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This is what you can do with OccupyWallStreet

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John James Posted: Thu, Oct 13 2011 7:15 PM

Listen to the way he is able to educate them using tidbits of their own language.  This is exactly what is needed.  Obviously this guy is a gifted speaker, but if we can at least get someone who knows what they're talking about to announce these things at every occupywallst rally, this hero-less movement won't be for naught.

Most of these people are just ignorant...they don't know why they're there exactly, but they know something is wrong...and it won't take much to persuade them.  They just need to be pointed in the right direction.  This could easily turn into a large sector of new support for Ron Paul.  This needs to happen before they are spoon-fed more socialist nonsense.

 

 

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tunk replied on Thu, Oct 13 2011 8:33 PM

Here's some slogans:

"I'll keep my freedom, you keep the Change"

"$11 Trillion - now that's a lot of Change!"

“Honk if I’m paying your mortgage”

“If You Think Health Care is Expensive Now, Wait Until it's Free”

“Save trees, stop printing money”

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Gov. Gary Johnson Among the Occupy Wall Street Protesters

 

 

My favorite line:

"I kept 20% for myself and gave away 80%. I think if we rely on the kindness of strangers the poor will keep getting screwed."

 

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Clayton replied on Thu, Oct 20 2011 4:10 PM

I'm thinking someone should give this little article by Bastiat a facelift and narrate it to make a YT vid out of it and then title it "A Message to Occupy Wall Street" or something like that. The OWS protesters have half the equation right - they know something is wrong. In this, they are already lightyears ahead of the "mainstream" Repubs and Demos retired on a golf-resort in Florida... they are completely out of touch and have no idea what sort of rot has filled this country from top to bottom. But the OSW protesters are also, by and large, very economically ignorant and buy into most of the myths that have been used to cover up the rot for so long. So, they're really very confused people.

I know Graham Wright does excellent narration... if he's interested, I will take a swipe at the facelift - from a past conversation, I recall he wanted to keep the narration down to about 1500-2000 words... it'd be tight but I think it's doable.

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I'm sure Graham would be interested, but just to change it up, you might actually try contacting TheraminTrees to see if he'd be interested.  His voice might be even better for this one.

 

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Eric080 replied on Thu, Oct 20 2011 4:39 PM

I'm going to guess TheraminTrees is a social democrat.

"And it may be said with strict accuracy, that the taste a man may show for absolute government bears an exact ratio to the contempt he may profess for his countrymen." - de Tocqueville
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You might be right.  Still, it's worth a shot to find out.  He's definitely at least halfway to our side.

 

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Wheylous replied on Thu, Oct 20 2011 8:25 PM

I can do a half-decent British accent, if that is of use :P

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The guy in the first video is named Christos Savvinidis, aka "Captain Midnight"...apparently Glenn Beck caught an earlier video of the guy and tried to claim he was calling for the abolishment of capitalism.  Peter Schiff favorited the video in the OP on his youtube channel, and on Monday Schiff had Savvinidis on his radio show.  You can listen to the interview here.

In the second segment Schiff gets into the kid's personal history, inquiring how he ended up coming to such an austro-libertarian position at such a young age (20).  Always interesting to hear someone's story.  (We all love to hear those, don't wewink)

 

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Wheylous replied on Thu, Oct 20 2011 8:37 PM

Maybe the wrong thread for this, but

Alec Baldwin at OWS on capitalism and ending the FED

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Clayton replied on Thu, Oct 20 2011 9:07 PM

OK, I got all excited and did it. It's 1,728 words. I read it aloud in 9:06 (tried to do my best narration voice). If someone wants to narrate this, I think it would kick ass. You could just make a photo montage of the Capitol building, protesters, the Fed, money being printed, and so on and slap the audio onto it. As always, feel free to provide your critiques. The closing paragraph is entirely my own and there are a smattering of sentences here and there that I inserted but this is mostly just a cut-down and slighly re-worded version of Bastiat. He's my hero.

What is Government?

By Frederic Bastiat, 1848
Updated for Occupy Wall Street, 2011

Someone should offer a prize for a simple and accurate definition of the word "government" – it would be a great service to society!

What, exactly, is the government? What is it capable of doing? What should it do? All we know for sure is that it is a mysterious entity that we all expect to fix the problems in society. It must be the most solicited, tormented, overwhelmed, admired, accused and provoked of any entity in the world.

Whatever the government is, who should it listen to? The left wants one thing, the right wants another, the country is in a mess and the government does not know who to listen to, or where to turn. A hundred thousand protesters cry out all at once:

"Organize labor unions."
"End the tyranny of capital."
"Perform experiments in space and advance medical knowledge."
"Repair and expand the infrastructure."
"Instruct the youth."
"Assist the elderly."
"Lend money without interest to all who wish to borrow."
"Free oppressed people everywhere in the world."
"Encourage the arts, and provide musicians, painters, and architects."
"Control the borders and at the same time send troops everywhere in the world."
"Discover the truth, and teach us how to reason. Government should enlighten, develop, extend, and uplift the soul of the people."

Faced with so many demands, the government asks us to be patient. They will do what they can to satisfy us, but they must have resources. The administration has been preparing plans for some new taxes which are not at all oppressive and will not affect anyone below $250,000.

Now that the country has again and again changed administrations, because they have failed to satisfy our demands, I ask you to consider that, perhaps, our demands from the government are contradictory. I know this is an outrageous proposition. But if I am wrong, I would willingly retract it.

I would be pleased if someone had really discovered an inexhaustible entity, calling itself “the government”, which has bread for all mouths, work for all hands, credit for all ventures, medicine for all sufferings, advice for all problems, courage for all doubts, truth for all minds; an entity which can provide for all of our needs, satisfy our curiosity, correct our errors, repair our faults, and exempt us from the need to exercise prudence, judgment, organization, frugality, self-control, and diligence.

How could I possibly not desire to see such a discovery made? The more I think about it, the more I see that nothing could be more desirable. This is why I would like it simply and accurately defined – perhaps by offering a prize to the first discoverer of such a marvelous entity. Clearly, no one has yet discovered it since, up to this time, each party keeps being overturned by the people, precisely because it has not fulfilled their contradictory demands.

