Capitalism Is Not Democracy

Among the colorful images of Occupy marches and camps over the last few months, one stood out recently.

As several hundred Occupiers marched through downtown Portland on the evening of Saturday, December 3, one wore this sign on his back: “Capitalism is not Democracy.”

Besides the fact that capitalism is a moral economic system based on voluntary exchange, while democracy is a political system, the sign brings several relevant thoughts to mind.

Occupiers seem to have a visceral dislike of capitalism, mixing it up with the cronyism that really should be the focus of their attention. It is a powerful government dishing out favors to its friends (cronies) on Wall Street that is at the heart of Occupiers’ complaints. But those favors would be dished out almost regardless of our economic system. Socialism is rife with such favors also.

But democracy isn’t the answer to Occupiers’ prayers for a more just society. They ignore the fact that taking from one group and giving to another based on a majority, or even consensus vote, has its own moral problems.

It may have been founding father Benjamin Franklin who gave us one of the most colorful and thoughtful descriptions of democracy:

“Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.”*

So, no, capitalism is not democracy, and thank goodness it isn’t.

* While this quote is often attributed to Franklin online, no primary sources have been found to confirm it. The author may actually be unknown.


Steve Buckstein is Founder and Senior Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

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  • Patrickhenry

    Their point is that the greedy capitalist have ruined it for the others and the fiancial system shold not rule the political one.

  • valley person

    Steve, its more like a pack of wolves (the financial sector) looking out over a herd of sheep and deciding amongst themselves what to eat. If the sheep (the rest of us) had a vote the meal would be  vegetarian.

  • Dickw

    If their point is greedy capitalists have ruined the financial system as stated by patrickhenery, then the occupiers, as I have suspected for along time, have their collective heads up their butts.
    The financial collapse was brought about by the capricious rule making of the federal government with its policies of forcing lending institutions to make loans to unqualified borrowers. The desire to make home ownership more widespread is a noble one, but was screwed up by the government policy makers as happens virtually every time such an effort at directing the economy is undertaken. The main difference was this was a spectacular failure instead of a normal failure by government bureaucrats.
    The resulting spike in prices of about 90% over 5-6 years in the 1990’s is not a natural phenomena of a normal functioning economy. This was government caused and not the fault of the capitalists in the market who only reacted in a survival mode. The financial people did try to spread the risk as much as possible which is understandable given the coercion in the loan market. Think for a minute, would an evil profit grabbing capitalist actually sell assets that would make him a ton of money?

    • valley person

      Investment bubbles, driven by greed and operating in a largely unregulated financial system, are quite common. Blaming the investment bubble on a government that chose to trust capitalism is a deflection of blame.

      • Bill Morey

        Government is/was the problem with the financial system, Carter, Clinton, Dodd, Frank, Waters, just to name a few who made millions while letting the housing bubble fill up with people who never should have gotten morgages.

        • None

          Bill,

          Do you have any evidence that all of these people made millions off of the financial disaster?

        • valley person

          Bill, the people who made millions off the bubble were not the politicians you list (though Gingrich apparently made a bit,) it was the bankers, mortgage lenders, and financiers who profited. Plus some home buyers who flipped in time.

          The problem with the financial system is that when fools rush in any given door there is money to be made. Capitalism creates bubble after bubble and always profits until the last fool comes in the door. Government policies enabled the housing bubble. They didn’t cause it. And government didn’t profit from it.   

  • Sol668

    Hey conservatives take a guess who totally agrees with you!….

    “In the economic sphere Communism is analogous to democracy in the political sphere.”

    • Rupert in Springfield

      Ouch!!!!!! Epic fail!!!!

      The American Nazi Party fully supports the occupy movement and a few weeks back issued a statement stating their support on their website.

      Oh wow dude. That has to be the set up of the day.

      The absolute worst back fire ever while trying to call someone a Nazi on the internet.

      Thanks! Yeah..Get some!

      • Sol668

        SO your agreement with adolph hitler represents an “epic failure onmy part LOL,  and if you don’t support OWS, well then we can only presume you support record inequity, grinding poverty and a declining standard of living for average americans

        which is just sad

  • None

    “Besides the fact that capitalism is a moral economic system based on voluntary exchange”

    But how much is actually voluntary?

    In most cases, and especially in times when jobs are scarce, the employer holds much more power in the employer-employee relationship, and can get away with onerous changes in the employment conditions. 

    If the choice is between accepting bad working conditions or going broke, is that really a free choice?

    The problem with libertarians is that they are either blind to the power differential in many economic exchanges, or they willfully are on the side of the powerful, not on the side of the powerless.

  • Rupert in Springfield

    Capitalism is not democracy = Someone should ask for their college tuition refunded.

    Capitalism is indeed not democracy. Much like a car is not a waffle.

    I am beginning to see exactly what intellectual strata the occupiers are mined from.

    In the end it doesn’t really matter. The occupiers will vote 99% for Obama, the biggest receiver of Wall Street money and the undisputed king of crony capitalism.

    • 3H

      Hmmm.. you were pretty literal minded in college weren’t you?  Probably did pretty poorly in literature class.  Do metaphors and analogies confuse you?  If I quote Burns: “My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose.”  Do you think he means, literally, that his love is a flower?

      If I hold up a sign that says “Capitalism is not Democracy”, would you think I meant that literally?  Or maybe it means more.  

      Perhaps you should ask for your tuition back.  

      • Rupert in Springfield

        Your statement is especially ridiculous because “Capitalism is not democracy” is not a metaphor in the literary sense of the term

        The two are both familier and both readily defined, thus there is no expression of the unfamiliar and difficult to define through the vehicle of the familiar and readily defined. There is also no implication in the statement as it is a declarative one, adding to the evidence this would not be considered a metaphor. A metaphor can be declarative, but not with two such objects as these.

        It is not an analogy as there is no equivalence expresed. A statement that one thing is not another is not an analogy.

        Then there is also the obvious point that a protest sign is not a work of literature.
         
        Epic fail in other words.

        You went in trying to belittle my education in literature and established nothing other than you have complete ignorance of two of the most common literary devices, analogy and metaphor.

        Yeesh, talk about shooting yourself in the foot. And the funny thing is you will never admit you are wrong here, so lets just leave this little gem on full display.

        • 3H

          Actually, I think in this case it is.  I think it stands for more than just “Capitalism” but for excess and greed.  It represents an idea beyond just the economic definition of the word.  Which makes it a metaphor.  In my opinion of course. 

