Today’s post is a guest blog by my friend, Dr. Monte Wilson. Monte might express some of the points that he makes here with more of a sharp polemical edge than I am comfortable with in my own posts but I deeply agree with his central arguments. His humor will not attract you if you believe the answers to our present economic problems lie in taxing business more heavily.

Personally, I do not have the time to compose a response to the marches and public events that are currently unfolding gse_multipart68292 day-to-day in these ill-defined protests against Wall Street so I turn to a good friend and asked him to add his thoughts on my site. Monte is not a heartless capitalist or a hater. He is a man deeply committed to directly attacking poverty and caring for the weakest and most needy people on the planet. He is a man who is tolerant of diversity and counts as friends people across the whole spectrum, just as I do. He is no ivory tower conservative who simply talks about these issues. This brother invests his life in real solutions in some of the most dangerous places I know about in Africa. You should know him and his work. He is a man of deep compassion. But, as you will see, he is a man with a wit and strong views about common sense and the market. 

I suppose that some in this present movement decided to begin an anti-Tea Party demonstration, or so it seems to me. I welcome opposition to the Tea Party since I am not a big fan of this populist movement either. But this new anti-Wall Street movement is anything but a thoughtful and helpful response. Sometimes things this bad should be mocked with a degree of humorous realism. Monte does that in this post. If you are offended that is not my intention in posting it. If you like it then do not use it to laugh at your friends who might believe this movement is to be taken as a serious reform effort. 

One last comment. While I am not a defender of capitalism (a term actually coined by Karl Marx), at least as commonly understood by the masses and particularly by the Wall Street protest, I do believe in the free market. A highly-controlled economic market is bad for people and the economy. This is Monte's primary point if you read his words carefully. What role government does have in the market is a subject that requires great care, not political sound bites. But these present protests make a mockery of workable solutions. I expect this movement will soon die out. Time will tell. I thought the Tea Party would soon die out too but it clearly helped to elect a significant number of new members in the 2010 Congress. This reaction could create a new movement that lasts and has a direct impact on politics. Buckle up for 2012. The race is on and both sides will work hard to make points. Politics in America is a contact sport so we had better be prepared or find a way to shut the noise out for the next 13 months or so. 


Protesting Wall Street

Monte E. Wilson III

Ah, but the great advantage of mass moronization is that it leaves you too dumb to figure out who to be mad at.

Mark Steyn, American Autumn

get-attachment.aspx Over the last week I have received quite a number of emails asking for my reactions to the “Wall Street Protesters” and their demands. So, I crafted the following over the last few days and was about to post this when I decided to search the Internet and see what others have been saying. Wow. Much of what I have written here has already been stated, and in many cases, far better than my musings. At first, I was tempted to forget the post but then it hit me: isn’t that the nature of reality, the nature of the obvious? I mean, it’s not like the socialistic demands of these protesters have not been asserted and then proven both fallacious and disastrous for well over 2,000 years!

So, in the spirit of Me Too! — here are my thoughts.

First of all, as I watch and read the news, I can’t help but wonder if the parents of these people are thinking about suing the schools their children attended! If there was ever a perfect example of why we need a complete overhaul of our nation’s system of Public Education, this movement provides it. Whether it is a working knowledge of our nation’s Constitution and the nature of our inalienable rights, the differences between a free market economy and crony capitalism, or a rudimentary understanding of logic, these people appear to be utterly uneducated. (By the way, “inalienable rights” are God-given rights, not Government granted freedoms.)

Second, I am not sure many of these people even know what it is they are protesting, besides hygiene. Big Business? OK, which ones? What constitutes a Big Business? Fortune 100? 400? Any business that makes more than . . . how much? And is everything these businesses are doing evil? And how precisely do they define “evil”? And what about all those iPhones that I keep seeing you guys use: Apple is certainly in the category of Big Business, eh? Do you even feel the slightest bit of hypocrisy?

Anyway, because it doesn’t appear there is a single voice for this movement, it is almost impossible to say, “This is what the movement is demanding.” I say “almost” because there is a list of demands circulating that many of these people either implicitly or explicitly seem to support.

1 Restoration of the living wage. This demand can only be met by ending “Freetrade” through re-imposing trade tariffs on all imported goods entering the American market so we can level the playing field for domestic family farming and domestic manufacturing as most nations have alrady done that are dumping cheap products onto the American market and have radical wage and environmental regulation advantages. Another policy that must be instituted is to raise the minimum wage to twenty dollars an hour.

As many economists have been pointing out for decades, if we assert that importing goods across international borders is axiomatically a job-killer, then logic demands that we say the same thing about importing goods across state borders. You guys up for California taxing all the fruit that comes into the state from Florida?

And what’s up with the $20 minimum wage? These guys are obviously thinking way to small. Why not have Congress raise the minimum wage to $100! WooHoo!

