The Occupation of America—2011

Or- The Ideological Ruminations of a “Jinglebrained Ninnyhammer

by R.G. Ryan

An Economics professor at Texas Tech University was arguing with his students over the benefits of capitalism versus socialism. The professor was a proponent of capitalism while the majority of the class was largely socialistic in their ideology. So he said, “For the remainder of the year we will be Socialists and conduct our grading based on an average of the class grades so that everyone is equal.”

The students were thrilled.

The first test came: About half the class studied and got A’s while the rest of the class slacked off and got D’s and F’s. Luckily, on the strength of the A’s from the students who studied, everyone in the class got a B. So far, so good.

Second test came: Only a quarter of the class studied and got A’s while the rest of the class slacked off and got D’s and F’s (many of the “slackers” this time around were students who had studied hard on the first test only to see their high grades marked down). Based on the class average, everyone was given a C-minus. The first murmurs of discontent were heard.

Final exam came: Upset about studying hard for two tests only to get low grades based on class average, no one studied. The students capable of getting A’s didn’t study because they were angry over the other tests, while those students who slacked off in the beginning lacked the knowledge to score well on the final. As a result,everyone failed the course.

Amid outraged cries of, “But that’s not fair! Why should we suffer for the laziness of others?” the professor simply smiled and said, “Welcome back to capitalism.”

I share this story because at the heart of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement exists a bubbling cauldron of anger largely fueled by class envy. Oh sure, there are those who are mad as hell over government bailouts of the big corporations and resulting lack of accountability, the collapse of the housing market and overall economic malaise, and perhaps rightly so. But with, “We are the 99%!” as the movement’s battle cry, the implications are clear: Those in the 1% should be sharing what they have with the rest of us; any profit making is suspect; and the “bourgeoisie” arrived at their station on the backs of a downtrodden, oppressed proletariat. Or, in the immortal words of David Byrne, “same as it ever was; same as it ever was; same as it ever was…”

Sadly, there are those in political leadership who are stoking these fires of class warfare for political gain rather than working to arrive at a credible, viable solution. As a result, the movement ─ which started out as having no stated political agenda ─ has now been co-opted by a surrealistic hodgepodge of left-wing radicals, anarcho-syndicalists, aging sixties counter-culture radicals, neo-socialists, Marxists, and others who are basically broke, busted and disgusted! I get it. I’m there, too! The difference being that I expect nothing from the one percent. I expect nothing from my government save the freedom to succeed or fail on the basis of my own investment and effort.

All the anger directed toward that now legendary one percent—those über wealthy few—seems to miss the inarguable fact that in order for societies to thrive, one thing is needed above all else: wealth! It drives all cultures, whether a monarchy, democracy or socialist republic. Someone has to generate money, and providence seems to place individuals into every new generation who have a knack for doing just that.

In a movement and a current administration that leans ever more toward socialistic ideology than capitalistic, one wonders where the “distribution of wealth” is going to come from if no one is, well, wealthy. The reason every socialist experiment has failed throughout history (and the argument that it has never had a “fare chance to succeed” is a sad canard) is that socialism requires an endless supply of money. The problem is that while everyone wants to share in the profit, not everyone is willing to work to insure that monetary supply,that continuation of wealth. Like the students in my opening story, what motivates me to hand over the “profit” I produce if there is no incentive for me to keep producing?

Let’s use a hypothetical: Say you have a privately owned business employing 160 people and generating fifty million per year in revenue. One family has owned the business for over forty years having built it to its current level from scratch. The family members not only own the business, but also work, putting in more hours than any employee. Is it fair for this family to profit more than the workers? Of course! Why? Because the company was built as a result of their collective sacrifice and investment long before any of those workers were present. Additionally, when the company was slapped with a million dollar lawsuit, the family absorbed the loss, not the employees. And yet, I sense a dangerous shift in our nation’s collective soul moving us ever closer to “entitlement” mentality wherein the expectation is that businesses such as the one in this hypothetical example are expected to equally share whatever profit is gained, while at the same time continuing to absorb all the risk.

Our President obviously wants to do something about the severe problems facing our country and claims that the pathway out of our economic woes lies in the direction of higher taxes on the “wealthy.” That’s an interesting theory. Winston Churchill said, “Raising taxes to increase prosperity is like trying to pick up a bucket while you’re standing in it!” I’m pretty sure he’s correct. Our President, with his back to the wall and facing a rough re-election campaign, has promoted another theory that says the way to stimulate our economy is by introducing more government programs, more government subsidies, more government jobs, more government ─ period. I have a problem with this as well, because having “more” provided to you by the state plays into the law of diminishing returns. At some point, as it always does, the money will run out, because those few producing the wealth will grow weary of doing so and either stop entirely, or move their production to a more favorable economic climate. If the President really wanted to “stimulate” the economy, he should throw his inestimable weight behind the small business owners of this country and give them the help they need to put the growing ranks of unemployed back to work.

The individuals comprising the disparate crowd known collectively as the “Occupy…” movement are exercising their constitutional right. People have been demonstrating against one thing or another throughout most of history. Some demonstrations have even been successful. If you feel strongly inclined to do so, join them. Let your voice be heard. Personally, I think you’d be better served by “occupying” a voting booth come election time. But that’s just me.

If this movement isn’t enough and you feel inclined toward Socialism, then go be a socialist. Get together with all your friends who want to be socialists, provide 0% interest loans for each other. Pool your resources. Pay for each other’s houses. Buy group medical insurance policies. There is nothing stopping you from being a socialist. Really, though, pure socialism is only a theory and cannot be truly tested. The only way to find out if it works is to put it into practice, which requires a revolution by the “working class.” However, the working class will not revolt in a capitalistic society because they’re all satisfied with the status quo. Besides, redistribution of wealth already occurs. It’s called, “taxation.” And I am among the 53% who actually pays taxes.

Here’s the bottom line: The wealth of the world is now, and has always been unbalanced because people are selfish, not because of a particular political ideology. You want to break the back of poverty in this country, champion generosity.

R.G. Ryan is the author of “The Voices In My Head: The Danny Gans Biography” and the “Snapshots at St. Arbuck’s” series. He lives in Nevada with his first wife and their miniature schnauzer of some renown. Can sing a little. Visit his website at: http://rgryan.com/

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