          Only failure Rupert, is yours.   You chose to take it literally.  

          Try again.

  • 3H

    Steve —

    1) Capitalism is not a moral economic system.  It is immoral.  There is no morality in a voluntary exchange because it’s not only the ability to freely exchange that determines morality, but what is being exchanged as well. If I freely buy a slave from a slave trader who is freely selling it, that is Capitalism at work, yet the exchange itself is immoral. Unless you have a different view slavery.  What happens when the 

    2)  Capitalism is also about property relationships.  The right to own property and dispose of it as the owner sees fit.  Again, it’s in how you use the property, not the property itself, that makes something moral or immoral.  

    In fact, morality cannot be conferred upon a transaction.   Morality is generally considered to be imposed or suggested from a higher source (God or Gods), and is invested in the actions and intent of people.   The transaction itself is neutral – it is the people on either end that make it moral or immoral, and if one part of the equation is immoral in their actions, can you consider the transaction to still be moral based simply upon the willingness of buyer and seller?

    Also, if the production of the commodity itself was immoral, ignorance on the part of both buyer and seller still won’t make the transaction moral.

    Capitalism, and free market forces, can’t make something moral or immoral.  If it did, you would be claiming that Capitalism was in effect, a God.  Now, some people do consider money and profit to be a God, but I don’t think most people would.

    • Rupert in Springfield

      So are trying to bring in the Chewbacca strategy here?

      Attempting to divert from a statement about the morality of an economic system into a discussion of what is traded under that system. Two very different things.

      Slave trading says absolutely nothing about the morality of the economic system involved. Slave trading says a lot about the morality of the people involved in the trade.

      If you trade slaves under a monarchy, as slaves were obtained in Africa for example, and then trade them under capitalism, as was done when they arrived here, both are equally odious even though two very different economic systems are involved. We find the trade repellent because it involves slavery, not because of the economic system involved at the time and place of the trade.

      I’m beginning to think maybe I should rent ad space at Huff Po – “Notice, the Chebacca defense is an extremely ineffective debate tactic.” I mean I really would do quite a bit to get the left to give up this tired technique.

      • valley person

        Slave trading operating comfortably within free market capitalism suggests that capitalism is an amoral, not a moral system, since the ethical boundaries of capitalism place no clear limits on exploitation. You can add in sending 10 year olds down to work in mines, cutting wages to starvation levels during depressed economic times, poisoning communities water supply to preserve profits, and a lot of other examples of good, profitable, mostly legal capitalism equaling lousy morality.  

        The myth of free market capitalism as “moral” rests on the idea of “free exchange,” as if every market action involves two equal traders with no leverage based on ability to influence policy, availability of materials or labor, or markets themselves. This is a largely theoretical type of capitalism, which may exist at the local farmers market, but not within say the oil industry to name just one.  

        • None

          “You can add in sending 10 year olds down to work in mines.”

          Yes, but according to Newt Gingrich, child labor laws are “truly stupid.”

          • valley person

            He used to want to bring back orphanages. I suspect poor farms and debtors prisons will be in the que. The man’s mouth runs way ahead of his sense.

          • 3H

            NO!  He is the smartest man in the room!  He is a man of ideas.  Which, is true.  Evidently he is a man without filters or the ability to realize that just because he can imagine it, doesn’t make it a good idea.

          • Steve Buckstein

            I probably shouldn’t bring this up…but since you mentioned orphanages, I once sat in on a lecture by an economics professor who grew up in an orphanage and thought it was a better alternative for him and some other children than other scenarios. I since found that he wrote a book about the subject and even published his thoughts through the Democratic Leadership Council at
            https://www.dlc.org/ndol_ci.cfm?kaid=114&subid=142&contentid=1306. 

        • Brad Williams

          Capitalism is the system of individual rights — for everyone.  Slavery cannot exist in a capitalist society, that would be a contradiction.  Historically, elements of capitalism tend to end slavery!  If you think that buying and selling humans is “capitalism”, I can understand why you are so confused about the topic.

          • valley person

            Slavery can’t exist in a capitalist society? Who do you think ran the auction blocks, the state?

            Wake up Brad. Capitalism doesn’t care if it trades slaves or computer software. Its ethically neutral. Amoral.  

          • 3H

            And who ended slavery?  The Government.  And then had to enforce their decree with soldiers.  

            Not everyone needs to be free in a Capitalist society Brad.  Buyers and sellers have to be free to buy and sell, but you can have a whole class of people that are considered commodities.   In fact, civil liberties can be curtailed as long as there is a certain amount of freedom to exchange cash and goods.  I think there are southeast Asian countries like Singapore that are very capitalist in outlook but have far fewer freedoms than we enjoy here.

            Free market forces governed the supply and demand and price of slaves.  Right? 

          • Brad Williams

            Capitalism is not synonymous with “markets”, that is why I started out my first post with the proper definition.

          • 3H

            It is with free markets.  I don’t necessarily have to accept your definition, and if you remove elements, it starts to make me wonder a little.

            Merriam-Webster – which I think is a good definition:

            “An economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market.”

            Every time I hear people talk about capitalism, I hear talk about market forces, and letting the market decide.  If you are going to remove markets from a definition you are going to have to come up with a better, and more logical and coherent, explanation other than “because I defined it that way.”Capitalism says nothing about individual rights and freedom.   It is an economic system, not a political system.

          • Brad Williams

            I do grant you that the definition I gave, which I got from “What is Capitalism?” by Ayn Rand, is virtually unknown.  People do not know what capitalism is, they think it is a system of exploitative destruction, in which power-mongers brutally crush the weak and the poor — and that is why they keep begging for less freedom and more (strangling) controls: in order to be protected from a boogieman that does not exist.

          • Steve Buckstein

            “Who do you think ran the auction blocks, the state?

            No, but didn’t the state enforce the “rights” of slave owners when those slaves ran away?

          • 3H

            I assume you agree that protecting and enforcing property rights is a legitimate function of government?  Seems like you’re making our point for us.

            But, how does something like the slave trade fit into your concept of the morality of capitalism because it brings together willing buyers with willing sellers?  You’ve been quiet on that discussion.

          • Steve Buckstein

            I thought I answered that question earlier. When talking about the morality of capitalism, I am talking about the system of voluntary exchange, not the specific goods or services being traded.

            A coercive economic system is, in my view, immoral, even if many of the goods and services traded are perfectly legitimate such as food, clothing and shelter.

            Both voluntary and coercive economic systems can deal in moral and immoral goods and services, and obviously do.

