I have a thinking, caring grandson who is Occupying Boston! There has been so much to post about this “occupation” that I have posted nothing. At the moment I am posting his reasoning for doing what he does simply because I have accumulated so much data that I don’t know what to do with it all.  However, meet Sage, my thinking, caring grandson –

(Facebook has carried some amazing dialogues lately!)

Sage’s Profile · Sage’s Wall

Sage Radachowsky
Dear Christopher,

Thank you for visiting me the first time, and the second time that you came to the Occupy Boston encampment.

I want to share this video with you:

This is Vietnam veteran Jim Scarborough, who spoke at Occupy Boston on Sunday, November 27th, the day after you came to visit.

From the bio, I respect Dr Sowell and read his words with great respect and thoughtfulness. I respect the mechanism of the free market greatly, but I do not hold it as the highest ideal, or the most ideal organizing principle of social life. I think it has a very important place in organization of society’s production and efficiency, but when taken as the sole organizing principle, the libertarian worship of the free market is very harmful. Holding private property and freedom only to enter markets as the sole freedoms is not true to humanity. Humans are economic beings, but they are also caring social beings. There are many factors that laissez-faire economics relegates to “externalities” that are critically important to human welfare and survival. These cannot be disregarded.

From his first paragraph, I have trouble with saying that the Occupy supporters are unaccomplished, ignorant, or lawless.

There is indeed a spirit of anarchism, in the most favorable meaning of the word, which means the idea that people can organize themselves by free association to solve problems and to help themselves, through mutual aid, to solve the problems and provide the necessities of living. This is not a rejection of governance, but a desire to make the forms of governance in a custom way to solve the problems at hand.

True, there are many “lifestyle anarchists” who find rebellion against all rules attractive for the sake of rebellion alone. This is not me, and it is not many of the people in the movement. It is true of too many, but it is not true of all. That is too vague a generalization.

I also think that some of those who have great wealth have not sacrificed greatly, but rather find that they can use their existing wealth to shape government policy to suit their own ends, and to provide them more wealth. This is not laissesz-faire free market, but rather crony capitalism. Both the Tea Party and the Occupy movement share their opposition to crony capitalism.

I think the Tea Party objectives, originally, were more toward laissez-faire markets as a policy goal, whereas the Occupy movement tends toward more socialist policies. However, this is a blanket statement and not true across the board. There are libertarians, and there are centrists within the Occupy movement. I am one of the latter. I believe in a strong reliance on the market, and on self-reliance and self-made wealth. I do not like the idea that some people are born into much greater wealth than others. I would like people to be able to pass their wealth on to their offspring, and to anyone else they choose to bestow favor upon, but I would like to see some limits in the form of inheritance and gift taxation. I think that the feedback loops need to be tempered, or else the accumulation of wealth becomes too highly aggregated, and people are born into far too vast levels of inequality of opportunity.

Note that I say “inequality of opportunity” and not “inequality of income or wealth”. I accept the need for a level of inequality, as a motivating factor, and as the just reward for hard work. However, some wealth is truly derived just from the accident of birth. Both of my parents were janitors at one point in their lives. My father then entered the post office, and my mother became a medical transcriptionist and a massage therapist. They did better their positions, but they started near the bottom. Through accident and hard work, I ended up working at Harvard, though I am still in debt to my education and my time spent trying to make a living as a carpenter. I have built several houses, and I have renovated several condominiums. Still, I did not make much money, and I also spent much time and money to help others less fortunate than myself, through Habitat for Humanity and Peace Brigades International. I would like to think that everyone has the opportunity to spend a portion of their energy in service to humanity, though in actual fact, it landed me in debt at the age of 38, while I did work nearly full-time since the age of 18.

