With news of the “Occupy” movements bubbling up everywhere, from Occupy Wall Street to Occupy Houston, I decided to take a trip through cyberspace to see what it was all about. I initially had hopes that the protests would call to specific attention the dangerous and corrupt symbiosis between the Federal Reserve and the banking industry and maybe even to the destructive fusing of political objectives like “affordable housing” with complex financial engineering. But what I found was, well, disappointing.
The most striking aspect of the movement’s call to action is its extreme vagueness. The word most commonly used is “solidarity,” so one would think that if the movement was about unity of purpose one could figure out what the purpose is. The best they could come up with is a lofty goal to “end corporate corruption of democracy.”
This sounds good, but it hardly means anything. It certainly isn’t a firm principle on which people can come together and agree on a solution.
The first official press release from Occupy Wall Street repeatedly amalgamates “corporations” into a fictitious and homogeneous group that “extracts wealth from the people and the Earth.” But these sorts of blanket statements are patently outrageous.
For example, Corporations like Apple did not extract wealth from people. It created wealth by taking inputs worth a given amount and producing an output that was worth far more. In their pursuit of profit, Apple revolutionized the computer and telephone industry and even made it possible for many of the Occupy protesters to organize and send and receive information in millionths of a second. Although the profits made by many large banks and military-industrial providers are a different matter altogether, the Occupy movement doesn’t seem to get the difference. If they do, they aren’t ones for clarity.
The movement seems to mimic the long-held mantra of the typical Ralph Nader crowd who, for all their good intentions, can’t seem to understand that big government and big corporations are inevitably linked. For all their activism for a stronger government that “protects” its citizens, they have been rewarded with an apparatus more capable and conducive to corruption and swindle than before.
What these utopian dreamers repeatedly fail to understand is that it is not corporations that are the problem; it is the leviathan that enforces its demands upon the people. Government has long been the tool of choice for scrupulous business owners to gain an unfair advantage over competition and to fleece its customers. This is all the more reason to limit the size and scope of government. Unfortunately, the protestors continue to ignore the venerable canon that a government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take everything you have.
The collectivists and progressives who have sought to empower the state through “democracy” in order to protect people from business interests have simply made it easier for business to promote its interests through force, while simultaneously disguising it as being in the public interest. Along the way they have created such an absurd maze of rules, regulations, and complex, unaccountable institutions that small potential competitors and citizens are essentially hamstrung by their inability to do business economically without having a huge capital base.
It is extremely disheartening to see a movement that could have drawn serious attention to the rotten synergy between the governmental monetary power and the banking industry instead descend into a Portland-esque indiscriminate attack on profit and wealth creation.
The Occupy movement has, thus far, proven itself to come from a place of ignorance, not of understanding. Hopefully it can wise up, shed the Marxists from its midst, and realize that smaller government and truly free markets and free enterprise are the solution, not the enemy.
Steven Christopher is an economics alumnus and graduate finance student in the C.T. Bauer College of Business and may be reached at email@example.com.