          • None

            Okay Steve, but how about the system we had in the early part of the last century, where companies paid only in company scrip? 

            That’s not slavery, but isn’t the real effect of that a sort of indentured servitude?

            Doesn’t it take the government to put a halt to that particular coercive economic system?

          • Steve Buckstein

            I have not studied the company script or indentured servitude issues, but my first thought is that, as long as the “servants” were not defined in law as “property” (and I understand some were, then the practice would not equate to slavery.

            The company scrip situation also would not be equated to slavery as long as the workers were free to accept payment for their labor in script (or anything else for that matter) and were free to leave that employment whenever they wished.

            Were these situations ideal? Far from it. But we’re talking here about morality, and I believe that, as others have eloquently set out above, individuals own their own lives, and are free to trade their labor under virtually any terms they freely agree to. Force and fraud in such agreements are immoral, but if the terms are fairly stated, then both parties should be free to enter into those agreements.

          • valley person

            Sure Steve. The state was protecting private property, just as they should have be doing under libertarian theory.

          • Steve Buckstein

            I know of no libertarian theory that defines one human as the private property of another human. Talk about immoral…

          • 3H

            He was talking about private property in general.  Like it or not, slaves were considered private property.  He’s not saying that is a good thing.  But, I think you know that and you’re letting your frustration get the better of you.

          • Steve Buckstein

            I’m not frustrated.  I just responded to his statement.

            Of course, if we were all talking here in 1850 then some might argue that slaves are private property. But we are talking in 2011 and none of us buy that rationalization now.

            Again, no libertarian theory, or any moral system, can justify the state protecting a right of slaveholders to own their slaves.

          • 3H

            And Capitalism neither condemns, nor condones, slavery.  However, slavery still exists in the United States through the sex trade – unfortunately Portland is a hub.  Capitalism doesn nothing to stop it.  Not a single thing. 

          • 3H

            By the way, individual Rights are part of a political system.  Democracy is a system of individual rights. Capitalism is a system of economic exchange and ownership.  It seemed to work quite well in the 19th Century despite the fact that minorities in this country did not enjoy the same individual Rights as white people.  In fact, it worked quite well despite women not being able to vote in national elections. LOL.. it was working just fine when a majority of adults didn’t have the same rights as the minority.

            Oh, how well did Capitalism work while we were putting Native Americans on reservations and treating them like second class citizens?So why did it take political movements to extend Rights to various minorities?  If Capitalism is about individual Rights, why did it take roughly 100 years from the end of the Civil War to give voting rights to blacks?  If you were right, then all those Rights should have happened during the hyper-capitalism of the 19th century.  It didn’t.   Your belief is at odds with history and how things actually happened.

          • Brad Williams

            I agree that some political rights were lacking. In other ways, the (economic) freedom was much greater than now.  I’ll say it a third time:  it was a time of near capitalism.

          • 3H

            So, you would have to agree that Capitalism works fine even when political rights are restricted.   

            Which is more important to you then, economic freedom or political freedom?  Would you be willing to gain more economic freedom (and I don’t necessarily accept that there is less economic freedom today) for less political freedom, say, for various minorities? 

            Keeping all things the same, would you rather live now, or in 1880?  

          • Brad Williams

            The problem in reducing capitalism to merely the concept of “markets” or “trade” is you end up unable to explain *what* the system would be in which everybody is free in all manner.  That needs a new concept:  capitalism.  The essential characteristic of capitalism is not free markets nor free trade, because those are elements of it but not fundamentals.  What would support a system of nothing but free trade, what principle would have to be enacted to achieve such?  Individual rights, the identification that every individual is an end in himself who should (morally) live by his own judgement — and therefore should (politically) be free to do so.  An entire social system in which all relations are restricted according to individual rights would be a social system of private property, of equality under law (as you brought up), of 100% voluntary relations between consenting adults characterized by, in economic matters, free markets.  What is the name of that social system?  Capitalism.  

            Is capitalism moral?  Project what it would be like to live in 1812, and from that perspective whether or not the coming capitalistic revolution would be “good” or not.

      • 3H

        Economic systems do not exist outside of people.  Economic systems are one of several that govern relationships between people.   You can’t ascribe morality, good or bad, to an economic system anymore than you can to a volcano.  

        LOL.. and your last point is exactly mine…   slave trading is odious under any system.  Capitalism does not prevent slave trading.   Does not hinder it, nor does it encourage it.  Capitalism is moot on the question of morality.  And you can’t ascribe a moral condition to an exchange between two willing parties without looking at the nature of the exchange.  The fact that they are both willing does not make it moral, nor immoral.  

        Slave trading says absolutely nothing about the morality of the economic system involved. Slave trading says a lot about the morality of the people involved in the trade. ”

        Precisely my point.  Capitalism, an economic system, is neutral on the question of slavery.   How can a system that works just as well for selling slaves as well as it does for selling apples be considered moral as Steve wants to argue?  The fact that buyer and seller are both willing does not make it moral.  

        • Causalrealist

          “Capitalism is moot on the question of morality.  And you can’t ascribe a moral condition to an exchange between two
          willing parties without looking at the nature of the exchange.  The fact
          that they are both willing does not make it moral, nor immoral.”

          Is free trade founded on self-ownership or collective-ownership?  If collective-ownership, then how might several individuals each own 100% of one thing?  If an apple is collectively-owned, under what circumstances is one particular individual allowed to eat the apple, and under what circumstances might it be inappropriate for anyone else to prevent the eating of the apple?  As such, how would a decision-making process involving anything less than 100% of the collective not contradict this fundamental ownership principle?  And how could the adoption of a particular ratio between self- and collective-ownership be anything but arbitrary?

          With that in mind, if free trade rests on the principle of self-ownership, then how, in any sense of the term, might slavery be regarded as moral under such a “system?”  Does slavery not violate the underlying principle?  How, under any sense of the term, might slavery be regarded as “willing?”  Is “willing slavery” not an utter contradiction in terms?

          • 3H

            We are talking about willing sellers and willing buyers.  The slave is a commodity, their humanity or willingness does not enter into the equation.  Which would be my point.  The slave trader is a willing seller, the person buying the slave is a willing buyer.  Mr. Buckstein, on several occasions, has mentioned that capitalism is moral because it is willing buyers and willing sellers.  I think the trade in slaves points out the fallacy of such a simplistic argument.  The slave’s willingness is immaterial – the slave is neither the buyer nor the seller, but is the commodity.

          • Causalrealist

            Maybe if I conveniently ignore the fundamental principle of a free market system it will go away.

