At the Occupy London Stock Exchange protest we got a brief opportunity to rehearse libertarian arguments on economics with people who activly disagreed with us. We made some progress in a few cases, and in others we met entrenched resistence, of most interest though are the arguments that didn’t work because we were out-debated at the time. These are the opportunities to improve our debating expertise.
For example, Michael Saxon reports on our escapade to St Paul’s thusly:
We were asked where free markets had been tried so we brought up North vs South Korea and the fact that the North was separated by true communist supporters while the South adopted free markets. The South is obviously more prosperous. For some reason they wouldn’t accept this so we went to Hong Kong which they argued was a regurgitator, not a producer of wealth. This point is arguable but I forgot to mention what would have been a perfect and current example. Estonia
The same group of people argued to me, separately, that Hong Kong is basically a repository of wealth produced in China and elsewhere in the region and owing to Hong Kong’s geography and port status. Michael agreed however, with the protestors and with Wikipedia that:
Hong Kong has a major capitalist service economy characterised by low taxation and free trade.
So, what is really going on here? Is Hong Kong a productive trading and manufacturing centre or is it a service economy wealthy thanks it’s role in managing the productivity of an exploited Chinese population? Has Hong Kong changed over time?
Also, an economics question. Is a financial service company not productive in it’s own way? If so, how exactly?
History lessons (with links) in the comments please.
Feed me your Wages
Yesterday, the protesters at St Paul’s dressed as zombies and marched through the City to “dance on the grave of capitalism”. At last they are being clear, they want capitalists dead and they want to feed, as the pictures clearly show, by buying their food (presumably some kind of carrion) using the expropriated wages of dead capitalists.
Oh hang on, that isn’t clear at all. If the capitalists are dead, who’s wages will they claim ownership of? Who’s wages do they want to be fed? And while we’re at it, why is that zombie wearing a suit?
Oh I see, perhaps they are pretending they are the zombies of the dead capitalists they plan to kill. But no, that’s no better, why would a capitalist want to feed off a socialist’s wages. Socialists reject all wages (because money is evil) and tend not to earn them anyway because (and I’m pretty sure about this bit) socialist countries tend to be incredibly poor.
Then again, they are pretending to be dead zombie capitalists. Perhaps the narrative of this little story is that the part of the brain responsible for economic reasoning was eaten out by maggots and they are all pretending to be confused dead zombie bankers murdered by tent dwelling socialists and mistakenly asking socialists for non-existent evil wages to feed their accursed afterlives?
Phew! Quite a plot twist that one, I was nearly confused myself.
So, the campers are still out in force at St Paul’s but thanks to pro-capitalism campaigners they have not gone unopposed. This was one of the most frustrating observations at the time of the anti-austerity, student fees and ukuncut protests; it seemed that all the shouting was in one direction and that there was no opposing voice. Not this time.
Over Sunday lunchtime Libertarian Home leaflets were being distributed to about about a third of the protesters and assembled sympathisers and a few dozen curious tourists, passers by and policemen. We spoke to Bloomberg and spoke on camera to Sky News. We published our open letter so that the open minded could follow up with us. By one o’clock there were four of us, and we proceeded to argue with half a dozen protesters until we froze, then retired to the pub.
That afternoon, Old Holborn paid them a visit and seems to have got into some detail and understood them a little. To be honest I was hoping for some classic Old Holborn confrontational antics, but quiet conversation is good as well.
This afternoon, according to the TV news a City worker was distributing leaflets explaining that 12% of earnings goes to the top 1% of earners, but they pay 27% of taxes. It is well worth pointing out that equality and soaking the rich are not compatible.
All this means that three separate pro-capitalist voices have spoken at the protest. Most will have had a pro-capitalist or pro-city opinion laid out for them in writing for them to reflect on. They have not been confronted, they have not been cracked down on or suppressed, instead they have been reasoned with. Common ground has been pointed out and welcomed, and policy suggestions put to them.
The protesters have been treated warmly, but for once their opinions have not gone unchallenged.
I’d like to see this happen on every day of the protest. If you feel the same, and can spare an evening then please email email@example.com .