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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/19838/has-the-occupy-movement-jumped-the-shark-or-a-few-things-to-occupy-your-time-while-you-occupy-the-ports/

Has The Occupy Movement Jumped the Shark? Or, A Few Things To Occupy Your Time While You Occupy the Ports

December 12, 2011 by

I’ve been intrigued by the Occupy movement and have written a number of articles and posts on it for Forbes and the Mises Blog. I see this as a teachable moment: a lot of people are angry, but their anger is misdirected. The problems that have them so exercised are the faults not of free markets, but of the rent-seeking society that, if I may be perfectly frank, they helped establish (Jason Brennan has more).

I learned earlier that today was “Occupy the Ports” day, with the goal of throwing “a wrench in the gears of the 1%” and “disrupt(ing) the economic machine that benefits the wealthiest individuals and corporations at the expense of the vast majority of the people of this planet.” After a quick scan of their website, my sense is that they aren’t offering a highly nuanced and sophisticated critique of the systematic distortions of international trade by special interests and their political allies. my sense is that they are opposed to international trade as such. My sense is that people are not as upset about the way incentives are distorted as they are about the fact that people respond to them.

If you’re rejecting a set of political institutions that have distorted the incentives to which people respond, that’s one thing. If you’re rejecting economics as a way of understanding the world, that’s something else entirely. As I wrote in this piece, “There are a lot of opinion leaders out there who are marketing very dangerous ideas–not dangerous in the ‘cool people speaking truth to power and threatening the establishment’ way, but dangerous in the ‘people will die if this vision is realized’ way.” Pretending that you can repeal the law of comparative advantage falls in the latter category.

Fortunately, this is a teachable moment. I just skimmed Manuel Ayau’s “Not A Zero-Sum Game: The Paradox of Exchange,” which can be downloaded for $0. I’ve done a handful of videos for the IHS LearnLiberty project. Three are on the basics of trade; the first one goes through an example of how trade creates wealth. One of my favorite pieces of popular economics is and always will be Paul Krugman’s “Ricardo’s Difficult Idea.” The chapter on international trade in Cowen and Tabarrok’s Modern Principles of Economics is excellent. Finally, two quotes are appropriate. Murray Rothbard writes for a lot of us:

It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a “dismal science.” But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance.

The second quote is from Ludwig von Mises, who writes with characteristic passion in chapter six of Epistemological Problems of Economics, titled “The Psychological Basis of the Opposition to Economic Theory“:

Scarcely anyone interests himself in social problems without being led to do so by the desire to see reforms enacted. In almost all cases, before anyone begins to study the science, he has already decided on definite reforms that he wants to put through. Only a few have the strength to accept the knowledge that these reforms are impracticable and to draw all the inferences from it. Most men endure the sacrifice of the intellect more easily than the sacrifice of their daydreams. They cannot bear that their utopias should run aground on the unalterable necessities of human existence. What they yearn for is another reality different from the one given in this world. They long for the “leap of humanity out of the realm of necessity and into the realm of freedom.” They wish to be free of a universe of whose order they do not approve.


John P. December 12, 2011 at 10:01 pm

The sad thing is most people like to make sure you know their thoughts on a given subject. I work in IT. I get people, who don’t know how the underlying technologies work, telling me what to do. It’s sad but true.

Active directory, you don’t need that shut it down. TCP connections, we are losing them. Slowness on the server, well it has to be the network. On and on and on.

Everyone thinks they’re the expert.

Art Carden December 12, 2011 at 10:24 pm

Doesn’t it just need more RAM?

RTB December 13, 2011 at 8:45 pm

Can’t you just go on the internet and download/run some program that’ll clean your machine right up?

Bomberfox December 12, 2011 at 10:20 pm

Somehow I was thinking the same thing when even a Ron Paul supporter among the OWS crowd was spreading the truth, but the article about closing the ports just leads me to believe that they are so stubborn about crushing the 1%, that they wont listen. It is blind “revolutionaries” like this crowd is what can lead to things like the french and bolshevik socialist “revolutions”…

Otto December 13, 2011 at 1:09 am

Hey, Art Carden “stole” my tweet this morning and used it in his headline. Seriously! @egohappyhour. Not that I mind though. Great minds do think alike, just like the great minds always say.

