October 21, 2011

Lost Goys

Hatched by Dafydd

The question naturally arises: Given that 37% of Americans currently support the Occupy Wall Street so-called "movement," is such support driven more by ideology or economic circumstance? That is, we know that lefties, liberals, Progressivists, and Democrats are much more likely to cheer on the Occupiers; but are the poor in America also significantly more likely to cheer than the rich?

When I was confronted by that argument by a friendly Republican acquaintance -- hey, if you were unemployed for months, through no fault of your own, you'd support Occupy Wall Street, too! -- I realized that the real divide isn't between Republicans and Democrats, nor even between Right and Left; the divide that really matters (which is a chasm) is between limited and unlimited government. Is the federal government, or even state governments, restricted in any way? Are they restricted only by the rights and limitations explicitly written into the Constitution and the state constitutions? Or is government limited even more severely by unenumerated rights... and if so, what are they?

My inquisitor himself certainly opposes the Occupier lifestyle; but he seems to believe that this is only because he's doing well. Oddly, I think much more highly of him: I believe that he, like me, rejects and abhors the looters' ethic not through selfishness or narcissism, and that he wouldn't flip-flop even if he became poor.

Mr. Interlocutor suggested that my reaction to the Occupiers would be driven by whether I was "in the unemployment line or riding the gravy train." My first thought was to reject that heuristic out of hand:

I think you'd be wrong [wrote I]. Call me naive, but I really believe that most Americans aren't so self-centered as to support the Occupy [Fill in the blank] "movement" if they're unemployed, but oppose it if they're doing well. I believe that a huge percentage of Americans support our (relatively) free market, even when others do better than they themselves.

I know that even when I was pretty much down and out -- so much so that I actually applied for, and was accepted for, welfare and food stamps -- I disovered that I simply could not take it. They gave me a package of food stamps to tide me over and approved me for welfare; but a couple of days later, I returned to the welfare office (this was in Santa Cruz, California) and withdrew my application for welfare and even returned the booklet of food stamps... completely unused.

I do not believe I have uniquely strong character; I believe that most Americans simply cannot bring themselves to take handouts.

The "Have" and "Have Not" nomenclature was picked up and used by Saul Alinsky in his book Rules for Radicals; I believe he specifically disavowed any moral claim on the money of the Haves in favor of raw power. His slogan was something along the lines of, "We want it, they have it, let's go get it!" To me, that crosses over the line of criminality by a country mile.

Neither can I accept it even when the big, bad government offers it. I know where it comes from.

I describe myself as a "cynical optimist;" but I just cannot bring myself to the level of cynicism of thinking people's support for liberty is contingent on being one of the Haves.

That was yesterday; today, via the poll linked above, I appear to have some support. Let's first consider ideology as a factor in whether one supports the Occupiers:

Of the Americans who support the Wall Street protests, 64 percent in the poll are Democrats, while 22 percent are independents and just 14 percent are Republicans. The protest backers are more likely to approve of President Barack Obama and more likely to disapprove of Congress than are people who don't support the demonstrations....

The poll found that most protest supporters do not blame Obama for the economic crisis. Sixty-eight percent say former President George W. Bush deserves "almost all" or "a lot but not all" of the blame. Just 15 percent say Obama deserves that much blame. Nearly six in 10 protest supporters blame Republicans in Congress for the nation's economic problems, and 21 percent blame congressional Democrats.

Six in 10 protest supporters trust Democrats more than Republicans to create jobs.

Yup; unsurprisingly, if you're on the Left, you're tremendously more likely to support the Occupiers. That may well be because right now, the Left is far more enamored of Big Goverment than is the Right. But that hasn't always been the case, of course; we need peer over our shoulders only a scant few years to see an out-of-control Republican Senate and House, burning cash like it was a potlatch (except they were spending other people's money, not their own). So ideology is a good indicator of support for or rejection of Occupism.

But what about the poverty aspect? Does that likewise drive support for, not merely socialism, but the most radical and childish free-money demands since the 1960s?

Evidently not:

Most people who support the protests -- like most people who don't -- actually report good financial situations in their own households.

The poll doesn't appear to find any significant difference in family finances between those who support the Occupiers and those who reject them. Reaction to the Occupiers is simply not driven by wealth or poverty.