There is an inclination which exists in all of us to divide our lives into two pieces, throwing the trouble onto others, and keeping the benefits for ourselves. Of course, this is the motivation of slavery and theft, however they manifest themselves. We recognize slavery and theft as wrong if they are presented nakedly as such. But the political solution is consistent with the idea that gave birth to these evils.

Nowadays, the oppressor no longer acts directly and with his own hands against the victim. Our conscience has become too sensitive for that. The oppressor and his victim are still present but there is a middle-man between them, which is the government – the law itself.

What better way to silence our conscience? We each apply to the government for help. "Look how much I have to work and yet how little I have. In order to fix this imbalance, I would like to take a part of the possession of others, but only so much as I need and only from those much more fortunate than I am. But since stealing is dangerous, can you help me with this? Can’t you get me a decent place to live? I’m a small businessman, can’t you restrict my competitors? I’m a student, can’t you lend me money at zero percent interest? Can’t you guarantee my retirement? Can’t you guarantee that my medical bills will all be paid? With the help of the government, I can achieve what I want with a clean conscience since it has all been done legally. I will have all the advantages of theft, without the risk or shame!”

Until I can obtain another definition of the word “government” I am going to give it my own. Maybe it will win the prize. Here it is:

"Government is the great fiction by which everyone attempts to live at the expense of everyone else."

As it has always been, everyone is, more or less, profiting from work done by others. But today, no one would dare say such a thing. We even hide the truth from ourselves.

Every lobby, racial or other minority group and pressure group is always applying to the government. They say, "You can take from the public legally and honestly, so take on our behalf, and then spend the money in our district and buy our products." The government is perfectly happy to follow this diabolical advice because the government is composed of administrators and elected officials who are also human beings. Like anyone else, government employees are tempted by the opportunity to increase their own wealth and influence. The government is quick to perceive the advantages it derives from the duties entrusted to it by the public. The government will happily take as much as it can so that a large share will remain for itself. It will not stop until it has consumed a disastrous portion of the public’s wealth.

Our contradictory requests place the government in a dilemma. If it refuses to grant our requests, it is accused of weakness, ill-will, and incapacity. If it tries to grant them, it is obliged to load us with new taxes, debt and to print more money. It ends up doing more harm than good and this results in increased public disapproval and unrest. Each election cycle we “throw the bums out” only to see them replaced by new faces that disappoint us yet again.

The public has two hopes and the government makes two promises: many benefits and no new taxes, debt or money printing. These hopes and promises are contradictory and can never be realized. But is this not the final cause of all the protests? The government makes promises which are impossible to perform and the public has expectations which can never be fulfilled.

Between the government and the people, two classes of men interpose themselves: the ambitious and the idealists. The protests and popular unrest give them their cue. It would be bad enough if these opportunists only said, "The authorities are deceiving you; if we were in their place, we would load you with benefits, exempt you from taxes, rein in inflation and pay down the debt." But no sooner are they in office than they are called upon to fulfill their promises. "Give us jobs, food, rent, credit lines, education, and more money," say the people; "and deliver us, as you promised, from the demands of the revenuer by taxing only those who have more money than us."

The new politicians are no less embarrassed than the ones we just voted out. They soon find that it is much easier to make promises than to keep them. They try to gain time. At first, they make a few timid attempts. On the one hand, they increase student loan subsidies; on the other hand, they cut some taxes on the lower income brackets. But the contradiction is constantly confronting them. If they try to be philanthropic, they must attend to the budget through taxes, debt or inflation; if they try to hold down taxes, debt and inflation, they must abstain from being philanthropic.

These two promises are forever clashing with each other and it cannot be any other way. They can borrow; this is an attempt to do a little good now but at the expense of a great deal of harm in future. They can print money but this just causes inflation which they themselves admit is just another tax. When all options have been exhausted, they will face reduced credit ratings; this raises the specter of bankruptcy while interest payments rise and public credit dries up.

At this point, what can be done? Why, then, the government will take bold and decisive measures. It will unite all its forces in order to maintain itself. It will smother opinion, resort to arbitrary measures, ridicule its former maxims and declare that it is impossible to do the right thing except at the risk of being unpopular. In short, it proclaims itself governmental. And it is here that other candidates for popularity are waiting for it. They proclaim the same illusion to the public, achieve the same power, fail to achieve the same success, and soon meet the same end.

It is not enough to make signs and issue demands to the government. Such behavior is either pathetic and beggar-like, on the one hand, or lawless and violent, on the other hand. Instead, we need to truly absorb the meaning of the phrase “We are the 99%.” For every 99 of us, there is just one crook or crony in big business and the corrupt halls of government power. We are the 99% means that things only got this bad because we let it get this bad. We are the 99% means we need to take responsibility for this mess and change our minds about what we will allow the government and its big business cronies and lobbyists to get away with. No more printing money without our permission. No more public debt without our say-so. No new taxes that we don’t approve. No more wars without our permission. No more bailouts without our approval. No new benefits or programs that we didn’t ask for until you figure out how to pay for it within the budget we’ve already given you. The government is supposed to serve the people, not the other way around. It’s time we remind the 1% who’s boss.

 

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Wheylous replied on Thu, Oct 20 2011 9:41 PM

I tried to do a spirited narration in a British accent on a bad webcam microphone.

This is the result:

http://www.wikiupload.com/M1KQGKKXV4CLY5M

The beginning is poor in quality, but I believe you may derive roughly 9:30 minutes of fun listening to me reading important philosophical text in a bad British accent that sometimes slips and turns American.

You're welcome, internet.

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Clayton replied on Thu, Oct 20 2011 10:23 PM

Nice! If this thing works, it could actually end up educating a lot of people. On economic theory, Bastiat is no Mises but his rhetoric is really powerful and absolutely timeless.

Now where's Graham when you need him? Actually, I have a couple edits to make... will update.

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Neodoxy replied on Thu, Oct 20 2011 10:43 PM

Quite the impromptu little speech there. I liked it but it was way too nationalistic for my taste

At last those coming came and they never looked back With blinding stars in their eyes but all they saw was black...
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Clayton replied on Thu, Oct 20 2011 10:49 PM

Second Draft (1,468 words). There's so much more I would like to keep but damn YouTube and it's 10 minute limit (by the way, how do some people upload videos way longer than that???)

