The Corner

The Future of Occupy Wall Street

Yesterday, on NPR Diane Rehm had several Occupy movement guests and others to talk about the future of the movement. George Mason University’s Tyler Cowen makes many really good points during this interview. Here are a few:

COWEN: Well, the main question is inequality. But I think there are two fundamental contradictions in the Occupy Wall Street as a movement. The first is it points out correctly, politics is corrupt. But it then ought to conclude the solution is to limit the size of government. In fact, most of them want to increase the size of government, and that’s a contradiction. It’s not going to work. The second point is this distinction between 1 percent and the 99 percent.

Within the top 1 percent, there are people who are in wealth by producing it, like Steve Jobs, and then people who take it by predation or fraud. And that’s the important distinction. It’s about values. It’s about how you got your wealth and not how much you have.

REHM: But you really say there’s been so much talk about riches. You’re talking about values. Do you think that that ends up being a divisive message?

COWEN: I think it is. It gets people suspicious of wealth. I think that most wealth is earned. Most rich people are great. They are our benefactors of humanity and America. And the idea that you lump together with some number of financiers who have done bad things and call them the top 1 percent and pit them against everyone else, I think that’s exactly the wrong the message. The real message should be a lot of people get their wealth through politics. We should limit this. The way to do this is to limit the overall influence of politics over the American economy.

And later:

COWEN: Well, American companies have raised wages around the world, not lower them. But I would make a more basic point. The fundamental rule of current American politics is old people get their way. And that’s a lot of the future problem. I’d like to see more of a focus on that, on how old people are taking money from young people through especially Medicare. And rather than Occupy Wall Street, I’d say start with occupy the voting booth and idealistic young people. As long as they’re simply unwilling to ever vote for the other party, they don’t have any say. Old people get their way.

That’s the core problem. I don’t see it being addressed. Ask the Occupy Wall Street people. How many of you would consider voting for a Republican? I think you’ll get a very weak or even hostile response.

The whole thing is worth listening to. You will learn, for instance, that Occupy movement is planning to liberate houses:#more#

REHM:  But help me to understand how occupying the public park, perhaps annoying the neighbors, perhaps getting in the way of traffic, is going to bring people to your side. Wouldn’t it be more helpful, for example, if you were to try to help people stop foreclosures?

PREMO: Mm hmm. Yeah. That’s exactly the direction of the movement. The Occupy movement, both nationally and in New York City, is organizing for a national day of action, which will happen in early December around housing and foreclosures, where we will begin to organize coordinated eviction defenses as well as liberating foreclosed homes that have been taken through predatory and illegitimate lending practices.

REHM: Excuse me. How will you liberate those foreclosed homes?

PREMO: By putting families back in these homes. There are hundreds of thousands of homes throughout the country. There are, in fact, more homes than there are homeless people. And we will be putting families who have been evicted as well as people who are in need of homes back into these homes from which families have been evicted from and defending those — and defending the right of those people to have a home.

I am thinking that this will be interesting to watch.

Veronique de Rugy is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

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