My worthy correspondent responded to my first, offhand answer by suggesting that if my financial situation was bad enough, if I'd been unemployed for a long time due to circumstances outside my control, I might change my tune. This time, I really mulled his suggestion but still arrived at the same conclusion; this is the more complete answer:

No, and that's my whole point: Even if we were doing badly financially, I would not think the solution is to loot -- or even envy -- somebody else who's doing well. I would instead think, gee I wish we could figure out how to do as good a job of earning money as he does!

I might be sad and depressed, but I wouldn't blame bankers, or Wall Street "speculators," or political consultants who publish cyberzines, or even "the system," unless we lived in a country whose official policies actually stifled economic activity (oh, wait...) Nver in my entire life -- and I'm not as young as you may think; I turn 51 tomorrow -- have I thought that the solution to economic woes, macro or micro, was more redistribution of wealth, more "leveling the playing field," more "fairness," or more government.

Charity has a role to play in a just society; but by definition, it must be voluntary, not compulsory. (I'm not a Randroid, but I note that even Ayn Rand admitted that charity was a virtue -- a "minor virtue," she called it .) I'll go further: It's pragmatic and useful for society to have a putative safety net, to prevent, e.g., people starving in the streets because they have no money (or are too insane or addicted to earn it), or bleeding-out in the gutter outside a hospital because they have no means of paying. But such a safety net is not a right or liberty -- because if I have a right to food, shelter, and medical care, then you have a corresponding legal duty to pay for it; and that's unjust. It's a kindness, and it's insurance against riot and rebellion.

So it's worse than absurd for the Occupiers and their brethren on the Left to demand to be supported by everybody else; it's unseemly. And unAmerican, too; but judging by the musical tastes of the Occupiers, as they sang "F--- the USA!", I suspect they would wear the label "unAmerican" as a badge of pride.

I realize my judgment of the Occupiers sounds harsh, but I really believe they're a bunch of spoiled adult children, lost boys (and lost girls) who never grew up and think their every whim is an urgent demand upon society.

Suppose Sachi and I were in such dire straits that we had to take welfare; I would probably swallow hard and take it -- as author Steve Barnes says, it may be noble to suffer for your ideology, but it's chickens--t to make your family suffer for your ideology. But I would feel guilty about it, and I wouldn't think that the world owed me a living just because I'm sucking air.

By contrast, the Occupiers proudly demand a "living wage" ($20/hour!) paid to them and everybody else for the magnificence of their beingness; and on top of that, they demand everything they want for free -- necessities, luxuries, even their vices should be subsidized! I'm convinced these are the same people who download all their music, videos, and books -- well, maybe not books, since that would require literacy -- from Napster or Kazaa, for free; and of course, they get enraged at artists who have the crazy idea that customers should pay for what they steal.

So again no; even were Sachi and I destitute, we still would not be cheering for the filthy and bloody-minded rioters in Zucchini-Bikini Park. Friedrich Hayek already warned us where that road leads.

I'll stand on this one, and I believe statistics more or less bear me out. Reaction to the Occupy Wall Street (etc) astroturf "movement" is thus analogous to crime; for decades, lefties argued that crime was caused, or at least driven, by poverty. That was the basis on which Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society" was sold to the upper and middle income voters: If only we launched a war on poverty (and won), crime would be virtually eliminated!

But the reality is that bad finances do not drive crime -- bad moral and civic character does. And by the same reasoning, poverty doesn't drive support for socialism, Communism, Obamunism, leftism, or statism; bad thinking does.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 21, 2011, at the time of 8:00 PM


The following hissed in response by: Dishman

Let's take Mr. Interlocuter's logic and apply it in a somewhat different context, and see how it works out. It's 'over the top', but the logic remains consistent.

I'm Aspie. My social skills are pretty limited, and I'm very slow to understand social cues. For example, I can only recognize an 'Indication of Interest' when I'm analyzing things after the fact. By that time, it's too late.

One of the consequences of my social skills is that I've been single most of my life. I would like to have the option of having kids some day, but there appears to be little prospect of that.

It might be fair to describe me as 'socially impoverished'. In all fairness, it's because I'm a social screw-up.

Does Mr. Interlocutor believe that I therefore support the notion of compelling someone to make up for my failures?

Does the fact that I've got nothin' somehow make it acceptable to support that? I doubt Mr. Interlocutor would consider that to be so.

Is he saying that if he (or you) were in my position, he might support that? I doubt it.

The above hissed in response by: Dishman [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 22, 2011 2:34 PM

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