Sunday, October 02, 2011

Misdirected Anger

I have been involved in a discussion in a comment thread at Ian Welsh’s place regarding the Wall Street occupation. I like that blog because the discussions become quite animated but always remain very civil, without devolving into flame wars and mud slinging. Anyway, I suggested that the protest was misplaced because the change we seek must come from government, and that the protesters would be better served occupying Washington, and I was met with universal resistance. At best the feeling was that Wall Street and government are one and the same, but agreement was universal that Wall Street was by far the better place to protest.

I am unmoved by any argument offered. If the only objective is to express anger and resentment, then perhaps Wall Street is the proper venue, but such an objective hardly seems to me to be worth the energy and expense. How does that benefit anyone?

The protestors want “the rich” to pay higher taxes, but taxes are not set on Wall Street, they are determined in Washington by Congress. Do they think that their protest is going to persuade rich people to voluntarily pay higher taxes? I wonder how many of the protestors have ever filed a tax return and decided not to take any of the deductions to which they were entitled? If they want “the rich” to pay higher taxes, they need to persuade Congress to make that happen.

I’m not sure these protesters even understand what “government by the people” even means, or if they realize that they actually live in a nation whose government is a form of democracy. The protesters are proudly comparing themselves to Tahrir Square, but that uprising occurred because Egypt did not have free elections which allowed them to change their government. We have had free elections all along and have been too lazy or too ignorant to participate in them.

I wonder how many of those protesters voted against the incumbent in the last primary election. I wonder how many of them either voted for the incumbent or did not vote in the last general election.

We elect our legislators, and when they act against our interest we direct our anger at anyone other than ourselves, or at the legislators whom we have the power to change. It’s all the fault of the powerful two party system. It’s all the fault of the powerful corporations and their money.

I’m not buying the argument that the two party system paralyzes the choices, because if the electorate participated fully in primary elections the parties would not have nearly the control over candidates that they do. I’m not buying the money argument, because it is we who allow the thirty-second sound-bite advertisement to determine who we will vote for instead of paying attention to what our legislators are actually doing and voting them out of office when they take bribes or otherwise act against our interests. I’m not buying the defective media argument, because the media gives us what we ask them to give us.

Democracy only works when it is a functioning democracy. Democracy is not an angry mob in a public square. Democracy is an informed public in a voting booth.

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