          • 3H

            The fundamental principle of a free market is not that everyone is free.. free market means that prices are determined by a combination of supply and demand.  That if I am a consumer, I am free to buy or not.  Free market says nothing about the state of freedom of each individual in society.  It works quite nicely even when significant portions of the community are not free, and, in fact, are commodities.

            Slavery existed in a free market setting.  No amount of tap-dancing can change that fact.   

          • Causalrealist

            “Slavery existed in a free market setting.  No amount of tap-dancing can change that fact.”

            You might as well be calling the police or the judicial system a result of free markets.  Which one of us is tap dancing?  There is no such thing as a market absent private property, and from where could ownership possibly stem if not from the self?  I cannot make contractual arrangements about property I do not own because contracts presuppose property rights.  You’re putting the cart before the horse.  The institution of slavery is antithetical to that of the free market.

          • 3H

            And you are fooling yourself.   Slavery was not antithetical to a free market, it was antithetical to the moral sensibilities of a every growing number of people – most of them in the North.  The Free Market didn’t care that slaves were actually people who had the freedom stripped from them.  The Free Market treated them as a commodity.  Markets don’t have the ability to reason, or make moral judgments.  You’re giving magical powers  to something that has no sentience. 

            Free Markets, and Capitalism, simply have no moral foundation other than what the actors bring to it. 

          • Causalrealist

            You’re mixing up “trade” and “free trade”/”free market.  Trade is an action or a process.  Free trade/market is an ideology founded on private property which stems from self-ownership and the non-aggression principle.  Obviously slavery violates both self-ownership and the non-aggression principle.

          • 3H

            I’m not confusing them at all.  I’m talking about markets – willing buyers and willing sellers.

            There is nothing in a free market system that discounts aggression.  That is an added feature that has nothing to do with Capitalism.Capitalism is an economic system – not a system of morality or ethics.

          • Steve Buckstein

            3H, when talking about the morality of capitalism, I am
            talking about the system, not the specific goods or services being traded. Sorry if you found my argument simplistic, but I chose not to discuss all the specific trades of clearly immoral goods and services.

            Of course slavery is evil, immoral and should not be tolerated in any society,
            but slave trading in a capitalist system doesn’t make that system itself immoral.

            Want to discuss buying and selling the services of hired killers? How about the protection racket? Blackmail? I think most here will see these as getting off the subject of this post, just as slavery is off the subject.

          • 3H

            You can’t separate the two and pretend the system is somehow separate from the use.  If that system allows for both moral and immoral purposes, and the system itself makes for no distinction, that system by definition is amoral.  You are creating an artificial division that does not exist in the real world, and you are akin to the Wizard of Oz…  don’t look behind the curtain.

            I am directly on point, my example is valid, and you wish to dismiss it because you can’t reconcile the two without pretending that some how they exist apart from each other.

            There simply is no morality in an exchange Steve.  Neither good nor bad.  Intent upon the part of those doing the exchange, and the nature of the commodity or service determines the morality.

          • Steve Buckstein

            Perhaps I didn’t make clear that I don’t presume capitalist exchanges themselves to be moral. It’s the system of voluntary exchange, as opposed to coercive transactions, that I presume to be moral.

          • 3H

            But, again, you can’t separate the exchange from what is being exchanged.  Without something a good, or service or commodity, there is no exchange.  Simply because it is voluntary doesn’t make it moral.  You can argue that it is a step above involuntary exchanges… but you can’t came it is moral simply because it is voluntary.  Free will is not moral in of itself, it is what you do with Free Will, the actions taken under the aegis of Free Will that can be described as moral or immoral.  Free Will is neutral.  So is Capitalism.

      • 3H

        I misspoke above, which should clear some confusion.  I didn’t mean to say that Capitalism was immoral.. I meant to claim that it is amoral.  I was running a little ahead in my argument in my head.  😉

  • Ladywriter

    I agree with Pat. These rich people make me sick. They have more than they need and I have nothing. Lucky for me the dems make them give me some of what they have, although not enough for a good life.

    • Guest

      Hang in there, Lady!  If there are enough people who think that selling a human being against his will represents an example of a “voluntary exchange” you might get your yacht and European vacation yet!  Stupidity appears to be on the rise.

  • Brad Williams

    Capitalism is the social system based on individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned.  The world has not seen anything remotely resembling capitalism for over 100 years (in the 19th century US), and that is why society is now regressing despite the wonders of our science and technology.

    The US today is and has long-been a welfare-regulatory state — and it is government power which allowed the poor and middle class to be robbed blind by those who had access to political power (my favorite example is Paulson).  Deregulation is a myth.  Bush deregulated nothing.  The housing bubble was caused, and would not have been possible without:  the Fed, FHA, the GSE’s, etc.  Thousands of pages have been written about the mechanics of what happened, it is not up for debate that the bubbles were caused by government power being bought and sold.

    Since government power over the economy, over every individual’s ability to produce and keep what you earn, is the fundamental problem, the solution is hardly to attack the most productive people, the capitalists, especially bankers.  *Capital* — large resources of the means of production — is exactly what makes the modern economy possible.  It is what makes this computer so inexpensive, a miracle no one had 20 years ago.  Without capital the only life possible is subsistence, and there are 5,000 years of history proving this.  Keep in mind that most of us, myself included, although we may have some *consumer goods* (houses and cars) we have little to no *capital goods*, and without the actual capitalists and their great businesses we would be all be very busy trying not to starve.

    The solution is to rediscover capitalism, which means in part:  a government which has NO power over the economy to sell to the highest bidder, which means a separation of state and economics, based on the principle of individual rights:  that each individual should be free to pursue his or her own happiness by his or her own judgment, without threat of force from others, especially from a rights-violating government.

    • 3H

      “…that each individual should be free to pursue his or her own happiness by his or her own judgment, without threat of force from others, especially from a rights-violating government.”

      What happens when that happiness causes misery to others?   What if in pursuing my happiness I pollute the water of my neighbors.  What if in pursing my happiness I adulterate the quality of the food supply and poison consumers hundreds of miles away?  What if my happiness is based upon not caring about the consequences of my actions on people I’ll never meet?   What happens if I am so big that I can influence the press, spin the facts, make it so there is always doubt?  

      If you want to decrease the size of government, then decrease the size of business as well.  You would be incredibly naive to think that big government is the only threat to your freedoms.  

