Thursday, September 29, 2011

Don't Occupy Wall Street, Please

There has been a small, extended protest called "Occupy Wall Street" where protesters go to Wall Street, hold signs, shout messages without the use of megaphones in unison, obstruct workers and such. They seem to be upset at the greed of Wall Street, imagining that that is the source of the country's financial troubles, especially the woes of the poor.

The whole thing seems fairly absurd to me. The message of the group of protesters is broad and nebulous, but generally seems to be grounded in leftist, soak-the-rich, populist sentiment. But Wall Street didn't create the conditions that led to it making lots of money; Wall Street didn't hold the government hostage and demand bailouts at gun point, the government gave it up without being threatened; Wall Street didn't create or sanction growing "income inequality"; contrary to pop-wisdom, making lots of money doesn't have to come at the expense of someone else; the vast majority of Wall Streets profits have been made legally with no shady dealings. The types of things that Wall Street typically gets blamed for, such as the insanity of derivatives and the mortgage crisis, were legal and were invested in by people off Wall Street with no complaints while they were profiting. Not to mention being supported and incentivized by the government. For these and many other reasons, making Wall Street a scapegoat is pernicious nonsense. If you want to occupy anything, occupy Pennsylvania Avenue. The President and Congress literally gave away your money to banks and financial tycoons without your consent (whereas Wall Street invested your money with your consent, for the most part, and it just didn't work out).

I recently confronted a rapper that I'm a fan of -- MURS -- who was tweeting in support of the movement. It was a brief exchange, as Twitter exchanges must be, but since it ended up being productive in ways that conversations like this typically aren't, I thought that I would re-produce it for posterity:

  • MURS: #occupywallstreet is still happening pls check and see what action is being taken for the 99% aka us.
  • Nathan Duffy: The 1% are not "us"? Who are they? If you won the lottery tomorrow would you still be part of "us"?
  • MURS: yes. Why do you feel I wouldn't?
  • Nathan Duffy: What separates [theoretical] you from the other 1%? Somewhere in the world there's someone who just won the lottery, yet you lump THEM in w/ everyone else in the top, so why can't I lump YOU who just won the lottery in with THEM?
  • MURS: I don't believe the 1% is about your income. I believe it is those driven by greed.
  • Nathan Duffy: If that's true then the % is much larger than 1% of the population.. it's more like 90% of it.
  • MURS: those with the income that are still driven by greed= the 1% but you right about the 90% that is the bigger problem!
  • Nathan Duffy: Fair enough.. Greed seems to be a human universal, I see no reason to single out Wall Street. Have an 'end greed' rally and I'm there!
  • MURS: true. I plan to visit and speak to them about exactly that. Still I support them taking action and making something happen, otherwise we would've never had a chat & that's what I believe will make change is when we all start 2 speak & find common ground.
  • MURS: thank u for engaging me sir.
  • MURS: a stand against greed. Is what #occupywallstreet represents to me. Shout-out @theillegit [ed: me] for helping me clarify that

For Murs the issue is simply greed, and Wall Street just happens to be a group of people who are good at being 'greedy'. I'm not a fan of greed, of course, but I would still disagree with the notion that people on Wall Street are especially or uniquely greedy. What if a trader on Wall Street donated 50% of his income to charity? Would you even know that he did? No, so greed is a matter that is largely inscrutable except within the complete contexts of individual's lives and actions, which only God has full access to. And is someone who is intensely greedy, but just happens to be poor, any better or worse than someone on Wall Street who is greedy? The poor may tend to have other vices than greed, but I would contend greed is just as prevalent throughout the classes, it just manifests itself in different ways. So if your problem is greed, why single out Wall Street? Take humanity at large to task.

Not that there isn't a substantial amount of greed on Wall Street. I'm sure that there is. My problem is A) the assertion that greed is unique to Wall Street and B) the notion Wall Street is primarily, or even largely, responsible for other people's economic misfortune.


  1. oh and BTW; this is not a small protest. It is the start of a large global revolution.

  2. Getting corporate money out of politics is an unworthy goal with perhaps even less merit than vaguely being against 'greed'. Corporations are collections of people with interests. They should be free to support who they want and use money to do it.

  3. And thank God the Supreme Court got that one right. We have enough tyrannical usurpation of liberty as it is.

  4. I do not agree. NO ONE!!! should be allowed to pay someone in the government to make a law they want. That is not how a democracy works.

  5. Direct pay-offs to make specific laws, or vote certain ways on bills, are already illegal, though. Citizens United only made campaign support and contributions by corporations unlimited, as they should be. How is this in any way contrary to the principles of democracy? Which principle?

    If people (or groups of people) want to direct their resources to achieve certain legislative goals, and elect certain people.. so? They can't force people to vote for candidates they like, only strongly suggest to.