A Question for Occupy Wall Street: What is Government?

Adapted (2011) from L'Etat (The State) by Frederic Bastiat, 1848

Someone should offer a prize for a simple and accurate definition of the word "government" – it would be a great service to society!

What, exactly, is the government? What is it capable of doing? What should it do? All we know for sure is that it is a mysterious entity that is expected to fix the problems in society. It must be the most solicited, tormented, overwhelmed, admired, accused and provoked of any entity in the world.

Whatever the government is, who should it listen to? The left wants one thing, the right wants another. The country is in a mess and the government does not know who to listen to, or where to turn. A hundred thousand protesters cry out, all at once:

"Organize labor unions."
"End the tyranny of capital."
"Perform experiments in space and advance medical knowledge."
"Repair and expand the infrastructure."
"Educate the youth."
"Care for the elderly."
"Lend money without interest to anyone who wants to borrow."
"Free oppressed people everywhere in the world."
"Encourage the arts, and provide musicians, painters, and architects."
"Control the borders and at the same time send troops everywhere in the world."

Faced with so many demands, the government asks us to be patient. They will do what they can to satisfy us, but they must have resources. The administration has been preparing plans for some new taxes which are not at all oppressive and will not affect anyone below $250,000. But then the people are outraged. What is the merit of doing something with resources? It does not deserve to be called a government!

Now that the country has again and again changed administrations, because they have each failed to satisfy our demands, I ask you to consider that, perhaps, our demands from the government are contradictory. I know this is an outrageous proposition. But if I am proven wrong, I will gladly retract it.

I would be pleased if someone had really discovered an inexhaustible entity, calling itself “the government”, which has bread for all mouths, work for all hands, credit for all ventures, medicine for all sufferings, advice for all problems, courage for all doubts, truth for all minds; an entity which can provide for all of our needs, satisfy our curiosity, correct our errors, repair our faults, and exempt us from the need to exercise prudence, judgment, organization, frugality, self-control, and diligence.

How could I possibly not desire to see such a discovery made? The more I think about it, the more I see that nothing could be more desirable. This is why I would like to see it simply and accurately defined – perhaps by offering a prize to the first discoverer of such a marvelous entity. Clearly, no one has yet discovered it since, up to this time, each party keeps being overturned by the people, precisely because it has not fulfilled their contradictory demands.

There is an inclination which exists in all of us to divide our lives into two pieces, throwing the trouble onto others, and keeping the benefits for ourselves. Of course, this is the motivation of slavery and theft, however they manifest themselves. We recognize slavery and theft as wrong if they are presented nakedly as such. But the political solution is consistent with the idea that gave birth to these evils.

Nowadays, the oppressor no longer acts directly and with his own hands against the victim. Our conscience has become too sensitive for that. The oppressor and his victim are still present but there is a middle-man between them, which is the government – the law itself.

What better way to silence our conscience? We each apply to the government for help. "Look how much I have to work and yet how little I have. In order to fix this imbalance, I would like to take a part of the possession of others, but only so much as I need and only from those much more fortunate than I am. But since stealing is dangerous, can you help me with this? Can’t you get me a decent place to live? I’m a small businessman, can’t you restrict my competitors? I’m a student, can’t you lend me money at zero percent interest? Can’t you guarantee my retirement? Can’t you guarantee that my medical bills will all be paid? With the help of the government, I can achieve what I want with a clean conscience since it has all been done legally. I will have all the advantages of theft, without the risk or shame!”

(brief pause)

Until I can obtain another definition of the word “government” I am going to give it my own definition. Maybe it will win the prize. Here it is:

"Government is the great fiction by which everyone attempts to live at the expense of everyone else."

As it has always been, everyone is, more or less, profiting from work done by others. But today, no one would dare say such a thing. We even hide the truth from ourselves.

Every lobby, racial or other minority group and pressure group is always applying to the government. They say, "You can take from the public legally and honestly, so take on our behalf, and then spend the money in our district and buy our products." The government is perfectly happy to follow this diabolical advice because the government is composed of administrators and elected officials who are also human beings. Like anyone else, government employees are tempted by the opportunity to increase their own wealth and influence. The government is quick to perceive the advantages it derives from the duties entrusted to it by the public. The government will happily take as much as it can so that a large share will remain for itself. And it will not stop until it has consumed a disastrous portion of the public’s wealth.

Our contradictory requests place the government in a dilemma. If it refuses to grant our requests, it is accused of weakness, ill-will, and incapacity. If it tries to grant them, it is obliged to load us with new taxes, new debt and to print more money. It ends up doing more harm than good and this results in even more public disapproval and unrest. Each election cycle we “throw the bums out” only to see them replaced by new faces that disappoint us yet again.

Once they take power, the new politicians are no less embarrassed than the ones we just voted out. They soon find that it is much easier to make promises than to keep them. They try to gain time. At first, they make a few timid attempts to satisfy our demands. On the one hand, they increase student loan subsidies; on the other hand, they cut some taxes on the lower income brackets. But the contradiction is constantly confronting them. If they try to be philanthropic, they must attend to the budget through taxes, debt or inflation; if they try to hold down taxes, debt and inflation, they must abstain from being philanthropic.

At this point, what can the government do? It will take bold and decisive measures. It will unite all its forces in order to maintain itself. It will smother opinion, resort to arbitrary measures, ridicule its former policies and declare that it is impossible to do the right thing except at the risk of being unpopular. In short, it proclaims itself governmental. And it is here that other candidates for popularity are waiting for it. They promise the same illusion to the public, achieve the same power, fail to achieve the same success, and soon meet the same end.

It is not enough to make signs and issue demands to the government. Such behavior is either pathetic and beggar-like, on the one hand, or lawless and violent, on the other hand. Instead, we need to truly absorb the meaning of the phrase “We are the 99%.” For every 99 of us, there is just one crook or crony in big business and the corrupt halls of government power. We are the 99% means that things only got this bad because we let it get this bad. We are the 99% means we need to take responsibility for this mess and change our minds about what we will allow the government and its big business cronies and lobbyists to get away with. No more printing money without our permission. No more public debt without our say-so. No new taxes that we don’t approve. No more wars without our permission. No more bailouts without our approval. No new benefits or programs that we didn’t ask for until you figure out how to pay for it within the budget we’ve already given you. The government is supposed to serve the people, not the other way around. It’s time we remind the 1% who’s boss.

