This isn’t the revolution I had in mind

I’ve been thinking a lot about what to write about the Occupy Wall Street movement.  I always want to be enthusiastic about any protest movement, and I was about this one for about three minutes.  That’s a tragically short ideological honeymoon though, even by my low standards.

I’ve just read through the movement’s list of demands, and I have to say that I’m incredibly disappointed that I can’t find anything particularly with which to identify beyond the feeling of discontent that seems to be all-pervasive in America now.  Frankly, any movement that springs up at this juncture in history should at least be able to cough up a reasonable feeling of misery and depression.  I wish this group of protesters could do more than increase my fear that we are headed down the road to socialism on a mass scale.  Unfortunately, a somewhat large sector of the population seems to believe that socialism is the cure, rather than the cause, of our problems.

Honestly, this list of demands is nothing short of insane.  Raise the minimum wage to $20 per hour?  Free college education?  Has anyone ever bothered to point out that nothing is free, unless you find $10 on the sidewalk?  “Free college education” just means that you pay for it out of your taxes.  “Free health care” means that you and everyone else pay for it out of your taxes.

It’s not the I can’t understand why people would want these things, because that’s simply not true.  I can understand and appreciate it.  My real problem with anything that is called “free” because the government is taxing people to pay for it is that it’s not free.  This is what the late, great classical liberal theorist Frederic Bastiat called “legalized plunder”: that is, taking money away from people and deeming it legal and morally acceptable because it is done by a government authority when it would never be considered acceptable in private life.  Regardless of how one tries to argue otherwise, the fact of the matter is that anything you give to the government is given on the assumption that, should you attempt to avoid giving whatever it is that they want, that they can use physical force to take it.  If you believe in natural rights, then you are vehemently against a government that can use physical force to coerce you into doing something that you don’t want to do, such as give up your personal property, i.e. money.  For many libertarians, that argument by itself is enough to render most opposition philosophically null and void.

The other thing to take into consideration, with demands for free health care, drastically expanded infrastructure, and so on, is that it would require a massive expansion of the already bloated federal government.  Who do they think is going to implement these plans?  Believe me, if taxes went up enough to support all of this, it wouldn’t be the free market or business.  The simple fact of the matter is that any money that is removed from the economy by taxation is unavailable for use in other areas.  Why in the world would they want to raise taxes so that GE, Bank of America, and those others of their ilk can continue to receive tax refunds and bailouts – all of which are supported by the taxpayers?  It’s absolutely insane to think that further expansion of the government and tax hikes would do anything to solve these problems.  Corporate welfare, sponsored by a government that got too big for its britches a long time ago, is a large part of what has gotten us into this mess, and the very idea that further expansion of the government will do anything other than add jobs to the government is ludicrous.

Does anyone remember my article on the Broken Window Fallacy?  I’m not going to go back over the whole idea, but basically it says that if money is spent in one place, it can’t be spent somewhere else.  If a business or individual is forced to spend money on one thing, they are deprived of another benefit – one that may have been vital to the survival of the business.  I might add that in many cases, it is possible if not very likely that the market can provide whatever government benefit would be cheaper and more efficiently.  One of the first laws of bureaucracy is that it will gobble up exactly as much time and money as you allow it to – and probably some extra, just for fun.

Raising the minimum wage to $20 an hour.  Wow.  Minimum wage leads to a host of unsavory effects, such as: mechanization of jobs previously done by people; low-paying jobs remain an entry point for those with few marketable skills; businesses outsource because foreign workers can do the same job cheaper; foreign companies get the competitive advantage; small businesses are driven out of business, etc. The list is extensive.  What most people don’t realize is that minimum wage actually does the most harm to those whom it purports to protect: the poor.  In fact, the South, black male teenagers, and the unskilled are hurt more by minimum wage than anyone else.

Why is that?  Well, let’s say that I own a small business.  I have twenty employees who earn $5.15 an hour because that’s what I can afford to pay them.  Along comes a politician, who says, “I’ve raised the minimum wage to $6.15 an hour!  Everyone rejoice!  There’s now more money to help the poor get by!”  Well, the problem there, assuming that all 20 of my employees work a full eight hours a day, is the increase in cost for the business.  At $5.15 an hour, I spend $103 per hour, if all of those employees are working at the same time.  That cost jumps to $123 per hour – an increase of $160 per day.  Since most smaller businesses only make a modest profit to begin with, the only options available, if I want to meet the new minimum wage standard is to either: a. sell more of whatever I’m selling, which I would probably already be doing, if I could; b. raise prices, but demand curves are not vertical, or; c. let some people go.  See where this is going?

However, much like the author of “Occupy Wall Street: A Story Without Heroes” author Anthony Gregory, I am in support of open borders.  Think about it.  Politicians and business people are always rambling on about how good it is for goods to be able to circulate as much as possible for the betterment of the economy.  If it holds true for goods, why wouldn’t it be true for people, too?  As it stands right now, only the wealthy are really allowed freedom of movement throughout the world to seek jobs and homes in countries outside of the ones in which they were born.  It hardly seems fair to restrict a person’s movement just because he or she isn’t rich.

Here’s something else to think about: most immigrants, frankly, are a brave lot.  I speak this an expat living outside of the United States, and I’m not just tooting my own horn.  It takes a person with motivation and drive to move to a foreign country, attempt to get a job, learn the language, and adhere to the cultural norms.  Immigrants provide diversity and culture to societies.  Also to be considered is that people from different backgrounds and cultures view the world in different ways.  Perhaps by working together, we can innovate and create even better and faster than before!  And I don’t mean this to be limited to people who work in knowledge-based jobs; anyone should be able to ply his or her trade wherever they want.  Within the US, we encourage movement between states to take jobs in sectors that are showing growth.  Why wouldn’t this work on a global scale?

I feel like I could write on and on about the topic of Occupy Wall Street, but I think I’m losing focus.  Ultimately, I feel that the movement is seriously misguided and offers no real solutions to the path down which we are currently traveling.  I find it impossible to believe that the solution to a government that is an ineffective waste of money and resources on a mass scale will be made better by expanding it and calling for it to further legislate.  Even Obama himself made the (rather large) concession that further regulation of the economy at this point would result in job loss – job loss that we can hardly afford.

It isn’t that I am not frustrated with the economic and political situation in America, because I am.  I think most Americans are fed up with what has been happening for the past few years.  Unfortunately, it seems as though we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.  The Federal Reserve’s answer to our economic woes has been to inflate the currency to levels not seen since the post-war era.  That hasn’t worked.  New Deal lawmakers doubled the government spending in the 1930s, and yet the country was worse off by the end of the decade than it had been in the beginning; it required a war to get us out of that hole again.  Are we really willing to travel down the same route again?

If people want to go out and protest something, protest the Federal Reserve.  Protest the fact that the government wants to strip away the gun rights that will protect you from the police you fear so much.  Protest the fact that for every $1 the government hikes taxes, the economy loses $1.10 and our taxes are going up.  But for God’s sake, don’t go to a protest pretending to be revolutionary and then offer nothing but more of the same.  I think I can speak for a lot of people when I say that the last thing I want is more of that.


About The Lady Libertarian
I am American, currently expatriated but hopeful about getting back home one of these days. Besides reading and writing about politics, I enjoy camping, sailing, canoeing, making pie, and traveling. I hope you'll enjoy this blog and find it informative and accessible.

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