I sympathized with Occupy when they were protesting bank bailouts and then the police state after the park evictions. But port blockades at the behest of mostly white longshoremen (mostly white up here in Cascadia anyway) is jumping the shark. I’ve already moved on to man-crushing Tim Tebow.

Hard Rain December 13, 2011 at 4:39 am

Such notions were covered quite well in yesterday’s post of Mises’ “Reactionary Socialism”:

“They are socialists because they are blinded by envy and ignorance. They stubbornly refuse to study economics and spurn the economists’ devastating critique of the socialist plans because, in their eyes, economics, being an abstract theory, is simply nonsense.”


victor December 13, 2011 at 5:24 am

The media interests have scripted a storyline. Initially, many people were giving the OWS the benefit of the doubt as to what they stood for. It was important to let the dust settle. Now though, they are blocking trade. Their activities need to be addressed. Many people are dependent on shipping for their basic needs. The government regulations (Jones Act), union misbehavior, and now OWS hold-outs are increasing protectionism. Supporters of free markets must speak up against these bureaucrats and friction makers. They will make economic conditions around the globe worse, and not better. If I didn’t know better, I’d think they were trying to recreate the conditions of the Great Depression.

Dick Fox December 13, 2011 at 8:21 am

Art and everyone,

You are missing the most important reason OWS exists. It is an army of disruption just like the brown-shirts were for the Nazis. They cannot jump the shark because they do not seek acceptance. They only want to disrupt. All of the corruption, and crime, and filth serves their purpose.

Attempting to shut down the west coast ports is simply a continuation of the narrative. They can’t shut down the ports. They don’t have the manpower or the knowledge. But they can continue to build their nasty reputation.

So what is their endgame? In the summer and fall they will be taking on both the Tea Party and the Republican Party. Rallies will be nothing but chaos orchestrated by OWS. Opposition to Obama and the Democrats will be totally disrupted and those who would flood the streets in opposition to our government will remain home cowering in fear of the OWS trash.

Don’t be taken. OWS will also protest Obama and Democrats but it will always be to give them a chance to develop the narrative. The protests will be short followed by Obama or some Democrat lamenting that the Republicans have created a situation where these people have no other choice. It is all Wall Street and the rich Republican who are at fault.

The more filthy and ugly OWS, the more effective they will be in silencing middle class America.

Ryan December 13, 2011 at 12:06 pm

They long for the “leap of humanity out of the realm of necessity and into the realm of freedom.”

Anyone know who Mises was quoting here? Typically when he wrote like that, he was using the actual verbiage of another author.

Art Carden December 15, 2011 at 3:30 pm

It’s in the text; I didn’t reproduce the footnote in the quote above.

TwistedPolitix December 13, 2011 at 3:33 pm

I dont get the people who dont get OWS. We are protesting the kleptocracy, the corporate welfare, the predatory capitalism, the economic hitmen, the destruction of the middle class through covert inflation. We are NOT protesting REAL capitalism. The primary difference between the Tea Party and the Occupation (OWS) is that the Tea Party was primarily frustrated with government corruption and taxes. OWS is recognizing that the corporatocracy being created is NOT what our founders had intended, nor is it what modern middle Americans are seeking. The greatest barrier to rebuilding America is the 10% that defend the 1% not knowing they are destroying the 99%.

Glen Smith December 13, 2011 at 4:12 pm

Then why do most OWSers support an increase in those things that create these problems?

Geoffrey Allan Plauche December 15, 2011 at 10:16 am

49.7% of statistics are made up on the spot.

RTB December 13, 2011 at 8:49 pm

The blocking of the ports seems to be a stab at getting the support of the unions and the more or less conservative “Buy American” types.

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