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Aristippus replied on Thu, Oct 20 2011 11:16 PM

Today the occupation of my city was overthrown:

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/more-news/boot-out-protesters-says-businesses/story-fn7x8me2-1226172294310

The Voluntaryist Reader: http://voluntaryistreader.wordpress.com/ Libertarian forums that actually work: http://voluntaryism.freeforums.org/index.php
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Bert replied on Thu, Oct 20 2011 11:41 PM

The occupy protests here were...hilarious.  We have OccupyNorfolk (seeing that I live in the Hampton Roads section of Virginia).  There were over a 1,000 (or more, don't know the exact figures, maybe a couple thousand) on the ON Facebook page, and I swear no more than 24 showed up that day for the protests.  They protested at Harbor Park, a baseball field for our local team the Norfolk Tides, the problem?  Can't see the park from the interstate, or anything, it's secluded and by the water.  You can see the stadium itself from the interstate, but you will not see people (nor is it on an passing roads, essentially you'd have to go to the stadium itself which is out of the way for anyone's route).  Second, probably a good 10 min walk gets you to the World Trade Center in Norfolk.  I don't know why they did Harbor Park (probably because it's a big open parking lot that won't give them problems) instead of the WTC and surrounding banks.  Seems like the following days local stations ran with it that people couldn't Occupy Norfolk because they were too busy occupying a job.  So far it's been only a failure here.

I had always been impressed by the fact that there are a surprising number of individuals who never use their minds if they can avoid it, and an equal number who do use their minds, but in an amazingly stupid way. - Carl Jung, Man and His Symbols
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z1235 replied on Fri, Oct 21 2011 9:29 AM

Clayton:

How could I possibly not desire to see such a discovery made? The more I think about it, the more I see that nothing could be more desirable. This is why I would like to see it simply and accurately defined – perhaps by offering a prize to the first discoverer of such a marvelous entity. Clearly, no one has yet discovered it since, up to this time, each party keeps being overturned by the people, precisely because it has not fulfilled their contradictory demands.

Clayton, excellent work, and I wish you luck in completing the project. I too recently re-read L'Etat and sent it to my friends as a read relevant to OWS. That said, I think Bastiat may be a bit stale and "behind the times" for the socialists (i.e. pretty much every economically ignorant person) that have sprouted after his death. Bastiat simply flies over their heads. For them, the answer to Bastiat's question is clear. Government (democracy) HAS been discovered and it works perfectly fine as the equalizer (redistributor) of the wealth which the rich (corporations, business, capitalists) have extracted from the rest through "greed and exploitation" (LTV). Though faulty to its core, there is no (Bastiat-implied) contradiction and confusion in their narative. 

In their view, the resources for all the governments projects (i.e. people's needs) ARE there (the 1%'s wealth). The majority (OWS) only needs to get vocal enough to force/prod the government into seizing them and using them to satisfy the mob's demands. The fact that there are so many unsatisfied needs (scarcity) is merely THE PROOF that the 1% have bribed the government to seize much less than the mob's "fair share". Just like with every other socialist movement (VP, ZGM, etc.) scarcity has never been a problem. There IS enough stuff out there! The problem is only with how it's being "distributed". A government must exist to check the greed of the exploitors (1%) and to make sure that the exploited (99%) get "back" their "fair share". 

I like to think that the OWS people are "the economically ignorant segment of Ron Paul supporters". Educating them would be no small task, though.  

Sad, but true. 

 

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Clayton replied on Fri, Oct 21 2011 11:27 AM

@z: True. As I was editing Bastiat's essay, I realized how much more sophisticated the arguments have become since his time. They're still exactly the same in substance but they've just changed dramatically in appearance. I think that the "true believers" in the OWS crowd are beyond hope... the little smartass Marxists who think they're starting the Final Revolution. Nothing can be done for them, anyway. I'm thinking about the large number of impressionable young people who are just aware enough of what's going on to know something's wrong but mostly stick to repeating the chants and slogans around them without a great deal of introspection. I suspect that this is actually a majority of people in the OWS crowd.

For them, I think there is more of a chance that they will see the glaring contradiction in trying to simultaneously say "socialist democracy works" and "the system has been hijacked by Wall Street." If it worked, it couldn't have been hijacked. If it's been hijacked, that means it's not working. The only reason you're in the street protesting is the system isn't working. The little smartass Marxists are as blind as can be to this contradiction but I'm willing to bet there's a lot of people in that crowd who have a gut feeling that there's something contradictory here.

I'll PM Graham Wright to see if he's interested in narrating it, he's got really good diction.

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z1235 replied on Fri, Oct 21 2011 12:10 PM

Clayton, I agree. Go for it and PM me if you think I could help. 

Yes, the smartass Marxists are hopeless, but you are probably aware that even your target audience would find it difficult to "get" Bastiat without basic economic education and basic refutations of the common socialist fallacies (LTV, exploitation, calculation, "capital", "money", etc.) which have become mainstream. I'll propose that Bastiat's audience was much more educated in this domain, if for no other reason than being lucky enough to have avoided been indoctrinated by a century-worth of socialist propaganda, and used simple common sense instead.

People first need to understand WHY the system is not working. I'm afraid Bastiat's (L'Etat) contradiction is not likely to provide them with a satisfactory answer. 

Didn't mean to hurt your elan and I hate it when I elaborate difficulties without offering ways to overcome them. Just wanted to suggest more realistic expectations, I guess.

 

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Clayton replied on Sun, Oct 23 2011 3:44 PM

Third draft (1,560 words)... I added a paragraph addressing the "Robin Hood argument".

Here it is:

A Question for Occupy Wall Street: What is Government?

Adapted (2011) from L’Etat (The State) by Frederic Bastiat (1848)

Someone should offer a prize for a simple and accurate definition of the word "government" – it would be a great service to society!

