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Thursday, 10 November 2011

Occupy the Economic Distribution

It's a good thing the occupy movement hasn't reached South Africa's shores in a big way. Down here, anyone who occupies a piece of property for more than a few hours suddenly feels entitled to erect metal sheeting, and light up a paraffin stove, while stealing electricity cables. Add to that the 500 other metal-sheeted dwellings that spring up, and all of a sudden Julius Malema will have a squatter-camp on his doorstep. That would suck, because my uncle lives next door to him, and getting to work through the squatter camp would be an issue!

It's interesting thought to actually examine the rationale behind these occupy protests. For the sake of those who have been living under a rock for the last few months, and by some miracle have ended up on this site, reading this particular blog post about not-so-current affairs, I will explain what the occupy movement is.

They occupy in protest.

OK, that was the really, really summarized version. I've been practising summarizing in University, but as you can see, never really got the hang of it, so I think I'll just copy and paste from Wikipedia:

The Occupy movement is an international protest movement which is primarily directed against social and economic inequality. The movement started in Kuala Lumpur on July 30, 2011, with Occupy Dataran, followed by New York City and San Francisco on September 17, 2011, with Occupy Wall Street and Occupy San Francisco. By October 9 Occupy protests had taken place or were ongoing in over 95 cities across 82 countries and over 600 communities in the United States. As of November 4 the Meetup page "Occupy Together" listed "Occupy" communities in 2,464 towns and cities worldwide. 
Initiated by the Canadian activist group Adbusters, the movement is partly inspired by the Arab Spring, especially Cairo's Tahrir Square protests, and the Spanish Indignants. Occupy protests take their name from Occupy Wall Street, and commonly use the slogan We are the 99%, the #Occupy hashtag format, and organize through websites such as "Occupy Together". The protests, which have been described as a "democratic awakening", are difficult to distill to a few demands. 
According to Bloomberg Businessweek, protesters want more and better jobs, more equal distribution of income, bank reform, and a reduction of the influence of corporations on politics.
That last paragraph sums up their basic demands, but if you look at them closely, economically they resemble a set of socialist principles. While it looks like ordinary citizens are fed up with the system of capitalism, is socialism going to be any better?

I find the general locations of the Occupy movements to be highly ironic, with protests in Kuala Lumpur, New York City, San Francisco and so on. I mean if we actually examine the demographics in the region, there is a working equilibrium in place, provided you exclude every immigrant that has entered searching for a "better life."

The general idea behind the protests of social and economic inequality, while being a touchy topic, does indeed have an element of corruption and greed behind it, but the question that I would like answered is: How many of the protesters have actually made an effort to keep up with the times, advance their education, hunt actively for a new job, and when working, actually put effort into that job? I have a funny feeling that the crowd would thin out then.

Humankind is blessed with the diversity of characteristics that people possess. One of these characteristics is determination. Usually we look at determination as meaning the ability to get the job done, so I think it's fair to say that we all possess determination in differing degrees.

Now if we all possess this drive in differing degrees, how can we seek to reward it in a flat way? Basic game theory introduces us to the free rider problem, where if everyone is getting rewarded regardless if they work or not, then the Nash Equilibrium says that all parties eventually shirk responsibility and end up not working, and getting paid anyway.

The problem as I'm sure you've noticed is that if no-one is working, then the economy of the country shrinks. If the economy of the country shrinks, then the government has no cash. If the government has no cash, then you don't get paid. What do you do after that?

Well I suppose you could try to occupy their Wall Street but I mean what good will that do? No-one has any money left in our scenario, and so it's simply a waste of time. You could probably force people to work, but then are we really socialist, or are we dictatorial? And what would we end up doing to the people who don't work?

I think people have turned protests into a farce, where the messages aren't being conveyed effectively any more, because there's one every second week! I really believe that the energy and effort being channelled into these wannabe V's organizing their marches, could be put to much better use for housing problems, or farming for food shortages.

It's not that they don't have jobs, it's simply that they have too much pride, and don't want to work for their reward. Society today has definitely lost the reward factor, in that they seek instant gratification over long term satisfaction more often than not.

That being said, the current generation of businesses awarding oversized bonuses and the like are also victim to this abhorrent mindset of instant gratification. YOU HAVEN'T EARNED IT. While many of my friends at University dislike the subject of 'ethics' and claim it to be a fluff course, they still understand the need for it in our society.

There is a quote that I love from my favourite book of all time that says "The only force more ruthless and cynical than the business of big politics is the politics of big business." While we seem to think the businesses are funding the politicians bank accounts, the politicians themselves are allowing the businesses to stay put. Why do we protest the businesses when we can vote out the politicians?

We have become a society centred around hypocrisy and materialism, and while it may be easier for us to blame the big companies, are we not the ones that enabled this behaviour? Did we not religiously go out shopping for Christmas presents, Birthday gifts, and Fireworks?

What have we become?
What have we done?

(P.S. I am doing a post on politicians and banks tomorrow, so if you want to attack me, wait until I've posted that)