Sunday, November 6, 2011

Occupy Wall Street First Hand

I was in New York City last week and I made a special trip to Zuccotti Park in order to see Occupy Wall Street first hand.

Although I agree with the general thesis that the playing field in recent years has been tilted from Main Street to Wall Street, I saw nothing at OWS but a group of dirty, disgusting derelicts.  Here is an example of the street scene in a photo I took.

From my tour around OWS it was difficult to see anything positive.  Many of the signs had vile language.  It was difficult to see any kind of coherent message.  Seeing it first hand, it is clear that the media has downplayed the degeneracy of this group.

We have real problems in this country.  If these are the people who are going to lead us to greater promise we are in far deeper trouble than we are already.

What is most troubling is the free pass that has been given to this group.  They have taken over what is privately owned property (although it is available to the public) in blatant disregard of individual property rights.  They have shown little respect for the people who live and have businesses in the area.

Would these actions have been tolerated if this was an openly Communist group?  The Ku Klux Klan?  New Nazi Party?  The Tea Party?  I think not.  They were given a pass because it is "cool"to be an anti-establishment, anti-capitalist liberal.  It is not cool to be a patriot who embraces the Constitution (not just the First Amendment) and believes we should live within our means.

However, even the liberal elite who populate Lower Manhattan seem to be losing patience with the group and are rethinking their political sympathies in favor of needed law and order as reported in this article in the National Review by Charles W. Cooke.
One resident summed it up perfectly: "This is about the law.  They have been given a waiver for too long."
It was also generally conceded that previous resolutions at both the state and community-board levels-which routinely started with a statement of support and a reiteration of fealty to the First Amendment-were a big mistake.  "We shouldn't have expressed any political position" was the regretful consensus of the Community Board.
One of the critical functions of government  is to "insure domestic tranquility".  It is in the preamble of the U.S. Constitution.  Most historians trace the roots of this important governmental role to concern by the Founders on what they had witnessed in "Shay's Rebellion" that transpired shortly before they convened to draft the Constitution.  Ironically, Shay's Rebellion was based on many of the same themes that seem to be present with OWS.  Tough economic times.  Too much debt.  Animosity against the affluent.  A short summary of Shay's Rebellion follows.  There is more background in Wikipedia if you are interested.
After the American Revolution the young nation was torn by unsettled economic conditions and a severe depression. Paper money was in circulation, but little of it was honored at face value. Merchants and other "sound money" men wanted currencies with gold backing. In Massachusetts the "sound money" men controlled the government. Most of those who were harmed by the depression were property-less and thus unable to vote. The quarrel grew until thousands of men in the western counties rose in armed revolt. They were led by Daniel Shays (1747-1825), a captain during the American Revolution. Shays' Rebellion lasted from August 1786 to February 1787.

The agitators objected to heavy land and poll taxes, the high cost of lawsuits, high salaries of state officials, oppressive court decisions, and dictatorial rulings of the state senate. In Northampton on August 29 the mob succeeded in keeping the courts closed so debtors could not be tried and put into prison. Fearful of being tried for treason for this action, Shays and his men broke up the state Supreme Court session at Springfield the following month. The revolt took a more serious turn when Shays and a force of 1,200 men returned to Springfield in January to capture the arsenal. Action by the national government prevented the attack on January 25. Most of the insurgents were captured in early February, ending the rebellion. The leaders were condemned to death for treason but were later pardoned. Shays himself later received a war pension for his service in the American Revolution.

Shays' Rebellion was one of several disturbances in different states. It hastened the movement for a federal government strong enough "to ensure domestic tranquility," as stated in the preamble to the Constitution, which established the United States.

The Founders took two important lessons from Shay's Rebellion and incorporated it into the principles of the Constitution.  James Madison summarized it well.

"Liberty may be endangered by the abuses of liberty as well as the abuses of power."

Shay's Rebellion was also the catalyst to bring George Washington back into public service after his retirement as the leader of the Revolutionary Army.  The Rebellion convinced him to return to public service and work for a strong federal constitution to replace the Articles of Confederation. In fact, Washington had no patience for trying to influence or appease Shay's group of desperate debtors. He wanted "a government by which our lives, liberties and properties will be secured" to insure that such tumults would not be allowed to occur.

The proper role of government is to be an impartial arbiter for all citizens.  People have the right to exercise their free speech and to peaceably assemble.  They do not have the right to occupy a park, disobey all municipal ordinances and disrupt the lives of other citizens.  In the words of Madison, the OWS protestors have abused liberty.  At the same time, The City of New York and other similar cities that have allowed these occupiers to abuse liberty have failed in their basic governmental duties of insuring domestic tranquility.

The OWS protestors have also failed in not recognizing the real source of their complaints. They shout about Wall Street but their real focus should be on Washington.  If Wall Street or the so-called "1%" has abused power, where has Washington been while it has been occurring?  We have a Securities and Trade Commission, a Federal Trade Commission and a National Labor Relations Board to name just a few.  What good is all this regulation if it does nothing to prevent the abuses of power that the OWS crowd is complaining about?  Who at Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac were held to account?  Who on Wall Street was indicted?  Which of the "too big to fail" financial institutions were broken up?

Our Constitution states that the key duties of our government are to provide for the common defense, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility and promote the general welfare. It is not supposed to pick sides. It was not designed to pick winners and losers. Its role was seen to protect both and to see that both had a level playing field. It is supposed to be about the public interest rather than special interests.  

It is far past the time for New York City and other cities to move in and shut OWS down.  They can protest but they should not be allowed to occupy anything.  In fact, the protestors should move out to Washington, not Wall Street.  That is the source of their complaints whether they understand it or not.


When researching this blog post I came across the following list of grievances of Shay's group.  It is ironic that it seems to encompass the combined complaints of both OWS and the Tea Party.  This is from an article by the Constitutional Rights Foundation on Shay's Rebellion.

FIRST: The present system of taxation operates unfairly between the poor and the wealthy classes. (OWS want higher taxes on the rich)

SECOND: The tax rates have been set too high. (Tea Party)

THIRD: There is a shortage of cash money, and farm goods are not accepted as payment for debts and taxes. (OWS wants even more money to be printed and redistributed.  One protestor even stated that every person should be allowed to print their own money!)

FOURTH: Court and lawyer fees are set too high. (Tea Party views on government regulations)

FIFTH: State government officials are being paid fattened salaries. (Tea Party)

SIXTH: The state capital at Boston should be moved inland. (Tea Party & OWS-a clear statement that the people believed government was too removed from the concerns of the people.  Less centralized power in Washington would be the argument of the Tea Party.  Too much power between government and Wall Street would be the argument of OWS).

No comments:

Post a Comment