What, exactly, is the government? What is it capable of doing? What should it do? All we know for sure is that it is a mysterious entity that is expected to fix the problems in society. It must be the most solicited, tormented, overwhelmed, admired, accused and provoked of any entity in the world.

But who should the government listen to? The left wants one thing, the right wants another. The country is in a mess and the government does not know who to listen to, or where to turn. A hundred thousand protesters cry out, all at once:

"Protect the labor unions."
"End the tyranny of capital."
"Perform experiments in space and advance medical knowledge."
"Repair and expand the infrastructure."
"Educate the youth."
"Care for the elderly."
"Lend money without interest to anyone who wants to borrow."
"Free oppressed people."
"Encourage the arts, and provide musicians, painters, and architects."
"Control the borders and at the same time send troops everywhere in the world."

Faced with so many demands, the government asks us to be patient. They will do what they can to satisfy us, but they must have resources. The administration has been preparing plans for some new taxes which are not at all oppressive and will not affect anyone below $250,000.

(brief pause)

The country has again and again changed administrations because they have each failed to satisfy our demands. Perhaps this is because our demands from the government are contradictory. I know this is an outrageous proposition. But if I am proven wrong, I will gladly retract it.

I would be pleased if someone had really discovered an inexhaustible entity, calling itself “the government”, which has bread for all mouths, work for all hands, credit for all ventures, medicine for all sufferings, advice for all problems, courage for all doubts, truth for all minds; an entity which can provide for all of our needs, satisfy our curiosity, correct our errors, repair our faults, and exempt us from the need to exercise prudence, judgment, organization, frugality, self-control, and diligence.

How could I possibly not desire to see such a discovery made? The more I think about it, the more I see that nothing could be more desirable. This is why I would like to see it simply and accurately defined – perhaps by offering a prize to the first discoverer of such a marvelous entity. Clearly, no one has yet discovered it since each party keeps being overturned by the people, precisely because it has not fulfilled their contradictory demands.

There is an inclination which exists in all of us to divide our lives into two parts, throwing the trouble onto others, and keeping the benefits for ourselves. Of course, this is the motivation of slavery and theft, however they manifest themselves. We recognize slavery and theft as wrong if they are presented nakedly as such. But the political solution of having one group pay for the needs of another group is consistent with the idea that gave birth to the evils of slavery and theft.

Nowadays, the oppressor no longer acts directly and with his own hands against the victim. Our conscience has become too sensitive for that. The oppressor and his victim are still present but there is a middle-man between them, which is the government – the law itself.

What better way to silence our conscience? We each apply to the government for help. "Look how much I have to work and yet how little I have. In order to fix this imbalance, I would like to take a part of the possession of others, but only so much as I need and only from those much more fortunate than I am. But since stealing is dangerous, can you help me with this? Can’t you get me a decent place to live? I’m a small businessman, can’t you restrict my competitors? I’m a student, can’t you lend me money at zero percent interest? Can’t you guarantee my retirement? Can’t you guarantee that my medical bills will all be paid? With the help of the government, I can achieve what I want with a clear conscience since it has all been done legally. I will have all the advantages of theft, without the risk or shame!”

It is supposed to be only the destitute who receive help and only the wealthy who are asked to give help. It is impossible to feel anger towards an oppressor who is destitute or sympathy for a victim that is wealthy. But isn’t the cause of all this unrest the very fact that the government is really acting in the interests of the wealthy by driving up the debt and causing inflation even as social programs are cut?

(brief pause)

Until I can find another definition of the word “government” I am going to give it my own definition. Maybe it will win the prize. Here it is:

"Government is the great fiction by which everyone attempts to live at the expense of everyone else."

It has always been the case that everyone is, more or less, profiting from work done by others. But today, no one would dare say such a thing. We even hide this truth from ourselves.

Every lobby, every pressure group, every racial or other minority group is always applying to the government. They say, "You can take from the public legally and honestly, so take on our behalf, and then spend the money in our district and buy our products." The government is perfectly happy to follow this diabolical advice because the government is composed of administrators and elected officials who are also human beings. Like anyone else, government employees are tempted by the opportunity to increase their own wealth and influence. The government is quick to perceive the advantages it derives from the duties that the public entrusts to it. The government will happily take as much as it can so that a large share will remain for itself. And it will not stop until it has consumed a disastrous portion of the public’s productive energy.

Our contradictory requests place the government in a dilemma. If it refuses to grant our requests, it is accused of weakness, ill-will, and incapacity. If it tries to grant them, it is obliged to load us with new taxes, new debt and to print more money. It ends up doing more harm than good and this results in even more public disapproval and unrest. Each election cycle we “throw the bums out” only to see them replaced by new faces that disappoint us yet again.

Once they take power, the new politicians are just as unable to meet our demands as the ones we just voted out. They soon find that it is much easier to make promises than to keep them. They try to gain time. At first, they make a few timid attempts to satisfy our demands. On the one hand, they increase student loan subsidies; on the other hand, they cut some taxes on the lower income brackets. But the contradiction is constantly confronting them. If they try to implement new social programs, they must attend to the budget through taxes, debt or inflation; if they try to hold down taxes, debt and inflation, they must abstain from implementing new social programs.

Finally, the public will lose all patience with the government. At this point, what can the government do? It will take bold and decisive measures. It will unite all its forces in order to maintain itself. It will smother opinion, resort to arbitrary measures, ridicule its former policies and declare that it is impossible to do the right thing except at the risk of being unpopular. In short, it proclaims itself governmental. And it is here that other candidates for popularity are waiting for it. They promise the same illusion to the public, achieve the same power, fail to achieve the same success, and soon meet the same end.

It is not enough to make signs and issue demands to the government. Such behavior is either pathetic and beggar-like, on the one hand, or lawless and violent, on the other hand. Instead, we need to truly absorb the meaning of the phrase “We are the 99%.” For every 99 of us, there is just one crook or crony in big business and the corrupt halls of government power.

We are the 99% means that things only got this bad because we let it get this bad. We are the 99% means we need to take responsibility for this mess and change our minds about what we will allow the government and its big business cronies and lobbyists to get away with. No more printing money without our permission. No more public debt without our say-so. No new taxes that we don’t approve. No more wars without our permission. No more bailouts without our approval. No new benefits or programs that we didn’t ask for until you figure out how to pay for it within the budget we’ve already given you. The government is supposed to serve the people, not the other way around. It’s time we remind the 1% who’s boss.

