Sunday, October 9, 2011

"Occupy Wall Street" a genuine movement of the people

Criticism of protests by right unwarranted, based out of misunderstanding of movement's aims

The protests on Wall Street and elsewhere across the country (including Madison) are symbolic of a people frustrated with corporate influence in our society.

Occupy Wall Street seeks to address these grievances, to set forward a push to limit this influence in a way that allows "We the People" to have a voice in our government once more. Corporations aren't inherently "evil" -- indeed, many have done a lot of good for our country, have provided countless services to consumers in a decent way.

But these protests aren't about those corporations. Rather, they're about the corporations that swindle the common person in favor of corporate profit; that provide minimal services, or none at all, while charging a large fee for that "service"; and that try to interject themselves into the national political conversation by spending millions of campaign dollars in our elections.

It isn't wrong to seek profit, to want a better outcome for the company you set up or are a part of. Such competitive spirit betters our society, creates a system wherein the consumer benefits, for the most part (when it's done right). But when the goals of corporations trample upon the livelihood of individuals, it's clear that things need to change.

A little bit of government regulation, done in a way that protects the consumer while doing no irreparable harm to the corporations in question, is completely justifiable. The father of capitalism himself, Adam Smith, wrote in "The Wealth of Nations" that, "When the regulation is in support of the workman, it is always just and equitable; but it is sometimes otherwise when in favour of the masters." (Smith also believed in proportional taxation, saying, "It is not very unreasonable that the rich should contribute to the public expence, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more than in that proportion.")

Such comments made today would be seen as sacrilege by the current makeup of the Republican Party.

Occupy Wall Street seeks to remedy the free market's overreach in a way that Adam Smith himself would find acceptable. It's also doing so in a democratic fashion -- indeed, the mantra of the movement is that it represents the "other 99 percent," a jab at the top 1 percent of income earners that own a disproportionate amount of the nation's wealth (42 percent in 2007).

But Occupy Wall Street isn't, as some commentators and politicians assert, "un-American" or "anti-capitalist", isn't a mob movement, and certainly isn't inspired by the White House by any stretch of the imagination. Dismissing these demonstrators in such ways is destructive to our discourse, ignoring throngs of protesters who are true American patriots exercising their First Amendment rights. This is a genuine movement of people, dedicated to preserving the vision of the American dream.

That vision is one where people, not corporate power, shape the future of our country...and it's a vision that every American should get behind.

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