Elizabeth Schulte doesn’t decide who belongs at Occupy
October 28th, 2011
Some pontif over at socialistworker.org named Elizabeth Schulte has published a diatribe titled “Ideas that don’t belong at Occupy” that’s making the rounds. In it she explains why welcoming libertarians into the Occupy Movement is counterproductive. Not only is this vitriol contradictory and factually incorrect, It’s also divisive, destructive and vindictive tripe and I hope people summarily reject it. She’s got an opinion. She thinks socialism is the way to help the poor. That’s fine. There’s lots and lots of socialist Occupants. But conflating libertarianism, Ron Paul, the Tea Party and Herman Cain and drawing a big circle around mainstream conservatives and the liberty-minded Occupants on the ground is just intellectual laziness at best and ad hominem at worst. If Ms. Schulte wants an ideologically pure movement that excludes everyone she disagrees with than the Occupation is not for her.
That’s called “poisoning the well” and it’s a logical fallacy where an ad hominem attack is made preemptively to prejudice an audience and discredit or ridicule a target. In other words… the facts themselves don’t support her thesis alone. She needs some nasty rhetorical devices to drive the point forward.The right wing is responding to the Occupy Wall Street movement as you’d expect–displaying all their contempt for ordinary people.
At many Occupy encampments, you’ll find some right-wingers with a lot in common with Herman Cain. These are libertarians.
Now, I’m not a Libertarian Party member, but I am a philosophical libertarian, and all that means is that I accept the Non Aggression Principle which essentially means that it is inappropriate to use violence to solve non violent problems. If the Occupy movement doesn’t accept the Non Aggression Principle then we need to stop calling it a non-violent peaceful movement. Libertarianism is not “right-wing” and her reliance on the left-right paradigm only causes further division. The Occupy movement is a post-ideological movement. It needs to abandon the left-right paradigm or it will fail. There are plenty of Democrats responsible for this crisis in Congress and plenty of leftists trading on Wall Street.She trots out these quotes from Herman Cain, “Don’t blame Wall Street, don’t blame the big banks,” and, “If you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself,” as if any libertarian anywhere if flying a Cain flag in the Occupy Movement. This is down right deceptive. She describes libertarian Occupants as having an “obsessive focus” on closing down the Federal Reserve, but even the most cursory Google search would tell you that Cain is a shill for the Federal Reserve. He’s a former chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City and he has publicly stated, “Some people say that we ought to audit the Fed. Here’s what I do know. The Federal Reserve already has so many internal audits it’s ridiculous.” What sense does it make to characterize those who want to abolishing the Fed with a politician who doesn’t even think it should have any independent oversight? Is she just ignorant or is this a deliberate attempt to misrepresent libertarian Occupants?
She cites some opinion poll from Time Magazine which suggests that more people support the Occupy Movement than the Tea Party. First of all, the Tea Party and libertarians are not the same thing. Whatever it was at the beginning, there’s not a lot of libertarianism left in the Tea Party anyway, and I doubt many of the libertarian Occupants are moonlighting at Tea Party rallies. But even if they were that’s just another logical fallacy. It’s called argumentum ad populum. Opinion polls are irrelevant. Popular opinion doesn’t get to exclude people from the Occupy Movement. That’s not how the movement works.
This is just mind boggling. She’s complaining that it took weeks for the Occupy Movement to get media attention when the Tea Party movement started in 2007 after months and months of media blackout of the Ron Paul Revolution. It’s specific purpose was to organize a day of donations, called a “money bomb,” so large that it could not be ignored by the media. Since then the Tea Party has evolved and mutated into what it is now, but it’s been four years. The Tea Party didn’t start out as a media darling. Can the Occupy Movement avoid getting hijacked in the general election like the Tea Party did? Can they avoid selling out to corporate media and political parasites? I hope so, but let’s see where the Occupy Movement is after years, not weeks, before we start drawing comparisons to media coverage of the Tea Party.“The Occupy protests are still treated in much of the media as a ‘fringe’… The actual fringe–the Tea Party–got the rapt attention of the corporate media, while it took weeks for them to report on the Occupy protesters.”