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Clayton replied on Thu, Oct 27 2011 1:34 AM

All right, 4th draft on Graham's request... I think this is the final one!

A Question for Occupy Wall Street: What is Government?

Adapted (2011) from L’Etat (The State) by Frederic Bastiat (1848)

Someone should offer a prize for a simple and accurate definition of the word "government" – it would be a great service to society!

What, exactly, is the government? What is it capable of doing? What should it do? All we know for sure is that it is a mysterious entity that is expected to fix the problems in society. It must be the most solicited, tormented, overwhelmed, admired, accused and provoked of any entity in the world.

But who should the government listen to? The left wants one thing, the right wants another. The country is in a mess and the government does not know who to listen to, or where to turn. A hundred thousand protesters cry out, all at once:

"Protect the labor unions."
"End the tyranny of capital."
"Perform experiments in space and advance medical knowledge."
"Repair and expand the infrastructure."
"Educate the youth."
"Care for the elderly."
"Lend money without interest to anyone who wants to borrow."
"Free oppressed people."
"Encourage the arts, and provide musicians, painters, and architects."
"Control the borders and at the same time send troops everywhere in the world."

The country has again and again changed administrations because they have each failed to satisfy our demands. Perhaps this is because our demands from the government are contradictory. I know this is an outrageous proposition. But if I am proven wrong, I will gladly retract it.

I would be pleased if someone had really discovered an inexhaustible entity, calling itself “the government”, which has bread for all mouths, work for all hands, credit for all ventures, medicine for all sufferings, advice for all problems, courage for all doubts, truth for all minds; an entity which can provide for all of our needs, satisfy our curiosity, correct our errors, repair our faults, and exempt us from the need to exercise prudence, judgment, organization, frugality, self-control, and diligence.

How could I possibly not desire to see such a discovery made? The more I think about it, the more I see that nothing could be more desirable. This is why I would like to see it simply and accurately defined – perhaps by offering a prize to the first discoverer of such a marvelous entity. Clearly, no one has yet discovered it since each party keeps being overturned by the people, precisely because it has not fulfilled their contradictory demands.

There is an inclination which exists in all of us to divide our lives into two parts, throwing the trouble onto others, and keeping the benefits for ourselves. Of course, this is the motivation of slavery and theft, however they manifest themselves. We recognize slavery and theft as wrong if they are presented nakedly as such. But the political solution of having one group pay for the needs of another group is consistent with the idea that gave birth to the evils of slavery and theft.

Nowadays, the oppressor no longer acts directly and with his own hands against the victim. Our conscience has become too sensitive for that. The oppressor and his victim are still present but there is a middle-man between them, which is the government – the law itself.

What better way to silence our conscience? We each apply to the government for help. "Look how much I have to work and yet how little I have. In order to fix this imbalance, I would like to take a part of the possession of others, but only so much as I need and only from those much more fortunate than I am. But since stealing is dangerous, can you help me with this? Can’t you get me a decent place to live? I’m a small businessman, can’t you restrict my competitors? I’m a student, can’t you lend me money at zero percent interest? Can’t you guarantee my retirement? Can’t you guarantee that my medical bills will all be paid? With the help of the government, I can achieve what I want with a clear conscience since it has all been done legally. I will have all the advantages of theft, without the risk or shame!”

It is supposed to be only the destitute who receive help and only the wealthy who are asked to give help. It is impossible to feel anger towards an oppressor who is destitute or sympathy for a victim that is wealthy. But isn’t the cause of all this unrest the very fact that the government is really acting in the interests of the wealthy by driving up the debt and causing inflation even as social programs are cut?

(brief pause)

Until I can find another definition of the word “government” I am going to give it my own definition. Maybe it will win the prize. Here it is:

"Government is the great fiction by which everyone attempts to live at the expense of everyone else."

It has always been the case that everyone is, more or less, profiting from work done by others. But today, no one would dare say such a thing. We even hide this truth from ourselves.

Every lobby, every pressure group, every racial or other minority group is always applying to the government. They say, "You can take from the public legally and honestly, so take on our behalf, and then spend the money in our district and buy our products." The government is perfectly happy to follow this diabolical advice because the government is composed of administrators and elected officials who are also human beings. Like anyone else, government employees are tempted by the opportunity to increase their own wealth and influence. The government is quick to perceive the advantages it derives from the duties that the public entrusts to it. The government will happily take as much as it can so that a large share will remain for itself. And it will not stop until it has consumed a disastrous portion of the public’s productive energy.

Our contradictory requests place the government in a dilemma. If it refuses to grant our requests, it is accused of weakness, ill-will, and incapacity. If it tries to grant them, it is obliged to load us with new taxes, new debt and to print more money. It ends up doing more harm than good and this results in even more public disapproval and unrest. Each election cycle we “throw the bums out” only to see them replaced by new faces that disappoint us yet again.

Once they take power, the new politicians are just as unable to meet our demands as the ones we just voted out. They soon find that it is much easier to make promises than to keep them. They try to keep their promise to increase student loan subsidies to appease the youth vote. They try to keep their promise to cut taxes on low-income workers to appease the labor vote. But the contradiction is constantly confronting them. If they expand social programs, they must attend to the budget through taxes, debt or inflation; if they hold down taxes, debt and inflation, they must abstain from expanding social programs.

Finally, the public will lose all patience with the government. At this point, what can the government do? It will take bold and decisive measures. It will unite all its forces in order to maintain itself. It will smother opinion, resort to arbitrary measures, ridicule its former policies and declare that it is impossible to do the right thing except at the risk of being unpopular. In short, it proclaims itself governmental. And it is here that other candidates for popularity are waiting for it. They promise the same illusion to the public, achieve the same power, fail to achieve the same success, and soon meet the same end.

It is not enough to make signs and issue demands to the government. Such behavior is either pathetic and beggar-like, on the one hand, or lawless and violent, on the other hand. Instead, we need to truly absorb the meaning of the phrase “We are the 99%.” For every 99 of us, there is just one crook or crony in big business and the corrupt halls of government power.