      By the way, quite a bit has been written about the role of finance in the recent bubble.  To blame it all on government is to buy into the propaganda coming from Wall Street that there wouldn’t have been any problem if they had just been left on their own.   

      • Brad Williams

        “What happens when that happiness causes misery to others?”  This is the Big Lie in the history of ethics: the notion that one man pursuing his interests is, as such, exploitative.  Bernie Madoff is a good example of the truth:  that those who truly exploit are not acting in their own interest and do not achieve happiness.  And to the point, Madoff was the opposite of a capitalist.
        If someone pollutes water or poisons food, then he’s a criminal. And that is a different thing from being a businessman.  Saying that they are the same thing doesn’t make it so.Your wish for smaller businesses would actually, in reality, mean less wealth in the marketplace, which would mean everything would cost more and jobs would pay less.

        • 3H

          Historically speaking, why do you think there is a FDA, a Clean Water act, a Clean Air Act?  Why do you think there are OSHA requirements?   A Mine Safety Act?  Those weren’t created in a vacuum.  Quite often they followed egregious acts by businesses and individuals.  

          Are you against all regulations, or just the ones you don’t like?  Do you truly believe that State should not be involved in the economy? 
           
          I didn’t say it was my wish, I’m simply saying that shrinking government, and not business, is going to mean that corporations will be able to do as they please.

          • Brad Williams

            Regulations (preemptive laws) are the outlawing of certain actions, not because they hurt anyone, but because *sometimes* they precede (not cause, note) other actions which *are* destructive.  The effect is that a growing collection of perfectly harmless actions are outlawed.  If you don’t believe me, try to start a business.  I think that all that is necessary is to outlaw *actual* violations of rights. A strong government that does ONLY this would be empowered to protect us from criminals.

            Why are regulations created? I don’t know the history, but I think very generally it’s because people have been fooled into believing that force (physical compulsion) is practical.  News events prove otherwise.  BTW for anyone who wants an objective history of capitalism especially the 19th century, I recommend _The Capitalist Manifesto_ by Andrew Bernstein.

          • None

            You didn’t answer 3H’s question, Brad.

            Should dumping toxic chemicals in rivers be allowed or outlawed?

            Should dumping toxic chemicals in the air be allowed or outlawed?

            Should unsafe work environments be allowed or outlawed?

            You wrote “If someone pollutes water or poisons food, then he’s a criminal.” But it’s the actions of GOVERNMENT that make those actions criminal.

          • Brad Williams

            In pure capitalism all property would be privately owned, and violating the property rights of others would be illegal.  “Unsafe work environments” is the only one I’d say is ambiguous in your list, whether or not a given example would in fact be a violation of rights — and not just the arbitrary conclusion of an OSHA inspector that something could “lead to” a dangerous situation.  There needs to be an objective standard (of illegality), and in a capitalist society that standard would be: violation of rights through initiation of physical force (or fraud).

          • valley person

            Would I have a property right to breathe clean air and drink clean water? 

          • None

            Here’s an example. Should mine safety be addressed more substantially than it is, since we have recent examples of workers dying in mine accidents.

            Mines are inherently unsafe, but what is the responsibility of the mine owner to make it as safe as possible?

            What rights do the miners have to a safe work environment? Does the fact that areas with mining often have little else in the way of jobs to offer factor in any way?

          • 3H

            “Against the law” means government intrusion into the economic system.  Like it or not.

            What if I pour toxic sludge on my property.. set up a pit, pour it in.  It now leeches into the ground water.  I’m doing what I want with my property, right?

            No laws against child labor?  

            You don’t seem to understand that “against the law” is just another way of saying, “regulation”.

          • Brad Williams

            As I’ve mentioned, regulations are *preemptive* laws, which means they outlaw action X not because X hurts anybody, but because someone has decided that action X is sometimes followed by action Y which does hurt somebody.  For example, “public” businesses have to do their accounting in a certain way — not because every other form of accounting constitutes fraud, but because somebody decided there would be less fraud with this restriction.  The net effect?  There are over 75,000 pages in the Federal Registry limiting the liberty of perfectly innocent citizens. In objective law only actual fraud etc would be criminalized.

    • valley person

      Trick question Brad. In the 19th century, when capitalism reigned and all property was private, who executed the Louisiana Purchase?

      • Brad Williams

        Reread, I did not say 19th century US was pure capitalism. But it was damn close after the war, and a time of unprecendented growth.

        • 3H

          And unprecedented corruption.  You think there’s corruption now?  Take a good look at the Gilded Age.  If you want to return to the era, good luck to you.   Many of us are not willing to put our lives in the hands of corporate oligarchs.

          • Brad Williams

            I have study the Inventive Age, yes there was some corruption but nothing like today.  It was primarily an age of prosperity, of an almost unbelievable outpouring of ingenuity in solving the problems of scarcity.  Millions came to the US penniless and flourished, they were not exploited.  I’m sorry but your college professors lied to you.

          • 3H

            No..  I don’t think you’ve studied that period.  I’m afraid that your understanding of history is colored by your ideology.  Yes, it was a period of great inventiveness… but there as great corruption as well.  I’m sorry that you can’t see it for what it was. 

          • Causalrealist

            People are corruptible.  Therefore, we need a government made up of corruptible people to wield all sorts of arbitrary powers over us?

          • 3H

            There’s an irony there isn’t there.  Until we come up with a better system that answer would be yes.  That, hopefully, is what the press, or bloggers, are for.  Pointing out the corruption.  

            You can put your trust in corporations and businesses to do the right thing (most do, most of the time). However, history provides way too many examples of private individuals and organizations (including reputable people and organizations) doing harmful things for short-term gain.

          • Causalrealist

            Thanks for proving my point.

          • 3H

            Not at all my friend, it’s all in the checks and balances.  Remove Government, and there is one fewer potential check against greedy individuals harming others.   It is not perfect. Nor would I say it is.  

            LOL..as far as I can tell, you don’t have a point anymore.  

          • Causalrealist

            You might want to reconsider who the entity possessing a monopoly on the use of force is “checking.”  Here’s a hint: it’s not the 1%.

          • None
          • Brad Williams

            Getting off topic, but personally I think many such banking panics were the result of fractional reserve banking, in which banks loaned out more money than they have on deposit, which should be identified as fraud.

        • valley person

          Here is what you wrote:

          “Capitalism is the social system based on individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned.  The world has not seen anything remotely resembling capitalism for over 100 years (in the 19th century US)…

          That certainly sounds like you think the 19th century US was eiher pure capitalism or close to it.

