Tuesday, January 10, 2012

What Ben Manski doesn't understand.

Or how to distinguish a political protest from a childish tantrum.

"What some can't accept, they pretend not to understand . And the political class can't accept that the common demand of the current protest wave is for democratic revolution. We want them gone. We want power." This is Ben Manski's justification for the lack of expressed goals from the Occupy movement. It's far less revealing than I would have liked, and for that reason, far more revealing.

Let's start with the claim that the "common demand of the current protest wave is for democratic revolution. This is simply false. I haven't heard any demands for democracy as he later describes it from the Occupy movement let alone "constant" demands. Sure protestors have claimed "This is what democracy looks like" (while making absolutely no effort to vote or otherwise determine what the majority wants) but nobody has been calling for violent revolution.

Of course he might have meant nonviolent revolution, but this begs the question, what would that mean? What would constitute the "We" having power and the "them" being gone? If they mean the current government system why are they protesting Wall Street and not Washington? If they mean the financial system what exactly do they want gone? Do they want the Wall Street banks just to shut up shop because they said so? Even ignoring the absurdity of the idea that they would what's the alternative? How do they suggest business gets financed without banks? I don't believe I've heard the word "credit union" or "building society" out of the mouths of any of them. If this is a demand it's something that's far from constant and certainly not exactly universal amoung OWS. If they did want big banks replaced by cooperatives then here's an idea, START A COOPERATIVE. Or at least switch your money over to it. The Occupy movement isn't talking about this, although Manski is. The question is what is his evidence that the Occupy movement which keeps it's money in a big, bad bank is really interested in such things? Nothing.

He goes on to claim that "Democracy is a simple idea. The people rule.". These two sentences in succession mean that he does not understand the concepts democracy, "The people" or "rule". For a start which people rule? All the people? Great then he should ring up the guys in Africa and see what they think about wealth redistribution. Considering the USA has 300 million people and Africa has over a billion they should mostly be the ones deciding on this whole revolution thing. What? He meant the people in an arbitrary area should rule? Well which one? The entire nation, NY state, NY city? Maybe the borough, why not? There are so many arbitrary lines you can draw with one side meaning power over these people and the other side meaning power over others.

Let's make no mistake here, "Democracy" means having power over others. It means ruling which is to say maintaining your wishes by force over them. It means jails, fines, beating and executions. It is not freedom it is not justice, it is force pure and simple, with it's justification based on mathematics not morality. It is the limitation of such arbitrary power, that many of the founders knew was no more trustworthy in common than in royal hands, that led to the creation of a republic, not a democracy, a country of laws not men with the majority able to make some changes but no subvert the freedom of the minority (in theory at least). That a majority of people want something is no more morally convincing than that white people want it, or rich people, or lutherans or any other arbitrary group. So if this guy wants a system where a group uses force to control another group why would he be upset at cops getting rough with demostrators?

He believes "it our birthright to directly participate in power. ", note DIRECTLY participate, as in without elections. So he wants over 250 million people to vote on whether to increase or reduce fish catch numbers off the Florida coast. Of these less than 1% are either marine biologists, economists or work in fisheries. This will end well. Even assuming that electronic voting (which never gets rigged mind you) could remove the need to physically go to a polling booth the US government passes several laws each week at least, many of them longer than Atlas Shrugged but without the kinky sex. It's been estimated that most Congressmen don't read the the laws and they're paid to. This guy thinks 250 million people will read each law, understand the historical, legal, social and economic consequences, compare these consequences to what happens if the law doesn't pass, including evaluating alternative legislation and vote in a way that's isn't totally corrupt and self-serving? I haven't heard anyone be this optiministic since they disbanded the Office of Special Plans. Of course if nation-states were a lot smaller this would be easier, but I don't see too many OWS types calling for secession.

Then there is the claim that this form of government is a "birthright". Inherited from who? Who gained this right to rule over me and how did he bequeath it to all and sundry?
"The rights to housing, to an education, to health care, to child care, to a livable income, are all democratic rights." No they're not. Even granting that you have a right to beat people up if they don't give you a "liveable income", free health care, and an education these "rights" have nothing to do with democracy. Democracy is a method of choosing how force is to be used, not a theory of what force ought to be used to provide. There can be no such thing as "democratic rights" other than rights to participate in a democracy, because all other rights would be subject to a vote and therefore not a right. But feel free to pick these things off the tree where you think it grows to paraphrase Ayn Rand.

"Students of social change learn that mass movements are most likely to emerge at times when economic conditions become intolerable. " Said students might want to get a better teacher. In fact mass movements like the civil rights struggle came when conditions were improving as did pro-democracy movements in China, the American Revolution. Violent revolts might take place when conditions are intolerable but mass peaceful protests rarely. The reason is obvious, mass protests and mass movements rely on large numbers of people with spare time, spare energy and who aren't afraid they'll starve to death if they get fired.
His entire screed is simply a series of false claims about what OWS wants and whether this is likely to result in anything. Find me one OWS protestor who advocated the abolition of elections, and I'll call Manski something other than a complete liar.

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