Libertarians are missing out on a powerful social dynamic. The protest movement called Occupy Wall Street (OWS) is bursting onto the streets in an iconoclastic surge that has continued for weeks, spreading from Manhattan to cities across America. Demonstrators are being met with police brutality and arrest. They are also being contemptuously dismissed by the mainstream media and by most libertarians.
The contempt revolves around the perceived message. Yet there is a multitude of messages. Indeed, initially the “leaders” (if that word applies to such a self-consciously democratic group) seemed opposed to imposing any meaning on the demonstrations beyond protesting Wall Street. Instead, they encouraged local organizers to define themselves.
Many messages have been ascribed, however. Some come from interviews with protesters on the street. Ezra Klein of the Washington Post stated, “Some of the people . . . want to End the Fed. Others want to tax Wall Street. One woman assured me that ‘very few’ of the top one percent live in New York, or even in the United States. ‘They’re in gated communities all around the world,’ she said. Someone else saw this as a cultural revolution.”
Other messages derive from lists of “demands” posted on forums even though the organizers claim the lists come from detractors who wish to make OWS look silly. Indeed, the “leaders” are currently working on an official message to counter what they view as widespread misunderstanding.
It is clear, however, that the original and most vocal protesters are left-wing and anti-capitalist. This aspect of OWS is what makes libertarians so derisive even though no similar depth of derision seems directed toward the right-wing aspects of the Tea Party.
A Place for Libertarians?
Why should libertarians be interested in OWS?