A libertarian looks at Occupy Wall Street, part 2

As I said before, I haven’t been writing about the Occupy Wall Street movement because it’s hard for me to get a handle on what such a grass roots movement is all about. (I had the same trouble with the Tea Party.)

However, the various Occupy movements appear to each be run locally by consensus-driven Generally Assemblies that take place every day. The New York movement, the original Occupy Wall Street, even has a website. That website has something I can use, a Declaration of the Occupation of New York City, which lays out an official statement of what the organization is about. I realize that this is no more likely to represent the goals of any given protester than the Libertarian party platform represents mine, but it’s a place for me to start.

Declaration of the Occupation of New York City

This document was accepted by the NYC General Assembly on September 29, 2011

Translations: French, Slovak, Spanish, German, Italian, Arabic, Portuguese

By the way, kudos to Occupy Wall Street for providing translations. For a movement that claims to value inclusiveness, it shows that they walk the walk.

As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.

Sigh. Anti-corporatism makes me weary. A corporation is what you create when you need a secure, easy to administer, and proven legal mechanism for people to pool their resources in pursuit of a common goal. Sometimes that’s Bank of America, sometimes it’s a storefront church. And sometimes, it’s a political cause: If you donate to the Occupy Wall Street movement, the money is handled by the Alliance for Global Justice, which is a corporation. Complaining about corporations because you didn’t like the bank bailout makes about as much sense as complaining about black people because you once got mugged by a black gang member.

As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power.

I’d like to know which corporations “do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people.” Even monopolies like Comcast can’t make me pay them unless I agree to it beforehand. The free market is built on the idea that all parties consent. The only way a corporation can get wealth from you without your consent is with the forceful help of the government.

We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments.

I don’t even know what most of that means. Corporations are owned and run by people. So while profits are of paramount importance, those profits ultimately go to people. Saying corporations “place profit over people” is just a way to say you don’t like the people who own corporations. Also, who expects corporations to provide justice or equality? (Whatever those mean to OWS.)

I hope this will make more sense later. Next up, I start working my way through the list of grievances.

Update: Part 3 is up.

About Mark:
Mark is a computer programmer, website builder, photographer, and sometimes journalist in Chicago, where he also writes the long-running Windypundit blog.
This entry was posted in libertarianism, protest and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.


  1. Ian
    Posted December 4, 2011 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    In Re: “I’d like to know which corporations “do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people.” Even monopolies like Comcast can’t make me pay them unless I agree to it beforehand.”

    First off; they’re obviously referring to the $7+/-Trillion from the Federal Reserve that the financial corporations received since the housing market went under and the recession began.

    Second off; we have no free market. Deregulation is positive regulation. Privatization is the legitimation of a monopoly granted to a single business. There is no such spectre as a free market in America. The problem they have with corporations is surprisingly the same problem many libertarians have with corporations; the corporate entity is an artificial machination of government intervention within the economy. It serves a single purpose; to shield the owners from responsibility. Consistent libertarian principles demand personal responsibility. No personal responsibility can be possible in the most part area of libertarian values (within the economy itself) so long as the corporation is still fostered by government.

    Lest it be forgot; the corporation – big corporations, for that matter – are preferred by government. Progressive taxation only works well if the progression can increase. What better way to do that than to foster monopolistic entities and grant them positive protection from competition?

    • Ian
      Posted December 4, 2011 at 11:06 am | Permalink

      The most important part* of libertarian values. Drats. Hit post too soon.

  2. Posted December 7, 2011 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

    Ian, If they were referring to the money that financial institutions got from the Fed, I wish they’d said so. Of course, the way I see it, the problem is not that the took the money, the problem is that the Fed let them have it.

    (I have to admit that I don’t have a good grasp on what the Fed does and how the discount window works, but my understanding is that the $7 trillion was sort of a “surge” of liquidity in the form of secured loans which were paid back relatively fast, and that the damage was the lost income from loaning the money out at below market rates. So, it cost billions of dollars, not trillions, if that’s any consolation.)

    I don’t share your view that the only purpose of corporations is to shield the owners from responsibility. Most corporations are created as simplified legal framework for people to combine their resources for a common purpose, without which they’d have to use absurdly complicated contracts to account for all the possible details. On the other hand, you’re right that large corporations have a special talent for getting the government to turn them into monopolies.

3 Trackbacks