How Occupy Wall Street Is Beating the Liberty Movement
- News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:
How Occupy Wall Street is beating the Liberty Movement
Nov 14, 2012 at 4:23 PM
By Jayel Aheram
Occupy Sandy (Photo by Gabrielle Alfiero)
When a group of young libertarians gathered in Pepperdine last week for
a Students for Liberty conference, they probably did not expect to begin
their day listening to a speech advocating for greater cooperation
between the Liberty and the Occupy Wall Street movements.
However, that was the message of left libertarian philosopher Prof. Gary
Chartier, who called for the ideologically disparate movements to work
together to change the world. Calling it an “alliance worth rebuilding,”
Chartier reminded the young libertarians that the dissidents of the
Occupy Movement correctly identified a host of problems stemming from
state-sanctioned violence and coercion. From the bank bailouts and
massive debt, to war and empire, libertarians and occupiers alike are
united in their opposition to these manifestations of state aggression.
He urged libertarians to reach out to the dissidents and help them see
that more state aggression and violence are not solutions to these
problems. Chartier confidently stated, “libertarians know, and can
readily explain, how concerns like these can be addressed without the
state.” And while I believe this to be true, I also believe that the
Liberty Movement can learn a thing or two from their brothers and
sisters in the Occupy Movement.
It is the Occupy Movement which is leading the way in providing
non-state, non-hierarchical solutions to not only disaster relief, but
also to personal debt slavery. Their efforts with Occupy Sandy—providing
disaster relief to the victims of Hurricane Sandy—garnered praise from
not only the left-leaning New York Times, but also Glenn Beck's The
Blaze. It turns out the decentralized structure of the Occupy Movement
was better, faster, and more efficient in providing relief to hurricane
victims, beating out FEMA and more established organizations like the
Red Cross in their own game. The dissidents of the Occupy Movement are
now applying this ethos of voluntarism and charity with their latest
activist effort: Rolling Jubilee.
What is Rolling Jubilee? From their website:
Banks sell debt for pennies on the dollar on a shadowy speculative
market of debt buyers who then turn around and try to collect the full
amount from debtors. The Rolling Jubilee intervenes by buying debt,
keeping it out of the hands of collectors, and then abolishing it. We’re
going into this market not to make a profit but to help each other out
and highlight how the predatory debt system affects our families and
communities. Think of it as a bailout of the 99% by the 99%.
This is an absolutely brilliant anti-statist solution to the personal
debt crisis affecting many people in this country. While the Liberty
Movement likes to talk about shrinking the size of the State and how
people can work together to solve problems without the State, the Occupy
Movement is putting these ideals into concrete actions with Occupy Sandy
and Rolling Jubilee. We libertarians often hear from people, “Well, who
is going to provide disaster relief without FEMA?” We now have a
successful model to point to: Occupy Wall Street.
This is ironic, considering that the Occupy Movement has been the target
of much mockery from those within the Liberty Movement. Libertarians are
guilty of painting occupiers with broad strokes which oversimplified the
breadth of anger, frustration, and legitimate grievances articulated by
the Occupy Movement.
Libertarian celebrity Peter Schiff famously visited the occupation in
New York City to condescendingly “educate” young people burdened with
debt and homelessness about how, if they just try little harder, they
will be successful as he is in our glorious Free Market! Never mind that
many of these young people were made jobless by a recession and enslaved
by a student loan scheme engineered by the State and its corporatist
parasites. Far from being socialists who want to use state aggression to
take everyone’s fiat money, the “useful idiots” of the Occupy Movement
turn out to be practitioners of the very model of society libertarians
I have said that the brilliant dissidents of the Occupy Movement are
“participating in a grand libertarian experiment. At its core, the
Occupy movement is an experiment in a voluntaryist model of society
devoid of state violence and coercion. This is not mere political
disobedience, but a dissent from the violent and coercive State.” With
Occupy Sandy and Rolling Jubilee, they have progressed beyond mere
dissent and have demonstrated what a society devoid of state aggression
and based on charity between people could look like.
My hero, the great libertarian thinker Ron Paul, once said of us
libertarians, “we endorse the idea of voluntarism, self-responsibility,
family, friends, and churches to solve problems, rather than saying that
some monolithic government is going to make you take care of yourself
and be a better person.” What speaks louder than words than an
endorsement made manifest by action? If we libertarians emulate the
creativity and activism of the Occupy Movement to solve problems with
non-state solutions, we can propel the Liberty Movement forward and
truly foment a revolution outside the constraints of electoral politics.
Not mere political revolution that comes and goes every four years, but
a truly lasting social revolution based on voluntarism,
self-responsibility, and charity.
In his electric and inspiring speech, Chartier described a society
“rooted in non-violent, voluntary cooperation.” I am happy to say that
this better world is possible and it might look like Occupy Wall Street.
1. I do not think it is necessary to say it, but I will say it anyway: I
am a fierce advocate for a truly Free Market. However, Peter Schiff
loses credibility when he attacks the government’s massive interference
in the market—you know, like the Federal Reserve’s currency
manipulation, bank bailouts, TARP, Solyndra, all the expensive and
wealth-destroying wars—and at the same time propagates the pretense that
this country has a functioning Free Market. Sure, it is freer than some
countries, but why pretend that everyone can make it if they merely try?
In a country where the powerful and the connected enjoy built-in
advantages—advantages arising from the parasitic relationship between
subsidized corporate entities and the government—why pretend that this
somehow will not create losers in our society? A big protip to my fellow
libertarians: how about we stop blaming the victims of the State?
2. Let us be honest here which group is more statist: who exactly is
running for office and trying very hard to become part of the two-party
apparatus? Hint: it is not the Occupy Movement. This is why I have
tremendous respect for the leadership of Young Americans for Liberty.
Unlike their more opportunistic counterparts elsewhere in the Liberty
Movement, you have a group of engaged, young people who truly endorse
the idea of liberty and peace.
3. Speaking of social revolution, I stole this compelling idea from my
friend Charles Davis. He wrote:
Reject violence, including in your language. Volunteer. Build up
the organizations you'd like to see fill the void left by slashed
government social programs. Turn your back on materialism and live
frugally. Basically, be the person you would like to see more of in
society. What we need isn't some anarchist political revolution, we need
an anarchist social revolution: we need a society of anarchists. Help
I guess in our case, we need a libertarian social revolution and in
order for that to happen, we need to make a society of libertarians. And
in case you are wondering how to go about doing that, did you know Young
Americans for Liberty has this awesome "Choose Charity" initiative? Get
going and spread the message of voluntarism and charity at the same time
actually helping people.
New book: _Weird Words: A Lovecraftian Lexicon_:
My collected fiction: _The Unspeakable and Others_
Lord Weÿrdgliffe & Necronomicon Page:
News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:
Skipper: Professor, will you tell these people who is
in charge on this island?
Professor: Why, no one.
Skipper: No one?
Thurston Howell III: No one? Good heavens, this is anarchy!
-- _Gilligan's Island_, episode #6, "President Gilligan"