Occupy Wall Street. Occupy Oakland. Occupy Ann Arbor.
Protesting national and international inequality, disproportional income distribution, and corporations. They’re marching, speaking, tweeting, blogging, and getting pepper sprayed. Just who do they think they are?
I know, I know. It’s easy to criticize.
The unemployed just need to study harder, cut their hair, get off Facebook, go to college, and they won’t have a problem competing in the global job market. Right?
OWS is on to something.
It’s easy to criticize. It’s easy to have an apathetic track record of participation. When I learn about the drastic global inequalities and the increasing intensity of a globally competitive job market, believe me, I study harder. But these protests came from somewhere. Most of the world is poor, but the rich are getting more riches instead of the poor. There is extreme inequality, and someone has to say enough is enough.
I’m not just saying this because I love the book V for Vendetta, because I am going to be graduating from a University with thousands of dollars in debt, or because I subscribe to the extremist magazine Adbusters. I’m saying this because I think the American people deserve better. I believe the world deserves better.
Let’s do a basic study in economics based on Chapter 3 of the book The Globalization Paradox by Dani Rodrick, “Why Doesn’t Everyone Get the Case for Free Trade?”, to see one of the problems.
This book focuses on the paradox between globalization and development vs. human rights and environmentalism. Here’s a re-phrased example from the book, an idea based on Henry Martyn’s Considerations Upon the East-India Trade. The lack of income redistribution.
Here’s a story problem:
You have 5 workers working on car door manufacturing in a factory in Flint, MI.
Option #1: Start using a robot. Now you only need 2 workers to do maintenance on the robot, building the car door. This leaves 3 workers to work on something else, something better.
Option #2: You export the job to Mexico creating 5 new employees, but in Mexico not Michigan. This leaves 5 workers in Flint to do something else, something better.
The flaw with this story problem is that that something else, something better, rarely comes into fruition. Instead of the money being re-distributed back to the ‘freed’ labor force, the money stays in the hands of the owners of the car door factory. This leaves the five people, unfortunately unemployed. But what about option # 3?
Option #3: Replace the people with robots, and re-distribute the money to the mechanics so they can work on something better, maybe even a white-collar job.
Unfortunately Option #1 and Option #2 already happened. This leaves a good chunk of unemployed, uneducated people, with no jobs left because the money is not trickling down.
This is worth protesting because a free market economy and innovation aren’t always holding hands. Too often the free-market economy chooses one leader to keep rich, and the rest to follow, trying to pick up anything the leaders might ‘trickle-down’.
To those saying America is blessed and in the 1% of the world, I believe you. You’re right. But the American system should be a model, but a system with the kind of income inequality we have doesn’t quite cut it.
Here’s what I’d like to see from the United States.
1. Higher Corporate Tax Rates. Because people are people and corporations aren’t.
2. US Demilitarization. I’d like to see money go towards textbooks instead of machine guns.
3. Stop forcing Free Trade Agreements. This helps investors, but it’s not helping the world.
4. Standards for work and environment. Because exploiting people’s labor and their national resources for our profit is wrong.
5. A change in the American dream. Because we’re fat, depressed, and spend money we don’t have on things we don’t need.
6. An increase in political participation. Read a book. Sign a petition. Get involved. Let’s work on solutions, not just the problems.
Here in Guatemala there hasn’t been an Occupy movement. I think it’s partly because there is a new president coming to power, partly the history of student repression, and partly because if there had been it would have been a lot of gringos. And it’s hard to know precisely what they are representing, but they’re on to something. I just hope they persevere until a leader arises to lead the movement, be taken seriously, and create a better world.
So here’s to you, OWS, because you have the guts to stand up, sit down, and be pepper-sprayed for something you believe in.
What about you? What do you think?