2 Institute a universal single payer healthcare system. To do this all private insurers must be banned from the healthcare market as their only effect on the health of patients is to take money away from doctors, nurses and hospitals preventing them from doing their jobs and hand that money to Wall Street investors.

Yeah. That’s the ticket! Give the Fed’s a monopoly on healthcare. After all, it did so well with the Postal Service.

3 Guaranteed living wage income regardless of employment.

And you would choose to work because …? Somebody? Anybody? Bueller? Bueller? (Please note that I used a perfect imitation of Ben Stein, here.) And exactly where does the money come from to support all these people who will choose to not work?  — This will be a common refrain throughout the rest of this post. I hate being redundant, but the point obviously needs to be made, over and over again. From where do these people think the money for all their demands is going to come?” Ew, Ew, I know! Taxing the Evil Corporate Bastards." Yeah, that sounds so cool, so like Sticking it the Man. And what do you think Corporations will do to make up for the loss of revenues? They will pass that cost along to their customers . . . or go out of business. (Reference: Bank of America and new monthly charges for using debit cards.)

4 Free college education.

So you don’t want to pay for your education: you want me to pay for it through higher taxes, eh? Sorry, kids, Economics 101: There is no such thing as a Free Lunch.

5 Begin a fast track process to bring the fossil fuel economy to an end while at the same bringing the alternative energy economy up to energy demand.

Great. No problem. But the problem here is Big Government. When it stops interfering in the market place with its massive regulations, when it gets out of the way of our nation’s entrepreneurs, we will begin to see progress here—and not before.

6 One trillion dollars in infrastructure (Water, Sewer, Rail, Roads and Bridges and Electrical Grid) spending now.

Again: this money is going to be provided by whom? The Government? And where does the Government get this money? Besides, spending on infrastructure is right at 2.5 percent of the GDP. That’s the highest it’s been in 60 years.

7 One trillion dollars in ecological restoration planting forests, reestablishing wetlands and the natural flow of river systems and decommissioning of all of America’s nuclear power plants.

Let’s see, now. The EPA is spending around 10 billion a year, so this means he wants 100 years of spending over a period of . . . how long? And where is this money going to come from? And if we get rid of dams and nuclear power plants, this will mean we have to rely more heavily on coal and natural gas: how does this square with Number 5? Think people, think!

8 Racial and gender equal rights amendment.

See what I mean? Go read the 14th Amendment, son.

9 Open borders migration. anyone can travel anywhere to work and live.

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” your terrorists, and your diseased yearning to bring this nation down. Whoa!

10 Bring American elections up to international standards of a paper ballot precinct counted and recounted in front of an independent and party observers system.

OK. No problem here, except I think all he needed to demand was honest vote counts. Computers can do this, unless he just has a thing against technology.

11 Immediate across the board debt forgiveness for all. Debt forgiveness of sovereign debt, commercial loans, home mortgages, home equity loans, credit card debt, student loans and personal loans now! All debt must be stricken from the “Books.” World Bank Loans to all Nations, Bank to Bank Debt and all Bonds and Margin Call Debt in the stock market including all Derivatives or Credit Default Swaps, all 65 trillion dollars of them must also be stricken from the “Books.” And I don’t mean debt that is in default, I mean all debt on the entire planet period.

This is a great strategy for doing away with lending altogether.  These people are not only ignorant of the laws of economics; they are clueless as to the nature of human beings.

12 Outlaw all credit reporting agencies.

Sure. The credit agencies were major players in the housing bubble, but the only way they could get away with lying to their customers was the fact that Big Government protected them from the laws of supply and demand but did not protect customers from fraud. This is crony capitalism at its “best.”

13 Allow all workers to sign a ballot at any time during a union organizing campaign or at any time that represents their yeah or nay to having a union represent them in collective bargaining or to form a union.

How about the Government requiring secret ballots where neither management nor unions can place undo pressure on workers to go with either group? This way, they can do what they believe is in their best self-interest without fear of being smacked down by management or the unions. 

If any of you know someone all caught up in this mob, send him or her some early Christmas gifts:

Economics in One Lesson, Henry Hazlitt

The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality, Ludwig Von Mises

The Law, Frederic Bastiat (You can get a free online copy of this book)

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  1. Adam Shields October 12, 2011 at 5:59 am

