My response to Andi’s Questions

Andi concluded his comments on my last post by asking me these questions, which I will now try to answer.

Whether protests are morally right or wrong, is difficult. What do you think about the following questions?:

Can a protest really influence decisions that there are fair outcomes for everybody? Or is it only a way to highlight unfair procedures?

I have no utopian vision of a world where everyone has a just outcome. It’s not going to happen. Life is messy and many things unfair. However, governments and economies are man made creations and there is no natural law governing them only numerical limitations, so if outcomes are produced by men those outcomes can be changed by men.

Income inequality only reached this level over many years and as a result of many changes both international and purely domestic. So, what can be changed in one direction can be moved into another.

Change is possible.

Now, can the protestors generate any change in the philosophy of the marketplace. Yes,

Over the last 150 years two basic philosophies have run through American Business. The first set is based on Christianity. It’s most pure economic form is the Social Gospel. This continues to the modern day with parallel visions like Marxism which is essentially an economic religion.

The second set is Social Darwinism. Herbert Spencer will be its prophet and it may very well have culminated philosophically with Milton Friedman. Edmund Spencer took the survival of the fittest concept from Darwin. Milton Friedman added Darwin’s concept of natural selection, that is, the process of evolution must not be interfered with to favor the weak.

These have fluctuated in power and influence. Currently, the debate leans very heavily in the direction of free market fundamentalism, the Chicago School of Economics.

What effect can the Wall Street Protests have?

First, they shift the discussion. For most of the previous year, the public was assailed with tales of the dangers of deficit spending, a discussion focus of the American beltway elites but a subject with precious little importance to the great mass of Americans.

Second, it makes the wealthy and the beltway elites uncomfortable. The disdain and over reactions from the right wing media are palpable. You have to understand that in this country, the wealthy are insulated from virtually any criticism. Over the last forty years wealth has become a sign of virtue in many circles. They live in world where the media idealizes them, where the government is an ally which takes their needs seriously and where the lower classes are discussed as overpaid, lazy, fat and lacking initiative. To hear a contrary dialogue is to them astonishing. Let them be astonished.

Third, and most critical, the movement is laying the groundwork for groups of citizens to follow, a template for action. This means that in the future when there is a policy placed before the public, these groups spawned by this political action will be able to present alternatives or start initiatives of their own. Policy battles that have been one-sides will become disputes where more than one point of view is heard.

James Pilant

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