Saturday, October 22, 2011

Occupy Wall Street

It's been over a year ago that I stopped posting here and my return took longer than I expected. However, with recent events in the news I felt like I couldn't wait any longer.

What a field-day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say, hooray for our side
It's time we stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down

~ Buffalo Springfield, “For What It's Worth”

You can’t miss them because they’re all over the news media. In major cities across the world groups of people, some groups are small while others are large, setting up camps under the banner of Occupy Wall Street. There are no obvious leaders of this movement. Certainly, the Canadian based magazine Adbusters deserves some credit for helping to provide the spark but the magazine has pulled back and the movement has grown and taking a life of its own. PBS Newshour provided a very good report on the movement.

Most criticisms of Occupy Wall Street have simply been nonsense. Contrary to what critics say, while comments by a few protestors have been rather unrealistic, the majority of the protestors appear unified with three primary complaints: wide-scale corporate greed, excessive unemployment and underemployment, and the power of the top 1% wealthiest of the population over our political and economic system.

However, while their complaints are valid there has been one criticism by commentators that I think has merit. Most protestors have failed to provide practical proposals on how to fix these social injustices. When injustices exist, then it’s good and right to complain but it’s meaningless if real world solutions aren’t proposed.

This is not to say there haven’t been any proposals. In an article on MSN Money “What if we took down Wall Street?”, Anthony Mirhaydari wrote, “One thing the occupiers on Wall Street seem to imagine is a return to a small, community-based lending model -- with mortgages and small-business loans owed to the bank down the street…” While this is a good start, it’s not complete enough. Any socio-economic model big enough to successfully replace Capitalism requires something more than just mom and pop shop lenders.

What the Occupy Wall Street movement needs is to demand replacing Capitalism with an Economic Democracy, which would incorporate these proposed small, local lenders as part of a bigger and more robust model that would actually work.

Those that have followed my blog in the past are knowledgeable of Economic Democracy. For my new readers this is a good time to review what that means.
  • An Economic Democracy would be a market economy,
  • The core economic unit would be based on autonomous, democratically governed, worker-owned cooperatives,
  • In addition, there would be an increase in the number of family-owned enterprises and sole-proprietorships in comparison to the current capitalist system,
  • Both types of enterprises would be networked together by economic councils that would allow for mutual aid and input from the community,
  • There would also be the existence of non-profit and community-owned enterprises for services that cannot be provided by either co-ops or sole-proprietorships,
  • Investment would be provided by a mix of public sources in the form of governmental bodies and non-profit NGO’s rather than private capital, and
  • There would be extensive support to individuals and the various enterprises by local, state, and federal governments, such as universal health care and free education from pre-school through college.
Here’s my message to the Occupy Wall Street participants. You have two choices. While you have the right to protest, are you going to do nothing but continue camping out, carrying around signs and complaining? Or will you turn your anger into something productive by entering into the political process and electing representatives who will pass legislation that will actually make a difference?

The choice is yours.