We are the 99% means that things only got this bad because we let it get this bad. We are the 99% means we need to take responsibility for this mess and change our minds about what we will allow the government and its big business cronies and lobbyists to get away with. No more printing money without our permission. No more public debt without our say-so. No new taxes that we don’t approve. No more wars without our permission. No more bailouts without our approval. No new benefits or programs that we didn’t ask for until you figure out how to pay for it within the budget we’ve already given you. The government is supposed to serve the people, not the other way around. It’s time we remind the 1% who’s boss.

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Kenneth replied on Thu, Oct 27 2011 4:51 AM

I'd like to commend you for your effort in making a narration of Bastiat's "Government" essay. I thought you'd like to hear my suggestions and criticisms.

The OWS protesters are by default collectivists. They believe that there is a "national economic pie" that is collectively produced but most of it today is in the hands of the 1% because of some vague idea of exploitation theory. History is a struggle for control over that economic pie and democracy allows the masses to take back what they collectively produced.

So it’s either a few get all the wealth or the many, and the tug-of-war is always facilitated by government. That’s the framing of the conflict. The idea that we can have a society where nobody plunders anybody is not contemplated.

Your additional commentary should focus on framing the conflict in terms of State vs. the individual (not the State vs. “we the people” since the latter is just a floating abstraction that gives power to the State in the first place like “we owe it to ourselves” mentality). Secondly, your commentary should promote a voluntary society by smashing the “history as violent tug-of-war between rich and poor” myth mentioned earlier.

This way your commentary builds on Bastiat’s insight that politics/government is an overall zero-sum (in fact negative sum) game that only favors minority interests.

I would also suggest you add the explosive George Carlin tirade against voting as the last part of your video.

I’m sorry but your current commentary doesn’t build on Bastiat’s insights and even reinforces the same boring collectivistic “we the people” mentality.

I will also  inform Nielso and LibertyinOurTime since they can upload videos longer than 10 minutes.

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Clayton replied on Thu, Oct 27 2011 10:53 AM

@Kenneth: I acknowledge your criticism and I think you have a point but I don't think I can fit what you're asking within the chosen design constraints. I wanted to keep the video well under 2,000 words (preferably 1,500, this latest edit comes in at 1,516). I also wanted to try to keep as much of the "flavor" of Bastiat's original essay as possible. Bastiat intentionally appeals to the camaraderie of the reader and liberally uses the word "we" "us" "the public" and so on, words which are, as you mentioned, ordinarily used in their collectivist sense.

The points you mention are crucial but I think that Bastiat touches on an even more fundamental point in this essay that, if nothing else, is the one thing I wanted to convey. Specifically, the OWS collectivists think of government in magical terms. If you replace the word "government" with "God" or "the Lord" in something said on the street by an OWS protester, you'll end up with a fairly intelligible theological statement about the Christian God.

Like the Christian God, people think of the government as something that is or at least ought to be omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent. It is supposed to be part of every aspect of our lives. It is supposed to familiarize itself with every detail of our personal affairs. It is the universal hammer of justice which smashes any and every unjust and evil man. It is the inexhaustible well-spring from which all resources come.

The "resources are a fixed-pie to be divvied by the government" myth cannot be challenged until this deeper-seated mystical belief itself is challenged. In their view, the government made the pie because it can do anything we imagine it can do. This is the motivation for the constant drumbeat in the schools to the effect that "we can do anything if we just join together and work through government to get it done."

The root problem in the belief that the government doesn't have to be an onerous burden in taxes, debt and inflation while it can liberally hand out benefits and entitlements is a failure to comprehend the fact of scarcity and the fact that no organization, not even the government, is exempt from this fact. I felt that Bastiat's essay makes a beautiful and persuasive attack on this line of thinking without delving into the technical details and attempting to provide a technical "refutation" of it, which people who are not good at rational thinking (such as OWS protesters) are likely to find a turn-off.

I fully agree with you that the fact of antecedent productivity of private industry being what makes possible any government activity at all is missing from this but my ambitions for this video are smaller than that... rather than 'debunking' the beliefs of the average OWS protester, I hope to simply plant a seed of doubt and leave a nagging voice somewhere in the listener's head about whether government really can do all they imagine it can do or whether such superstitious beliefs are no more rational than believing in Leprechauns.

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Wheylous replied on Thu, Oct 27 2011 4:36 PM

They believe that there is a "national economic pie" that is collectively produced but most of it today is in the hands of the 1% because of some vague idea of exploitation theory. History is a struggle for control over that economic pie and democracy allows the masses to take back what they collectively produced.

This is an amazing statement of the state mentality. Saved in favorites. Wow. So succinct and precise.

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Clayton replied on Sun, Oct 30 2011 2:43 PM

OK, folks, here it is:

Disseminate it as widely as you can! Maybe the LRC blog would be interested in linking to this... does anyone (mods?) have contact with the LRC bloggers?

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z1235 replied on Sun, Oct 30 2011 4:28 PM

Wheylous, I had the same idea in my post here.

...For them, the answer to Bastiat's question is clear. Government (democracy) HAS been discovered and it works perfectly fine as the equalizer (redistributor) of the wealth which the rich (corporations, business, capitalists) have extracted from the rest through "greed and exploitation" (LTV). Though faulty to its core, there is no (Bastiat-implied) contradiction and confusion in their narative. 

In their view, the resources for all the governments' projects (i.e. people's needs) ARE there (the 1%'s wealth). The majority (OWS) only needs to get vocal enough to force/prod the government into seizing them and using them to satisfy the mob's demands. The fact that there are so many unsatisfied needs (scarcity) is merely THE PROOF that the 1% have bribed the government to seize much less than the mob's "fair share". Just like with every other socialist movement (VP, ZGM, etc.) scarcity has never been a problem. There IS enough stuff out there! The problem is only with how it's being "distributed". A government must exist to check the greed of the exploitors (1%) and to make sure that the exploited (99%) get "back" their "fair share". 

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z1235 replied on Sun, Oct 30 2011 4:34 PM

Clayton, excellent work!

Given a choice, I'd have gotten rid of the "we" finale, but the video is excellent as a whole. 