          With due respect Brbad, you seem to have a rather romantic view of that era. I’ll leave it at that.  

          • Brad Williams

            The Inventive Age, stretching a little into the 20th century, gave the masses for the first time in history access to inexpensive:  oil; steel; rail; and electricity.  Agriculture (food production) was revolutionized, cameras invented, cars mass produced, telephones installed, and sanitation improved.  That’s the thumbnail sketch.  By the end of the period, life looked nothing like it had looked just 50 years before.  And each of these industries was pushed forward, if not outright invented, mainly by a few individuals, acting with a level of freedom that we do not have today.

          • valley person

            You need to broaden your thinking Brad.

            The green revolution in agriculture, cell phones, computers, the internet, solar and wind energy, jet engines, rocket ships, nuclear power, and a lot else came to us from the mid 20th century to the present, much courtesy of government creation or investment, or invention by individuals educated at government supported schools.

            Every new invention or innovation stands on the shoulders of what came before, including the physical and intellectual infrastructure that the inventor found him or herself standing on. 

  • Tom Trosko

    I love North Korea.  This is the place to be in life.  No worries about what to do?  Don’t have to worry about were to go out to eat, or what to buy at the store?  You don’t have to worry about much of anything because all is so wonderful in this country, all countries should do everything they can to be just like North Korea.  For all you haters who say North Korea is bad, try going their and seeing the massive wealth, fat people (got to love fat people), cool cheap places to travel without fear of being shot, and lots of cheap goods you can purchase in lots of different types of stores.  Stores are everywhere in North Korea, people are so well taken care of.  Look at google earth and see it at night, got to love the extra bright lights from the controlled economy.  Please go occupy North Korea, have them bring their system here, asap, please go now!

    • 3H

      So those are our only options?  What we have now or North Korea?  Really?   You have a very limited imagination my friend.  

      But your main point would be, don’t try and make things better, go somewhere else instead.  You really don’t understand democracy, do you?

    • None

      Tell you what, Tom, if you don’t like government, you’re free to move to Somalia. Let me know how it works out.

      • Causalrealist

        Can Tom make arrangements to move to Somalia absent government coercion?  No.  Renunciating citizenship requires government approval, and even then the government may continue to extract taxes under certain conditions.  To that extent, Tom is coerced into remaining where he is.  Moreover, there are countless costs and risks involved in any decision to move.  What sort of dictator would inflict his preferences on Tom, under the guise that it’s in his best interest?  To more fully understand the ‘move to Somalia or shut up’ fallacy, let’s draw an analogy: “When slavery was legal, each and every slave, finding themselves discontent, should have immediately run away, regardless of the costs or the risks.  Any slave that did not immediately run away should have shut up, refrained from attempts to improve the situation and instead embraced the institution of slavery.”  But in what way is the defense of slavery reasonable?

        Moreover, Somalia is a failed state.  Note the word ‘state’.  ‘State’ implies government.  The situation in Somalia is the result of government failure.  That being said, most measures of well-being have improved significantly in the period following government collapse.

        • None

          1. He doesn’t have to renounce his citizenship to move to a different country.

          2. It’s not renouncing citizenship that requires government approval, it’s entering the other country that requires government approval, aka a visa. Yes, that can be a challenge to acquire when the government is barely functioning.

          3. Yes, Somalia is a failed state, thus the LACK of a functioning government. So, what happens when there’s no functioning government? Those with might (such as warlords) fill in the gap and gain control. Be my guest to move to such a place, if you can, but don’t try to turn my country into such a place.

          • Causalrealist

            “1. He doesn’t have to renounce his citizenship to move to a different country.”

            Without renouncing citizenship, he is still effectively ‘owned’ by the U.S. government and subject to taxation.  And conveniently ignoring my analogy does not count as a refutation.

            “3. Yes, Somalia is a failed state, thus the LACK of a functioning
            government. So, what happens when there’s no functioning government?
            Those with might (such as warlords) fill in the gap and gain control.”

            Way to completely ignore my point that most measures of well-being have improved since the government failed.  Try explaining that one.

            “Be
            my guest to move to such a place, if you can, but don’t try to turn my
            country into such a place.””

            You imply that greatly-reducing the government in the U.S. is the same thing as creating the present situation in Somalia.  One, this is a false comparison.  Comparing failed-state Somalia to a
            hypothetical future U.S. in which the government has been willfully
            rolled back under accepted principles are completely different things.  The appropriate method would be to compare Somalia prior to government failure with Somalia post-government failure.  And again, most measures of well-being have improved.

            Two, your argument necessarily relies on historical determinism, which fully rejects the fact that human action involves choice.  Clearly people in the U.S. would choose their own path given their own unique circumstances relative to those in Somalia.

            And suggesting that I would try to turn the U.S. into Somalia is a straw man.

            Since when is the U.S. your country?  Let’s see your property title?

          • valley person

            Somalia has government. What it lacks is an effective national, or central  government. It has a rural, clan based society that has all sorts of rules and traditions enforced along blood lines. In urban areas it also has militias, checkpoints, and a lot of arbitrary “justice.” Not a great model, but maybe not tons worse than living under Idi Amin as one example.

            People have always had “government” and always will. Any 2 people will need enforceable rules of behavior. 

            ” Comparing failed-state Somalia to a
            hypothetical future U.S. in which the government has been willfully
            rolled back under accepted principles are completely different things. ”

            What accepted principles? Accepted by whom? How?

          • Causalrealist

            “Somalia has a government.”  Show me where I argued otherwise.

            The United States has government. What it lacks is an effective world government.  The absurdity of this statement should be obvious.
            “People have always had “government” and always will. Any 2 people will need enforceable rules of behavior.”

            Not true.  Several examples exist.  There was essentially no government for a time in the “Wild West.”  People made voluntary arrangements regarding property rights and private arbitration.  It is also interesting to note that crime was lower prior to the before government was established.  Celtic Ireland is another example.

            https://mises.org/journals/jls/3_1/3_1_2.pdf

            See page 3- https://mises.org/journals/lf/1971/1971_04.pdf

            “What accepted principles? Accepted by whom? How?”

            We’re talking about a hypothetical scenario which differs markedly from that of the Somali-scenario.  That is the point.  Who specifically is involved or which principles are ultimately adhered to is irrelevant.

          • valley person

            You wrote: Moreover, Somalia is a failed state.  Note the word ‘state’.  ‘State’
            implies government.  The situation in Somalia is the result of
            government failure.  That being said, most measures of well-being have
            improved significantly in the period following government collapse.”

