Monday, October 10, 2011

Occupy Wall Street

Most of what I've read about the movement has tried to pin down exactly what the movement is about, what the message is, and who are the people that occupy it. It doesn't seem as coherent as the tea party was. I think that is because while the tea party was similar in its anger at the economic situation, its anger was directed narrowly on Obama and Democrats. And that's because the tea party was just the Republican base dressed up in a new name. So OWS seems to have a different makeup.

Just looking at its name, OWS is obviously focused on the financial institutions and their role in our current economic situation. And since this situation is crappy for a lot of people, it hasn't become very partisan, at least on the surface. So for that reason I have slowly become endeared with what they are doing. But like some in the media, I wanted to know more about what the movement wanted. So went to the Occupy Memphis site to see what they were up to.

What I found was two groups that I like to talk about a lot, liberals and libertarians. On the Occupy Memphis forum the most discussed topic is the Fed. A lot of the discussion is aimed at trying to focus the discussion elsewhere because the Fed is just one part of the problem. And that is something I agreed with, even though we should be pushing for the Fed to do more. But much of it is about the desire to end the Fed completely. While I'm sure some liberals want to do that, I think most of that sentiment is coming from libertarians. And this is where we get to that question of whether or not liberals and libertarians can find enough common ground to form a big enough group to get things done.


While this movement seems to suggest the answer to that question is more likely than it has been in a while, I'm still very skeptical. The one big plus this movement has is that it is specifically focused on the economy. Because of that we don't really have to get into social issues and more touchy subjects like federalism. But even though both sides see financial institutions as a problem, libertarians fall back on blaming the gov't while liberals fall back on blaming the private corporations. That makes it more difficult to find common solutions and thus form a coherent message. I think this is why the message started as the 'We are the 99%' thing and continues to be a bit vague.

I got into the discussions on the Occupy Memphis forum and basically said that while the Fed should do more and should probably be held more accountable than it is, I'm not sure ending it completely is the right message or the right policy. Even though the Fed is important, the movement could do a lot of good without addressing it at all. And as is typical of message boards, a libertarian jumped in with an extremely long post about the merits of ending the Fed and getting off fiat money. Long story short, there is no way a person like that (even though he didn't come across as too much like a Ron Paul-ite) will be able to stand with liberals who want the gov't to do a better job of regulating the financial industry. Those types of libertarians want to change the entire structure of the economy and go back to some sort of fairy tale land that apparently existed before the Fed was created.

There seemed to be a lot of push back against the ending the Fed meme. So maybe the Occupy Memphis group will be able to steer their message away from the more radical policy proposals. I hope it and the larger OWS movement can do that. But then you have to worry about keeping the more libertarian or conservative inclined motivated. And even if they succeed in doing that, there is still the question of whether or not they can have any influence. Republicans are already criticizing it. And while some Democrats have warmed up to it, I don't expect them to embrace it like the Republicans did with the tea party. As I said, the tea party were already Republicans. So it was easy for Republican politicians to embrace them. OWS doesn't seem to be the liberal equivalent. So Democrats probably don't have the same incentive that Republicans had. And like Republicans, many Democrats, including the ones in the White House, are too deferential to Wall Street to really embrace big change. Having said all of that, I wish the people of OSW and OM luck.

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