On Monday, the Occupy Wallstreet Movement will celebrate its one year anniversary with death, destruction, and mayhem in the streets. Streets will flow from the blood of the 1% as they are sacrificed to the gods of poverty and violence for which OWS derives its ethical and moral standards. The world will see on this first anniversary that it is forever changed for the better as all people are the same in their poverty, sacrifice, and humanity….
…Then, the protesters will awake from their slumber and realize their year of occupying and moving hasn’t actually produced anything worthwhile. Most will continue to blame the 1% and their grip on the power and money of this country. Few will actually come to grips with the public policy implications of what they ask for. Even fewer will actually question the philosophical foundations of their movement. As a result, OWM will continue to produce nothing of value.
Their OWS movement did nothing positive from the outset. Sure, we saw thousands of people come together under the moniker of the 99%, a seemingly easy way to demonstrate that few Americans own a large share of the wealth in this country. However, OWS built on their forbearers’ past by causing a ridiculous amount of destruction and being outright inappropriate to private business owners. While we all want to feel some level of hope that people find solutions to their economic problems, it’s hard to associate that hope with wanton destruction of private property. More importantly, little to no substantive policy developments can ever occur in a movement that finds more value in destroying property than building it.
The philosophy of OWS is the reason why it cannot accomplish anything substantive. The philosophy of OWS is a mix of youthful exuberance and socialist doctrine. The central tenet of OWS is that the government, as a representative of society at large, is obligated to redistribute wealth from one class of people to another. Any action which enforces a strict code of equality between all members of society is morally justified. It is within this philosophy that OWS seeds its own destruction. A movement of people cannot hope in any way to redistribute wealth, and certainly cannot do so violently and destructively.
Most importantly, OWS ignores some key foundations of wealth building activities that are important to keep in mind. One, wealth is a reflection of value, which essentially means it is a reflection of utility among other individuals. For example, Apple is a wealthy corporate entity because their products are extremely useful to consumers, while Compaq computers no longer exist. Two, wealth is not a static measure and can be developed and created without necessarily drawing away resources from another party. This truth is self-evident in the way new industries spring up in market economies. Google’s rise to the top of the tech industry did not lead to the demise of General Motors. Three, and most importantly, free people will ultimately distribute resources to improve the lives of those they live and work with. Studies show that as a result of the industrial revolution, when the 1% was arguably more entrenched than they are now, real wages for blue-collar workers doubled in just 32 years.
OWS correctly identified many of the problems with government policy, particularly policymakers’ willingness to favor certain industries with taxpayer dollars. OWS has misplaced its ire, though, and OWS is doomed to fail in any endeavor because the movement’s central focus is destructive in nature. It seeks to destroy wealth in order to enforce equality. No policy agenda can improve that, and a change in philosophy is needed.
OWS needs to move away from demanding equality to demanding liberty. Inequality is an inevitability, but a better quality of life doesn’t require we all be equal in our resources. Improving our lives requires having the freedom to identify what we truly need and desire, and having the unfettered freedom to pursue those things peacefully and productively.