            The implication is certainly that there is no government there.

            “There was essentially no government for a time in the “Wild West.”

            Maybe that is the John Wayne image, but its completely wrong. The west was settled via the several homestead acts (government) and the homesteaders had protection from the Indians by the military. Local communities immediately formed and created among other things, irrigation districts, because in the west without water you are farming dust. 

            Celtic Ireland was governed through the clan system. It may be a type of governance you don’t understand, tradition-based versus written constitution, but it was certainly governance.

            Yeah, I get that it was hypothetical. I was asking for you to flesh out your hypothetical. I’m wondering how you propose that Americans disengage ourselves from our government. Is this done democratically or in some other way?

          • Causalrealist

            “The implication is certainly that there is no government there.”

            The implication is certainly where?  Failed government does not equal no government.

            “The west was settled via the several homestead acts (government) and the
            homesteaders had protection from the Indians by the military. Local
            communities immediately formed and created among other things,
            irrigation districts, because in the west without water you are farming
            dust. ”

            Way to ignore the paper.

            “Celtic Ireland was governed through the clan system. It may be a type of
            governance you don’t understand, tradition-based versus written
            constitution, but it was certainly governance.”

            That’s like saying a private security firm is the same as a government police force.  Nice try.

            “Yeah, I get that it was hypothetical. I was asking for you to flesh out
            your hypothetical. I’m wondering how you propose that Americans
            disengage ourselves from our government. Is this done democratically or
            in some other way?”

            Ever heard of the 10th amendment or nullification?

          • valley person

            “That’s like saying a private security firm is the same as a government police force”

            No, its saying there are different forms of government. A clan based system is the historic norm of human government, way predating constitutional governments.

            “Ever heard of the 10th amendment or nullification?”

            Yes. That doesn’t answer the question. What about the 10th amendment? What about nullification? How does either or both of these result in an orderly  disengagement from our government?

            And I stress orderly.

        • 3H

          I think you missed the sarcasm in the “move to somalia or shut-up” comment.

          “That being said, most measures of well-being have improved significantly in the period following government collapse.

          Really, do you have a reference for that, or some indication of what improved?

          Do you think that most people’s lives would improve if we shut down all levels of government tomorrow?

          • None

            I actually didn’t tell anyone to “shut up”, I was just pointing out that if they so much want to live somewhere with no government, there is such a place.

          • 3H

            Yeah, that was a whole other level of discussion.  :/

          • Causalrealist

            “if you don’t like government, you’re free to move to Somalia.”  The comment implies that there is no room for debate.

          • 3H

            I think that was irony and sarcasm.  Not a real invitation.  

          • None

            I was responding to Tom’s post that seemed to equate all government involvement in the economy with North Korea.

            I notice that you haven’t said a single word about how ridiculous Tom’s post is.

            And the truth is, the libertarian ideal ends up much closer to Somalia than the liberal ideal ends up like North Korea.

            LIbertarians talk a lot about “coercive economic systems”, yet are blind to the coercion that results from power and capital being held by too few hands.

            Look at the company towns that we used to have in this country, where workers were no paid in U.S. currency, but in company scrip.

            Look at industries where there once were many small companies, now there are only a few large ones. 

            In New England, CVS was buying up other pharmacies, and firing all pharmacists who had previously worked for CVS, but quit to work for another company. 

            Libertarians talk about “well, if you don’t like your job, go find another one,” but if people are getting fired for having done that, then it has a chilling effect.

          • Causalrealist

            Tom’s post is clearly sarcastic.  Yours isn’t.

            “And the truth is, the libertarian ideal ends up much closer to Somalia than the liberal ideal ends up like North Korea.”

            As usual, that’s not an argument.

            “LIbertarians talk a lot about “coercive economic systems”, yet are blind
            to the coercion that results from power and capital being held by too
            few hands.”

            Another straw man.  Big surprise.

            “Look at the company towns that we used to have in this country, where
            workers were no paid in U.S. currency, but in company scrip.”

            Were these people forced to live there?  If so, that’s not a free market… but it is an error in reasoning deriving from your previous straw man.

            “Look at industries where there once were many small companies, now there are only a few large ones. ”

            Monopoly can be problematic, to be sure.  However, a few large firms is not the same thing as a monopoly.  Furthermore, correlation is not causation, and it does not necessarily follow that the existence of a few large industries in place of several small ones is harmful.  If having several small ones necessitates the use of force to break up firms which succeeded through voluntary, mutually-agreed upon transactions, then you’re digging yourself a hole.  It should also be noted that most monopolistic scenarios result from government privilege.  To that end, it’s always funny to point out that government is the biggest monopoly there is.  But that’s different, right?

            “In New England, CVS was buying up other pharmacies, and firing all
            pharmacists who had previously worked for CVS, but quit to work for
            another company. 

            Libertarians talk about “well, if you don’t
            like your job, go find another one,” but if people are getting fired for
            having done that, then it has a chilling effect.”

            That is shady, indeed.  But wouldn’t that negatively reflect on the reputation of CVS and subsequently increase the compensation required to attract the finest employees while simultaneously disenchanting consumers, thus reducing the firm’s competitiveness?  Indeed it would.  However, where does their money come from?  England has a government medical system.  I would not believe for a second that CVS operates in a free market.  I guarantee CVS receives benefits from the government, whether it be direct or indirect subsidies, tax breaks, any combination of various anti-competition regulations or other such monopolistic privileges.  That being said, this is yet another false comparison.

          • valley person

            “Were these people forced to live there?  If so, that’s not a free market…”

            No they weren’t forced to. They just had no other realistic options. Capitalism includes very uneven power relationships. Free market fundamentalists create an abstract world where all exchanges are among equals, yet reality is that as often as not, the exchange is between unequals. So we get 10 year old kids working in mines, we get miners working in unsafe conditions, and there isn’t much they can do except unionize or get laws changed. And even here they are disadvantaged because the mine owners money buys political influence way beyond the number of voters in the mine owners family.

            What present day fre market fundamentalists remind me of is the communists of my youth.  Always talking about their great theories, utterly oblivious to lifes realities.  

          • None

            “‘LIbertarians talk a lot about “coercive economic systems”, yet are blind
            to the coercion that results from power and capital being held by too 
            few hands.'”

            “Another straw man.  Big surprise.”

            Do you even know what a straw man argument is? It appears from this that you don’t, unless you are denying that libertarians talk a lot about “coercive economic systems.”