On Dr Sowell’s second paragraph, the Occupy movement does not honor dictators, murderers, and thieves. To the contrary, it condemns dictators, murderers, and thieves. It condemns some policies of the United States, particularly wealth gained from slavery of human beings, of exploitation through military domination of some countries, like the banana republics, and of thieves in the form of thugs who bought government policy and “justice” to benefit their own bank accounts. Such things as the violent repression of labor organizers, who were killed in the organizing of free associations of laborers to try to gain a higher wage for the sale of their life-force, and in buying of government policy to uproot people from the land that they inhabited due to the presence of mineral riches under the ground.

If you take the time to view the video that I presented, you will see attorney and veteran Jim Scarborough not shred, but honor, the documents created by the founding fathers. While not perfect in all regards, these living documents provide a deep foundation for the freedoms of speech, association, and assembly, that allow a free people to analyze the situation of their time, and to redress their grievances.

The founding fathers petitioned for redress of grievances of an external colonial power. Today, the Occupy movement petitions for redress of grievances against an internal colonizing power. This is merely a geographical distinction, and in the globalized age, it loses meaning. The essential element is that there is one party that is controlling the levers of government to maximize the extraction of money/power from another party.

In our present society, the wealthy elite — those who can afford to fund campaigns to get their people elected, and those who can hire lobbyists on K Street to get their policies enacted — have distorted our supposed democracy to their own benefit.

A press machine is also complicit, which distracts the common people from the real issues at hand, with wedge issues of lifestyle choices, and with the false dichotomy between the Republican “right” and the Democrat “left”, which are really almost the same party with about 5% difference between them on economic policy. The press machine is also funded by the wealthy elite. This is not total, but it is very real and effective. Fox News is more complicit, MSNBC and NPR are a bit less complicit, but both are complicit enough. The debate is framed such that the spread of difference is small enough to be but a nuisance to those who seek to maintain the status quo because it suits them.

What I want is nothing less and nothing more than a real democracy. This would be a system where money cannot buy power.

I want to enact mechanisms where money cannot buy power. This will never fully be realized, but it can be made much better than it currently is.

From that ground, we would have a more level field, where issues can be debated on their own merits, and the fine points of policy can be ironed out with the intensive recursive debate that is warranted to make this society the best possible, with all the required compromises.

Nothing will be perfect, and I do not expect perfection. I expect to move to version 2.0 of society, where it is head and shoulders above what we have now. From there, we will see the next mountaintop in the distance, and then strike out anew for a more perfect union.

I do not like communism. I spent 10 years — off and on — in Nepal, where the Communist Party of Nepal waged an armed rebellion against the government of the King of Nepal.

I pledged allegiance to neither side of this conflict. I stood firmly in the middle, with the common people. I lived in a village in the Himalayas, by the name of Nangi, in Myagdi district, in the Annapurna region. I worked in the fields with common people. I taught in the village school. I listened to the villagers. I learned the facts of life. I learned how common people lived, and what they believed.

I did not buy the propaganda of the Maoists, nor of the Royal Government of Nepal. Both sides in the war ultimately sought to exploit the people. I stood only for loktantra, which means “people’s democracy”. This meant neither a Maoist state, nor a Royal state. This meant a messy compromise government that would leave the people alone as much as possible, to pursue their own goals through hard work and innovation. There is no perfect answer, but there are some that are far more perfect, and very clearly so, than the ends of any dogmatic caste, be it communist or royalist. People lived in a serfdom before the revolution, and luckily the revolution ended in a stalemate where the Maoist ends were not met. The present government of Nepal is a faltering compromise, but this is far better for the common people than either a continuation of the royal fiefdom or a pseudo-communist state similar to the Cambodian model.

Lastly, I must add that the Occupy movement is not a puppet of Obama. There are some in the movement who earlier found some hope in the ideals of Obama, and still hold some hope in his leadership, but this is not the majority of Occupiers. Obama cannot control the Occupy movement, and Occupy does not endorse Obama. We are not fooled by the new boss, same as the old boss. I personally admire Obama as a person, but know that he has shortcomings both from within and from the constraints of the system that of which he has become the figurehead.

