Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Occupy Wall Street, Boundaries, and Gratuitous Promotion of Family Members

My sister has a piece up at the Huffington Post discussing exactly how Occupy Wall Street lost her sympathy. She correctly points out actual problems with the Wall Street protesters, but I don't agree with what to her was the final point. She objects to the protesters deciding to protest the homes of the major executives, saying that they have a right to keep their private and public lives separate. I find this argument to be deeply unconvincing. When you are a major enough individual to be running a major corporation you have less of a right to privacy than a random individual. There might be an argument if these protests were directed at the homes of mid-level or upper level management. That argument doesn't apply to the CEOs of billion dollar corporations.

This is not a defense of the Occupy protesters in general. They aren't very coherent and those who have tried to state specific goals have given goals include goals that are unconsitutional, the immoral, the unethical, hopelessly naive, or just bad ideas. In that regard, they are essentially the left-wing equivalent of the Tea Party. It is possible that they will turn into something which does deal with the serious problems this country has, especially in regard to the massive income inequality which has become worse in the last few years but right now I'm not optimistic. The main thing that I would think needs to be done right now is getting the generic lower-middle class voter to understand that people like Herman Cain really have conflicting economic interests. There seems to be a certain class of economically badly off voters who somehow identify with the economic interests of people with incomes that are often an order of magnitude or more higher than their own.

As long as I'm pontificating about Occupy Wall Street, there are a few other things to note. First, whether or not one agrees with the protesters, the treatment of the protests by the police in some examples has been unacceptable. The mass arrest of protesters in Boston is a good example of this. Moreover, mistreating protesters is an easy way for people to build sympathy with a movement and come to agree with it whether or not the movement has any coherence or validity to their points. Second, using protesters behavior as evidence about economic policies is bad epistemology. This has lead to inane pieces like this one where various economic policies (some good, some bad) are justified simply by the existence of protesters. Protesters in this context are evidence of people unhappy with their current economic situation. Assuming that these people have any idea what to do about economic policy or that their existence can be easily traced to specific policies is unjustified.

In any event, my sister's piece is worth reading. She's not in the one percent, but she's not in the low percentages either. If OWS is going to succeed at anything they are going to need the people with average or moderately high incomes like my sister. Right now, they aren't doing that.

5 comments:

MKR said...

The link in your first sentence is wrong. (Feel free to delete this comment when you've corrected it.)

Joshua said...

Fixed. Thanks.

Jack said...

I think everyone, no matter how much they earn, has a right to feel safe in their own home. Picketing someone's home is an extremely frightening activity, the threat of violence is implicit.

Also, didn't you mean 2 orders of magnitude?

Joshua said...

Jack,

I don't think there's necessarily more of a threat of violence outside of a home then there is outside an office. And in some cases there clearly isn't. For example, consider protesters outside the White House (both a home and an office) or outside a governor's mansion.

In both those circumstances, one can make a distinction because those homes are in some sense less private when they are paid for by the taxpayer but the point about violence should be the same.

As to the orders of magnitude, I was thinking of an income of around 35,000 to one of around 350,000. But your point is well taken. The people who really benefit are the people with much higher incomes. So yes, two orders of magnitude is probably more accurate.

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