Then of course there’s Ron Paul. You want to associate libertarianism with Ron Paul… that’s fine. I don’t mind. I don’t agree with Ron Paul enough to support him, but I support those who support him.
You don’t have to welcome Ron Paul supporters into the “your” movement because it’s not “your” movement. Libertarians are here whether you “welcome” us or not. You have no authority to uninvite us.“Some people think Occupy activists should view the libertarian presence as a positive thing–that we should reach across the left-right divide and welcome Ron Paul supporters into our movement.”
She goes on:
You don’t “give” our ideas a place in the movement. We OCCUPY a place in the movement. Then she trots out all this garbage about Ron Paul, and Rand Paul, and the Tea Party and acts like it’s all the same thing. I don’t want to spend a lot of time defending Ron Paul point by point, but here’s something I will not let pass. You don’t get to call Ron Paul, or anyone else, racist because you don’t like their immigration policy. I think free people should cross free borders in free countries freely but disagreeing with me is not racism.“Does giving their ideas a place in the movement show our ability to embrace all kinds of people?“
She neglects to mention that the movement has no set goals. That’s part of it’s charm. But she goes on.“Ideas like those espoused by Ron Paul and his libertarian supporters, such as opposition to government social programs, are the opposite of what the Occupy movement is about.”
Imagine the horror… allowing people to make decisions about their lives at a local level. For shame! I support abolishing the Department of Education, and I don’t care if that’s not a left friendly position. I have zero confidence in the ability of the state to educate impressionable children about itself. Does that mean I should pack up and go home? I guarantee you all of these social anarchists, if they are consistent in their thinking at all, wouldn’t support government school, and they are some of the core organizers.“For instance, Paul is in favor of eliminating the federal Department of Education and allowing individual states to decide what kind of education they deem appropriate for children, and how much funding to devote to it.”
She goes on and on. Paul’s position on Social Security. Paul’s position on bilingual education. Paul’s position on abortion. But she never points out that the libertarian Occupants out in the street now aren’t Ron Paul. We think for ourselves. We have different ideas. We are individuals, not a collective in intellectual lockstep with Ron Paul.
Is she for real? So I guess everyone who thinks California has a right to legalize marijuana is pro slavery because it’s a states’ rights argument?“Anyone who knows the history of the civil rights movement knows what Paul’s talk about ‘states’ rights’ really means–allowing racism and segregation to thrive… Paul’s line of thinking would have applied to the debates about the abolition of slavery a century and a half ago.”
She chastises Paul’s opposition to minimum wage mandates. Let me give you a scenario, and this is not a hypothetical situation. This is my situation right now. I am activist on a shoe string budget with a full time job and a modest salary. I would love to be standing in front of a bank all day handing out pamphlets promoting the Occupy Movement and Silver Circle and other things, but I don’t have the time. I could hire a panhandler to do it for me. I could certainly afford to pay him more than he’s making now, or at least more than I ever did as a panhandler, but I can’t afford to pay him minimum wage. It’s an economic impossibility for me. It would be a net benefit for both of us, but it would be a crime to hire that person. So which is better? Should I break the minimum wage law, or should he remain unemployed? People need to understand that unemployment is high because we are in a recession and hiring people at wages employers can afford is a crime.
She repeats the typical refrain.
“We need more taxes on the rich and corporations, with the money devoted to helping workers and the poor, by increasing the quality of public schools or providing an effective social safety net.”
That’s fine. Lot’s of people have that opinion. She’s certainly entitled to it. You know, I used to believe in the progressive income tax, and social security, and minimum wages laws and all sorts of examples of central economic planning. I understand that it is emotionally gratifying to take those positions and feel like you’re doing something to help the poor. But if you really care about the poor, as I think we all do, it’s really incumbent upon you to occasionally step back assess the success and failure of those programs. At some point you have to admit that they have accomplished exactly the opposite of their stated goals.
Taxes and regulations are meaningless unless they are enforced by the state. Enforcement requires state aggression. Aggression activates the amygdala. The amygdala triggers the hording instinct. Ergo, raising taxes and regulations triggers hording, not redistribution. There is a fundamental flaw in the way we look at economics and human action. It is not possible to legislate greed.