Patrice Riemens on Fri, 4 Nov 2011 09:08:57 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Matt Kibbe: Occupying vs. Tea Partying (WSJ)

>From our 'audi et alteram partem' dept.
original to:

After Karl Rove, we now have another right-winger rehearsing the arguments
- but they're neatly lined up, so its worthwhile taking stock of them. As
it is worthwhile to ponder why the right, esp in the Northern parts of the
North, is so much more succesfull at broad-based organising than the left.
Strictly speaking as a Swiss banker, the numbers are definitely in their
favor. I already wondered as a young students how a massive (and
mainstream) left-wing demo (eg organised by the main trade unions) would
mobilize in the lower ten thousands, but any gathering of the orthodox
(young) protestants easily, and repeatedly breached the lakh mark...
(one lakh = 100.000). And btw, the scenes described at NYC Occupy -
subject of a very sarcastic editorial in the same paper a few days ago -
also have been witnessed at the Amsterdam Occupy, and probably a few
more... In the South, they definitely do it beter.
Cheers for now, p+3D!

Occupying vs. Tea Partying
Freedom and the foundations of moral behavior.

My first instinct was to sympathize with Occupy Wall Street (OWS). At the
time of the initial protests, I was in Italy giving a lecture on the tea
party ethos to graduate students participating in the Istituto Bruno
Leoni's annual Mises Seminar. I was getting reports of OWS signs that I
had often see at Tea Party protests, such as "End the Fed" and "Stop Crony
Capitalism." But something didn't jibe. I wasn't sure why.

The answer came from economist and Nobel Laureate Vernon Smith, who
delivered the keynote address at the Mises Seminar. His lecture on Adam
Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments focused on the question "how do social
norms emerge spontaneously?" Both Smiths, Adam and Vernon, argue that
individual freedoms and property rights are the foundations of moral
behavior. Individuals, with full ownership of their life, liberty and
property, judge themselves and care about the positive judgments of
others. This accountability allows for cooperation, connects a community
and enables human prosperity.

"The most sacred laws of justice, therefore, those whose violation seems
to call loudest for vengeance and punishment, are the laws which guard the
life and person of our neighbor," wrote Adam Smith back in 1759, adding
that "the next are those which guard his property and possessions."
America's tea partiers put it another way: "Don't hurt other people and
don't take their stuff."

>From these "sacred laws" come our righteous indignation with bailouts,
deficit spending and other government intrusions into our lives, such as
the mandate contained in the recent U.S. health-care reform that dictates
to every American what health insurance he must buy and which treatments
he may or may not access. Tea partiers oppose government forcing the
responsible to subsidize the irresponsibility of others, because these
policies hurt other people and take their stuff.

When tea partiers petition their government for a redress of such
grievances, as more than one million did on Sept. 12, 2009, they don't get
into fights, they don't get arrested, they say "excuse me" and "thank
you," they wait in hopelessly long lines for porta-johns, they pick up
their trash and leave public spaces and private property exactly as they
found them. No one told myself or other tea partiers to do these things;
we just believe that you shouldn't hurt other people and you shouldn't
take their stuff.

{ picture caption: An Occupy Wall Street associate in Rome addresses his
grievances. -> you see a shirtless - but masked - dude throwing a molotov,
with a burning something in the background... -PR}

In contrast OWS, whose ranks represent a small fraction of total tea party
protestors, has struggled to maintain civility or to even identify a
unifying sense of purpose in their uprising. At Zuccotti Park in lower
Manhattan, there is stealing, property damage and arrests often provoked
by protestors wanting conflict with the police. Real people?not members of
the so-called 1%?are being hurt as their small businesses are impacted and
their property destroyed.

Things have gone far worse in Europe. In Rome, just one week later and 468
kilometers south of the Mises Seminar, a protest aligning itself with the
OWS movement quickly devolved into a full-on riot, with the demonstrators
smashing shop windows and torching cars. "Clad in black with their faces
covered," the Associated Press reported, "protesters threw rocks, bottles
and incendiary devices at banks and Rome police in riot gear. Some
protesters had clubs, others had hammers. They destroyed bank ATMs, set
trash bins on fire and assaulted at least two news crews from Sky Italia."

Why so much violence? Many protesters in the U.S. have legitimate anger at
the crony capitalism and high unemployment that have defined the first
three years of the Obama Administration. Likewise, many young people in
the euro zone can't find jobs and face a perfect storm no-growth
economies, crushing sovereign debt fueled by ingrained welfare states and
public unions acting as barriers to entering the job market. But for tea
partiers, who rose up against many of the same circumstances, tactical
non-violence simply reflects the values that first brought us together.

When you look for defining values in Occupy Wall Street, you discover only
a disparate set of competing demands. Many are against capitalism per se
and wealth-creation in general. They want to redistribute the pie, not
grow it. But whose claims are legitimate, and how might you reallocate the
wealth of some to the benefit of those more entitled? This most difficult
question is playing out in real life in Zuccotti Park, where a General
Assembly allocates scarce resources among factions of protesters. One
demand by a group of drummers for $8,000 for new musical instruments was
demonstrative. "We have worked for you! Appreciate us!" one drummer
shouted angrily to the General Assembly, as reported in the Huffington
Post. When the bid failed, obscenities flew and the Huffington Post
reports that "a physical fight nearly erupted."

I can't help but think of the fate of the Twentieth Century Motor Company
in Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged," where the edict "to each according to
their contribution" was replaced with "to each according to their need."
The disastrous results left an entire community?the 99%?jobless, angry and

Despite all of this, in America Occupy Wall Street has been celebrated by
many in the media and the Democratic party as a legitimate counter to the
tea party. All of the accusations that were wrongfully hurled at the tea
party?from bigotry to violent tendencies?now seem to be occurring
regularly at OWS protests. Yet they are ignored in deference to the
supposed morally superiority of this new movement. Van Jones, formerly an
environmental advisor to President Barack Obama, says we should ignore OWS
defects because "they've got moral clarity." Even Mr. Obama has said that
"the protesters are giving voice to a more broad-based frustration about
how our financial system works."

Who knows, maybe cognitive dissonance is a good political strategy for the
left. Can the king of crony capitalism win reelection having codified "too
big to fail" into law? Can Congressional Democrats, having spent the past
two years attaching Republicans to so-called "tea party extremism," now
embrace without consequence the radical demands, blatant anti-Semitism,
violence and property damage of OWS?

Progressives' burning desire to create a tea party of the left may be
clouding their judgment. Even Mr. Jones has grudgingly conceded that tea
partiers have out-crowd-sourced, out-organized, and out-performed the most
sophisticated community organizers on the left. "Here's the irony," he
said back in July. "They talk rugged individualist, but they act
collectively." He and his colleagues don't seem to understand that
communities can't exist without respect for individual freedom. They can't
imagine how it is that millions of people located in disparate places with
unique knowledge of their communities and circumstances can voluntarily
cooperate and coordinate, creating something far greater and more valuable
than any one individual could have done alone.

In the world of the contemporary Western left, someone needs to be in
charge?a benevolent bureaucrat who knows better than you do. They can't
help but build hierarchical structures?a General Assembly perhaps?because
they don't understand how freedom works.

Mr. Kibbe is president of FreedomWorks, a fellow at the Austrian Economics
Center in Vienna and co-author of "Give Us Liberty: A Tea Party Manifesto"
(HarperCollins, 2010)

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