Chinese history, the Ming (1368-1644 AD) was founded by an emperor who was consciously populist, anti-intellectual, and anti-entrepreneurial.  After freeing China from Mongol domination, the Ming retained a highly centralized and highly intrusive governing system in which the government, from the start, actively engaged in "economic leveling" via the confiscation of large properties which were given to the landless, punitively high taxes levied upon the rich, and the physical and geographic domination of China's wealthy families by the government.  This "dramatic social leveling" was responsible for what one student of Chinese history calls the "somewhat lackluster character of Ming China"[1] – a dynasty which, while sometimes militaristic, sometimes xenophobic, sometimes intellectually active, and sometimes introspective, was never really known for its economic dynamism or outstanding prosperity.


So it goes now.  The crowd we see infesting Zucotti Park, and other parks across the country, are not populist heroes trying to defend us from banker-government collusion and greed.  They are greedy leeches who want to drain the lifeblood from the productive classes of America.  If we were, by some tremendous misfortune relating to extremely poor public policy making, to allow these people to make any headway in affecting the tenor and direction of debate in this country, America will be the worse for it.  It's time for lovers of liberty to stand up against the mob, and show them who the real 99% are. 

[1] C.O. Hucker, China's Imperial Past, p. 288