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Friday, October 14, 2011

OWS update

In Indy:
What started as a rally of nearly 1,000 people last Saturday, is now represented by a trickle of people, with usually no more than 4 or 5 persons 'occupying' the front of the Statehouse at any one time. After one week, the only official statement from the ragtag group is:
"We at Occupy Indianapolis are gathering in FULL SUPPORT of the Occupy Wall Street movement in NYC."
The Indy group hasn't really received much (if any?) national notice. Part of the issue it seems to me is that this Indy group is much more tepid and cautious compared to groups in NY, Seattle, etc. I'm not saying that's good or bad, but I'm providing a reason as to their seemingly low media-draw. The other (big) problem is that this group seems to equate democracy with 'full consensus' (or near full, 9/10 or other variation), which is, on its face, a ridiculous idea. One dissenter can raise their arms in an "X" of objection and they are back to square one. This is not the way ideas happen. That's not even how a workable democracy happens, let alone a republic.

In NY:
Meanwhile, arrests, bottle throwing, and arguabe police brutality are happening elsewhere. Still no specific agreement on major topics are leading the movement, and the only major agreement seems to be one emotion: anger.

IMOP, the majority of that anger is being directed at banks, and indirectly or directly, at our government for enabling them with bailouts. This makes sense. As the financial crisis escalated our government spent or loaned millions of dollars to save the banks - their argument being that if they didn't, it would severely hurt Joe-average. The problem as I see it is that they did that and then Joe-average got hurt anyway, with persistently high unemployment and stagnant wages coupled with rising costs. Meanwhile, banks and other corporations see record profits.

Seems to me that OWS is having trouble converting that fact into a policy statement. I've already suggested a few specific areas / or statements they should focus on, but since they have no leadership and aren't really moving the ball forward, I suppose I'll keep throwing them more bones until one of them picks it up (and as I've said before, I have no interest in being a 'leader' of this local group at this point because I have too many concerns about their existing formation, and because I've got enough stuff on my plate, and because as I've stated before - hippies scare me).

So here's another:
How about we demand our economic and finance educators to teach, and our governments to focus on, things that enhance social well-being and standards of living other than GDP. One of the things I discuss in my macro class is the limitation of GDP which most textbooks usually just gloss over or ignore. GDP is suppose to measure all the stuff that's produced or equivalently spent or equivalently earned as income in the economy over a given time-frame.

The major issues with GDP from the output perspective is just because it's produced doesn't mean it's doing anybody any good (if it's sitting in a warehouse somewhere), and if it is produced it could be doing more harm than good (off-shore deep sea drilling that is left un-regulated).

From a spending perspective, as hopefully everyone has learned, not all spending of a given $1 is created equal, but GDP assumes it is because it assumes everything is priced perfectly. Unregulated housing markets, stock markets, oil markets etc. are prone to bubbles and bursts. And when coupled with 'too big to fail', mean eventual systematic failures when credit tightens up.

From an income perspective, GDP doesn't care if you are poor or rich. It doesn't care if income growth comes from profits or from workers wages. But most Americans care. Most Americans have some problems where failed CEO's or bailed out bankers earn multi-million dollar severance or bonuses, while workers are expected to work more and earn less.

So all this means that GDP, while a useful measure, should be taken with a grain of salt. Schools and governments need to incorporate other measures of human development (and they do exist) into their models - portray a more accurate picture to students, the media, and the world.

So OWS, there's another idea of substance. I urge you to spend less time playing koombaya and expressing Utopian generalities and more time discussing real things that we can change.

Good luck.


Nathan Tankus said...

It's amazing how you're an academic but your essentially dismissing everything about OWS and consensus making even though there is a body of serious anarchist decision theory written around it. not to mention a body of anthropological literature looking at how decisions are made in alternative societal structures. agreeing and disagreeing is fine (and encouraged!), but outright dismissal out of what is essentially ignorance is obnoxious.

Garth said...

I never said there wasn't literature on the subject. Just because there is literature doesn't make it any less ridiculous. There is a reason that these groups can barely agree on the mundane things let alone things of substance. And the consensus model is a big part of that reason. This has been shown time and time again. They can either amend their process, or die. Time will tell which happens.

Garth said...

...actually there is a third way, and that is consensus naturally leading to smaller and smaller groups as those turned off by the process or the peer pressure, leave. So that in the end what appears to be consensus, is actually only corrupt consensus.