To the list of Democrat Party demagogues that Sowell lists, I would also add a similar list from the Republican Party. They are not very far apart, when it comes down to it. They differ as do Tweedledee and Tweedledum. They differ by 5%, on some important issues, but not on the full frame of possible realities.

The final quote, which positions and knocks down “socialism” as a straw man owned by Obama and his allies, is just that — a straw man. “Socialism” is an overused term. Public libraries are “socialist”. The interstate highway system is “socialist”. Government itself is “socialist” in that it is something implemented by a common agreement that something seems like it would be a good idea, to such an extent that people use the principle of eminent domain to demand that everyone pay a share of it. Anyone who argues against paying a share of the cost of public roads seems to me a dinosaur, a fossil of an extinct species.

In Nepal, people in every village spend a few days per year working on the pathways between the villages. Everyone who is able is expected to contribute a day or two of their labor toward maintaining the paths upon which people and mules tread, to carry the salt and tea and sugar between villages, and on which everyone walks when they want to travel to the next village. I don’t think that people resent this. They may try to evade their labor, but it is not such a big deal. Others will work a little more, to make up for the labor that some shirk. If the system is efficient enough, people will recognize that perfection is not attainable, but good enough surely is, and will be happy to be alive in this wonderful world, and even whistle and sing songs while they place stones on the pathway.

I hope you comprehend my critique of Dr Sowell’s text on the Occupy movement.

With great hopes for continuing dialogue,

Sage

 

 

Sage was writing in response to Thomas Sowell’s article below:

A shining light in a sea of darkness…
Thomas Sowell (born June 30, 1930) is an American economist, social theorist, political philosopher, and author. A National Humanities Medal winner, he advocates laissez-faire economics and writes from a libertarian perspective. He is currently a Rose and Milton Friedman Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Sowell was born in North Carolina, but grew up in Harlem, New York. He dropped out of high school and served in the United States Marine Corps during the Korean War. He received a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University in 1958 and a master’s degree from Columbia University in 1959. In 1968, he earned his doctorate degree in economics from the University of Chicago. Dr. Sowell has served on the faculties of several universities, including Cornell and University of California, Los Angeles, and worked for “think tanks” such as the Urban Institute. Since 1980 he has worked at the Hoover Institution. He is the author of more than 30 books. 

By Dr. Sowell

The current Occupy Wall Street movement is the best illustration to date of what President Barack Obama’s America looks like. It is an America where the lawless, unaccomplished, ignorant and incompetent rule. It is an America where those who have sacrificed nothing pillage and destroy the lives of those who have sacrificed greatly.

It is an America where history is rewritten to honor dictators, murderers and thieves. It is an America where violence, racism, hatred, class warfare and murder are all promoted as acceptable means of overturning the American civil society.

It is an America where humans have been degraded to the level of animals: defecating in public, having sex in public, devoid of basic hygiene. It is an America where the basic tenets of a civil society, including faith, family, a free press and individual rights, have been rejected. It is an America where our founding documents have been shredded and, with them, every person’s guaranteed liberties.

It is an America where, ultimately, great suffering will come to the American people, but the rulers like Obama, Michelle Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank, Chris Dodd, Joe Biden, Jesse Jackson, Louis Farrakhan, liberal college professors, union bosses and other loyal liberal/Communist Party members will live in opulent splendor.

It is the America that Obama and the Democratic Party have created with the willing assistance of the American media, Hollywood , unions, universities, the Communist Party of America, the Black Panthers and numerous anti-American foreign entities.

Barack Obama has brought more destruction upon this country in four years than any other event in the history of our nation, but it is just the beginning of what he and his comrades are capable of.

The Occupy Wall Street movement is just another step in their plan for the annihilation of America.

“Socialism, in general, has a record of failure so blatant that only an intellectual could ignore or evade it.”

Thomas Sowell