Friday, November 18, 2011
The occupy movement, if you can call it a movement, has highlighted a peculiar inconsistency that has muddled thinking in the West for 100’s of years. Since the Enlightenment toleration of divergent views has become the hallmark of the compromise we call modern society. Today we are pushing the envelope on the toleration front to the point where we tolerate advocates who would outlaw toleration.
Most sane people agree that the foundation of Western freedom is adherence to the rule-of-law. Law that is arrived at by a democratic process we call Parliament. It would follow that those who skirt the law are either undermining freedom or protesting an unfair law. How then do we classify those who game the law for an affirmative benefit for themselves or their constituency?
The reason the occupy movement has not roused a larger base of support from the local populations (other than the fact that they are an unsympathetic, unwashed rabble without a cogent message) is because they are perceived to be getting away with something the rest of us cannot. Most of us know that we would be penalized without exception if the parking meter runs out or if we block traffic. Yet protestors flout regulations in the name of expression with what appears to be little consequence. We expect a “level playing field” or “equality before the law” will instill a sense of fairness that makes social interaction tolerable.
The inconsistency is the erroneous belief that the “freedom to destroy freedom” in the name of protest has any legitimacy in western thought. For centuries the principles of Locke, Smith and Jefferson have come under exceptionally innovative attack by those seeking an unfair advantage. Vested interests have always tried to subvert freedom with intimidation to enhance their position. Unions routinely obstruct the rights of others for partisan benefit, just as the guilds and marketing boards restrict entry to professions or production for their own profit. The growth of government itself is a form of subversion that tilts the playing field toward absurd levels of unfairness (In direct contradiction of the stated goals).
I hope we have reached the limit of tolerance for anyone who would disregard the law in pursuit of unfair benefits. The economic crisis we face today is the direct result of government policies that sought to “help” certain constituencies by giving those advantages others do not have. This mandate to fast track some people encouraged ingenious but disastrous behavior in the money markets by insinuating that sub-prime loans would be underwritten by government policy.
Perhaps the best illustration of the escalating divergence from the path of freedom is the contrast between the Tea Party protests and the Occupy Wall Street movement. One group scrupulously obeyed the law, demanded unconditional liberty with no advantage and promoted a consistent philosophy. The other group broke the law, demanded free stuff and had no coherent message to speak of.
If we truly want to maintain our liberty within a civil society we must reaffirm our commitment to the rule of law. Sadly this will only bear fruit when the law itself is purged, as best we can, of favoritism and partisan advantage. Social engineering by government inherently seeks to subvert natural law and supplant it will short-term utopian goals. We are now enduring the long-term effects of the Welfare State; extreme feelings of entitlement and anti-social behavior. I.E. The Occupy Wall Street Movement. God help us!