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Clayton replied on Sun, Oct 30 2011 6:09 PM

@z: Graham hasn't posted in this thread (Graham, post in this thread!) but he did the narration without which the video just would not have been possible (believe me, you wouldn't want me to narrate it, my nasal voice makes Ray Romano sound like a DJ radio announcer).

I also am not comfortable saying all this "we" stuff but I think if you want to reach OWS, as JJ said in the opening of this thread, you have to speak their language. They would be put off by a "rugged individualist" tone of "I this ... I that". I hope the video accomplishes what I wanted it to... to plant the seed of doubt in people's minds regarding the ability of the government to do all the things they imagine it can magically do.

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Wheylous replied on Sun, Oct 30 2011 6:15 PM

I appreciate all of your and Graham's hard work, and sorry to be negative, but I think it will go straight over their heads if​ they even spend the 10 minutes to watch it.

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Clayton replied on Sun, Oct 30 2011 6:44 PM

@Wheylous: There is a wide diversity of people who are being attracted to the OWS movement. It was started and funded by Soros but he can't control who shows up. As you can see from those "I am the 1%" Peter Schiff videos, it's not all mainline Marxism... there's a smattering of mainline Democrats, the occasional Ron Paulian, the working young person trying to hold a "responsible, moderate" position on issues, and so on. The use of OWS in this video is primarily as a "hook" to draw in viewers... it's a current event that people are likely to be searching on YT or Google and if this video turns up there's a good chance they might click on it and as long as they're not a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat or Marxist, there is a respectable chance they just might come away with at least the seed of doubt planted in their mind.

That's all I hoped to accomplish.

I've been on the Internet since the late 90's debating people on all imaginable subjects from theology to cosmology to psychology to the philosophy of mathematics to (lately) economics, politics and law. The fact is that people do not change their minds at the conclusion of an argument. I believe this is just an attribute of human nature. However, when they hear an argument they had not thought of before and which they can't apply one of their pat arguments to evict from their mind, it tends to stick in the back of their mind. It may sit there months or years but it will begin to grow the longer they are unable to think of a good reason why that argument must be incorrect. Sooner or later, they will have an epiphany and "discover on their own" that truth that had been growing in their mind for so long. Our ego will not permit us to endure the humiliation of correction. Instead, we forget the origins of our ideas until it seems like we thought them up all on our own.

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z1235 replied on Sun, Oct 30 2011 9:05 PM

Clayton:

The fact is that people do not change their minds at the conclusion of an argument. 

Quite true. Good post. 

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Clayton replied on Sun, Oct 30 2011 10:43 PM

I don't want to count the chickens before they're hatched but I think we may have the makings of a viral video here... 190 hits, 18 likes, 0 dislikes so far and it's only been online for 8 hours! I've put a few YT videos up and never seen stats like that... it took 9 months for my old inflation video to break 1,000.

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MrSchnapps replied on Sun, Oct 30 2011 11:26 PM

However, when they hear an argument they had not thought of before and which they can't apply one of their pat arguments to evict from their mind, it tends to stick in the back of their mind. It may sit there months or years but it will begin to grow the longer they are unable to think of a good reason why that argument must be incorrect.

Agreed. I think it's odd to expect someone to practically change their entire worldview after just one encounter.

We have a more modest goal: to put a stone in their shoe.

“Remove justice,” St. Augustine asks, “and what are kingdoms but gangs of criminals on a large scale? What are criminal gangs but petty kingdoms?”
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Clayton replied on Sun, Oct 30 2011 11:43 PM

put a stone in their shoe.

Haha, yeah, that's the goal!

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Here are some points well made in the video:

  • Government is not a mystical, inexhaustible entity bearing free gifts for us all.
  • Government is a system of legal plunder; it is nothing more than a middleman between criminal and victim.
  • Government works with and for the wealthy and “big business” interests; it works against the 99%. 
  • Government itself is the problem, not who is running it.
  • Politicians and bureaucrats are (self-interested, fallible) human beings, not omnipotent angels.

I think if the Occupiers understood all these points, they might reconsider who the enemy is.

As for the “we” stuff, I agree with John James that is rhetorically important to “speak their language”.  Sympathising with them is very important; we need to make it clear that we too hate the current system, and want radical change.  See Alex Jones, Lew Rockwell and Ron Paul.  The last thing we want to be seen doing is defending the status quo, the bankers, or the CEOs that they hate. 

Let’s put stones in their shoes.

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Wheylous replied on Mon, Oct 31 2011 8:25 PM

Though I really do hope they don't turn Spanarchist

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Clayton:
I also am not comfortable saying all this "we" stuff but I think if you want to reach OWS, as JJ said in the opening of this thread, you have to speak their language. They would be put off by a "rugged individualist" tone of "I this ... I that".

That's so funny that "we" would all have the same objection.  I was thinking the exact same thing when I watched it...hearing all the "we" just irked me, but obviously I understand where it's coming from.  I'm just not sure I would have gone as far as all the "without our permission" examples...because technically, as Milton Friedman pointed out, it is with our permission already...the larger reason we have inflation is because the people want it...just as was illustrated in the video.  Everyone wants more money for their own programs, so it is politically profitable to print the money to appease them all.

 

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Clayton replied on Tue, Nov 1 2011 4:01 PM

@JJ: Well, if I had said "No more printing money. No more public debt. No more wars." etc. these would be construed as a political manifesto by the unsympathetic audience I'm trying to reach. "No more printing money without our permission" doesn't necessarily entail that it would be OK if it was with our permission (though I know that is how the sentence will be taken, so this is a bit weasely). But I actually did think this through.

Those final paragraphs are supposed to be a Jujutsu move on "We Are the 99%" to instead convey the essence of Boetie's Politics of Obedience: We outnumber the corrupt rulers of the country 100 to 1 and this shows that a) what they can get away with is really our own fault for permitting them to get away with it and b) the key to changing things is changing our own attitudes... which is why I used the phrase "we need to change our minds about what we will allow... the government... to get away with."

It's always difficult to sell a message of self-deficiency to an audience. "You're the problem! But isn't my speech awesome!? Tell all your friends to watch it on YouTube so I can tell them they suck, too!" Carlin somehow managed to pull it off... alas, I am no Carlin.

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