            That’s odd, because Mr. Buckstein used that exact phrase, and a number of commenters supporting the libertarian side here, including you, used some form of the word “coercion” to describe government involvement in the economy.

          • Causalrealist
  • Ladywriter

    The USA is light years ahead of any other country in separating the wealthy from the poor. It should be ashamed.

  • Democracy used to have a bad name. Anti-Federalists called the proposed constitution democratic as an insult. James Madison committed a lot of Federalist Paper ink trying to convince people that our constitution was intentionally undemocratic. 

    When they heard the word “democracy” Federalists and Anti-Federalists alike thought of the corrupt, unstable government of Athens that blew up in the 5th century BCE, not the romanticized immage of ourselves that we conjure up today as a relic of Cold War propaganda. What I find interesting is that the OWS movement shares Madison’s distrust for democracy. 

    I have spent a lot of time with Occupy Portland and have taken considerable time studying primary sources about the movement nationally to research my book that will be coming out next year. The leaders of this movement will not even call themselves leaders out of a recognition that every progressive political movement that has preceded them in history has merely replaced the will to profit with the will to power. They are very conscious of the fact that Lenin’s model had its 1%, our New Deal had its 1%, and Obama has his 1% as well. 

    So what have they offered to deal with this problem? They hold themselves to a decision making process that they believe is a model for political reform. Foundational to their new vision is the principal of 90% consensus decision making. They are even more willing to place friction on the political process to prevent a tyranny of the majority than James Madison was. Contrast this with the progressive movement of the first decade of the last century that sought to remove Madisonian principles of gridlock so that simple majority rule could pass long-sought reforms. 

    The professional left has embraced OWS, but the degree to which it has been unrequited love has been remarkable. These kids were very happy to have SEIU pay for their food, but that did not stop them from identifying SEIU as part of the problem. I have sat in on many General Assemblies, and have been amazed to hear these kids reject the progressive establishment in such a Madisonian way. The degree to which they recognize The Oregon Bus Project, the AFL-CIO, and the Democratic Party as mere factions seeking to transfer advantages to a different set of patrons is remarkable. That they share many policy goals with each other is not the point; central to OWS has been the inherent corruption of government. 

    While they are very critical of capitalism; few people look closely enough at how critical OWS is of democracy as well. As we who are older would expect, these young people are having all manner of problems getting anything done with this 90% threshold. They have learned to fudge it at times and since the break up of their camp it has spawned the splintering into different groups so that like-minded people can reach consensus with each other. 

    Eventually they will all have to make a choice as to which form of inequality they want: inequality caused by the government’s distribution of resources or the inequality of the market’s distribution of resources. Since this latest generation of progressives is so heavily influenced by an anarchic political philosophy that focuses on the inherent corruption of government itself, it is very possible that many of them will mature into a limited government position recognizing that it is inequality that is amoral and that the coercive power of the state taints the moral status of social transactions with its use of force. 

    • valley person

      “Eventually they will all have to make a choice as to which form of
      inequality they want: inequality caused by the government’s distribution
      of resources or the inequality of the market’s distribution of
      resources.”

      Oh I don’t know Eric. There may be more than 2 choices available. They could create a new path that reforms government AND limits market based inequality. Its not like every idea for organizing society has already been invented.  

      I’m trying to puzzle out your last sentence. They might “mature” into a limited government position because they recognize inequality as amoral? In other words, they will simply become libertarians if they think about it enough?

      If that is your thesis, I don’t think you are right. I think free market libertarianism is the antithesis of what OWS supporters are about at their core. And you don’t mature out of your core.

      I’ll offer a different take.  I think that for whatever reasons, a large group of young, mostly well educated Americans have figured out they are getting screwed by the system. And the system in this case includes both government AND big bidness (as Molly Ivans used to call it).  They are looking for answers while they are creating a ruckus. Their sentiment is progressive, so in the end whatever program they settle on is likely to be progressive, meaning reformist towards greater equity.

      They are bound to make a lot of mistakes along the way. But God bless them for trying. Passivity was getting them nowhere but further behind.    

    • valley person

      “Eventually they will all have to make a choice as to which form of
      inequality they want: inequality caused by the government’s distribution
      of resources or the inequality of the market’s distribution of
      resources.”

      Oh I don’t know Eric. There may be more than 2 choices available. They could create a new path that reforms government AND limits market based inequality. Its not like every idea for organizing society has already been invented.  

      I’m trying to puzzle out your last sentence. They might “mature” into a limited government position because they recognize inequality as amoral? In other words, they will simply become libertarians if they think about it enough?

      If that is your thesis, I don’t think you are right. I think free market libertarianism is the antithesis of what OWS supporters are about at their core. And you don’t mature out of your core.

      I’ll offer a different take.  I think that for whatever reasons, a large group of young, mostly well educated Americans have figured out they are getting screwed by the system. And the system in this case includes both government AND big bidness (as Molly Ivans used to call it).  They are looking for answers while they are creating a ruckus. Their sentiment is progressive, so in the end whatever program they settle on is likely to be progressive, meaning reformist towards greater equity.

      They are bound to make a lot of mistakes along the way. But God bless them for trying. Passivity was getting them nowhere but further behind.    

    • Steve Buckstein

      Thanks for the interesting perspective, Eric. I too have taken note of the Occupier’s distrust of majority rule. I therefore found it rather odd that the first (only?) general assembly of Occupy PSU (on Nov. 16th) spent much of its time in the rain discussing whether to abandon the 90% consensus model and go for a simple majority model on the grounds that, being college students yah know, their time was too valuable to waste it trying to reach consensus on anything.

      • valley person

        Its a myth that they are all college students Steve. The one detailed survey of OWS suggests most are working people, with about the same proportion of college grads as the population at large. Students are a minority.

        But consensus decision making is very slow and tedious. Been there done that.

        • Steve Buckstein

          My comment above was just about Occupy PSU (Portland State University), which I believe was composed primarily of PSU college students, and a few of their professors.

    • 3H

      I wouldn’t say they are critical of democracy, since they practice it at a more pure level.  They are critical of a representative democracy where a monied elite can use their wealth to thwart the voice of many.  They are not republican in nature.  The very nature of how they vote and come to consensus is not Madisonian in the least.

      There is a middle ground, by the way.  Some free market, some governmental interference.   What I think they want to see, is that the interests of the 1% not take precedence.  That the 1% not have a near monopoly over the political process and the ability to bend it to their will to the detriment of the community as a whole.

  • Ladywriter

    I would doubt most occupiers could even read what you wrote below much less understand it.

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