Saturday, November 05, 2011

Tea Partiers and Occupiers of Wall Street

Over the years I've had occasion to observe that the essential difference between Republicans and Democrats (not disregarding a variety of other factors) is their respective distrust of the public sector and the private sector.

What's striking to me, then, is how the two current populist protest movements seem to align so fundamentally with these two parties (even though one of them hasn't yet made an explicit connection to one of the parties). The Tea Partiers seem deeply distrustful of the government (the public sector), while the Wall Street Occupiers are deeply distrustful of corporations and the super rich (the private sector).

For myself, I don't think either assumption is a sufficient basis for a political movement since I operate with the assumption that governments were instituted by God and that free markets are generally effective economic systems. Like my difficulty in aligning with either political party, I also find it difficult to sympathize with either of these protest groups.

I will say this, however: insofar as the Wall Street Occupiers are concerned with the enormous concentration of economic and political power in the hands of a very small number of people and institutions, I think they highlight an important dynamic in modern, post-industrial, western society. Free market theories did not emerge to justify this kind of powerful elite and 18th-century proponents of capitalism would have been alarmed to see such enormous power in the hands of a few and decreasing opportunity for the many.


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