Instead of Occupying Wall Street, Occupy A Book

Posted on October 7, 2011. Filed under: Culture, Economics, Government, In the News, Money | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Day 3 Occupy Wall Street 2011 Shankbone 7

Image by david_shankbone via Flickr

Perhaps I’m missing something. I just can’t seem to understand what the Occupy Wall Street protest is all about. I’ve seen signs protesting global warming, genetically altered food, corporate greed, loans that leave people in ‘slavery’ (here’s a tip, don’t take out the loan), unfair wages, high healthcare costs, corporate cronyism and of course, social injustice. While there are a few odd-ball request, it seems like these groups are really just have a beef with “the rich” (see the “We are the 99%” signs). But this assumes a lot – namely that if the rich have, we don’t have, and if the rich are better off, the middle class and poor are worse off. You know what they say about assumptions…

“Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way” (Prov 19:2). Translated, acting on raw emotion without facts probably won’t end too well for anyone. That’s how Christ was crucified. So, are the middle class and poor doomed? Are we all just pawns in a corporate game? Should we bring out the guillotines?

The problem with looking at statistical data of the rich bracket and poor bracket from one year and comparing it to another, is that this assumes the people within those groups are the same, or it ignores what economists call “income mobility.” IRS and Census data shows that people in the bottom 20% of income earners in 1996 had their incomes increase 91% by 2005. At the same time, the top 1% of income earners or what we’d all consider the “very rich,” had their income decrease by 26% over the same period. The same US Treasury data also shows only 25% of those in the top 1% of income earners in 1996 were still there in 2005.

Another problem with the “rich are getting richer” argument is that it also ignores that the standard of living for everyone is going up, not down. For example, in 1971, only 1% of households had a microwave and only 43.3% had a color television. Compare that to 2005 when 91.2% of those living under the poverty line had a microwave and 97.4% had a color television. I’d argue that those commodities are also a lot nicer, smaller, and more efficient in 2005 than those produced in 1971 too. Wouldn’t you rather be poor in 2005 than middle class in 1971?

I remember one of my economics professors in college talking about wealth as a pizza. He argued that politicians usually refer to the pizza as a fixed size, but wealth doesn’t work that way. Capitalism, while not perfect, can make the pizza larger and increase the quality of the pizza at the same time. If someone asked if you want 1 piece of option A or 2 pieces from option B, you should ask how large the pizzas are before you answer.

So, why would so many people instantaneously say “2, that way you have less”? One, they are ignorant with too much time on their hands. Two, they are giving into one of our most basic of human desires: coveting. Doesn’t matter how good we have it if someone else has is better.

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. You shall not set your desire on your neighbor’s house or land, his manservant or maidservant, his ox or his donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor” (Deut 5:21). Isn’t most of this just nomadic Hebrew for “don’t covet your neighbor’s wealth”? It isn’t morally right, and really doesn’t make too much logical sense either.

(For those interested, Learn Liberty did a short on this very topic: here)


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2 Responses to “Instead of Occupying Wall Street, Occupy A Book”

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depends on how the wealth was acquired… terrible if it was off someone else’s expense.

Those who gain their wealth through a free market can only acquire it through consent. The government is the only place where you can force people to pay for a product they don’t want.

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