    I wish he had at least mentioned their primary demands. Yes the ones he mentioned are there, but they are not first on the list.
    1) Pass Prudent Banking Act which reinstates the 1933 Gramm Leach Billey Act that requires a separation between investment banking which issues securities and commercial banks that accept deposits and issues loans.
    2) Use Congressional oversight and authority to investigate and prosecute Wall St criminals. The fact that there have been multiple books written about what lead to the fiscal crisis with some of them detailing actual criminal violations but no one being prosecuted for them seems like a reasonable request.
    3) Enact legislation to protect our democracy by reversing the effects of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision. This is and next one – to require public airwaves to give free campaign programing are common suggestions for reducing the effects of donations on the political process.
    4) Enact the Buffett rule on taxation. This may not be popular but it is not a radical suggestions.
    5) Revamp the SEC to insure it has a sufficient budget, but also is insulated to be able to properly regulate the securities industry.
    6) Pass legislation to limit the influence of lobbying and eliminate the practice of lobbyists writing legislation.
    7) Pass revolving door legislation to strengthen rules about regulators working in industries that they once regulated.
    8) Eliminate personhood legal status for corporations
    This whole list was voted higher than any of the demands that were referenced. Part of taking someone seriously is taking on their best arguments. That doesn’t mean you have to ignore the bad arguments. But it should mean that you do not ignore the good arguments.

  2. John H. Armstrong October 12, 2011 at 7:33 am

    This is a very fair response. This is also why I said I had not studied the whole protest movement deeply enough to offer my own review of the specific demands, etc. All of these issues that you cite are worthy of response but “the devil is (as always) in the details.” One thing I do agree with you about profoundly is that Wall Street corruption is real and it is harming America and our public and personal lives. Having said this deep corruption is across the board and Congress is at the center of the problem, being completely complicit in this meltdown.
    I am not a defender of everything President Bush did but in this case he warned openly Congress of the housing problem and no one listened. Then when the shoe(s) fell Congressional leaders blamed someone else. AIG, Fanny, Freddy, etc. were all genuinely involved in helping to destroy our economy. Those most hurt by this are the poor and middle class. Indeed, I have been hurt significantly, like most of my friends, but by grace I live to keep on doing what I’ve been called to do. Monte’s children’s mission in Africa has also been deeply hurt.
    BTW, I have mentioned a few of these items in several previous blogs, as I am sure you recall. It is self-evident that I am not sympathetic with either a full-on government solution or a complete absence of government regulation on the other hand. What I do agree with my friend Monte about is the place the free market has in providing real freedom to the personal entrepreneur and investor. When government manages the market, or props up the job market, it really doesn’t help a great deal in the end. People create “good” jobs when there is incentive and the government encourages this process by staying away except to check corruption and malpractice.
    Finally, freedom without virtue leads us to where we are now. We do need accountability. I simply do not think the central rhetorical message of the Wall Street protest movement gets this at all. While there are good points in the message they are drowned in a sea of progressive excess that are anti-freedom and progressive in the extreme. Excellent Christian minds will disagree but I wanted to offer some kind of response to the news that is big today.

  3. Duncan October 12, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    Adam makes a very good point about taking on someone’s best arguments (this is important, especially when combined with the nice axiom about being able to articulate the other guy’s point of view). I shudder a bit when Adam says not to “ignore their good arguments” in the context of the 8 that he has listed. The nasty 13 that Monte lists aside, I hardly regard these 8 as “good” — certainly not collectively. The Buffet rule (#4) deserves its own critique — beginning with the point that it is based on a demonstrably false premise that wealthy people currently pay a lower percentage. But, let me comment especially on #6.
    Like so many scapegoats, the Lobbyists are blamed for all sorts of graft and corruption. This might be a semi-reasonable generalization if one could define who exactly these lobbyists are. But, as it stands today, lobbyists include a variety of good-intentioned people and organizations who seek to express themselves in the public forum. Analogous to blaming all “big corporations” and all business people as being evil, taking lobbyists to task is a bit over the top. Lobbyists can and do have influence for two significant reasons: free speech and corruptible politicians. The recommended solution of removing free speech seems to be addressing the wrong half of the risk. For the public (Occupy protectors) to seek to compromise our rights in order to prevent corruption is patently ironic. Namely, the politicians’ corruption will be “cured” by corrupting our freedoms. This “cure” demonstrates the protestors’ inherent corrupt thinking.
    In my newspaper this morning are two Op-ed pieces. I don’t necessarily commend either to you, so I have not listed them here (one happens to be by Lee Hamilton). But, let me point out two points contained within them that might help us as we think this through. One indicated that Lobbyists have increased i their influence — I suggest that this is not necessarily bad (public voices should be heard and considered), but the ugly parts occur because politicians have failed to maintain integrity. The other piece highlighted that many of the protestors are reacting after having lost patience with Obama — they elected him expecting change and have not seen it. These two views, coupled with a front page article in my newspaper today (“Republican Hopefuls Agree: Government is the Problem”), emphasize that EVERYONE ought to be united on one issue: The government and political process (not Wall Street) have failed us. This is good news for an evangelist, since there is a savior who has not failed us — and the world needs to know about how He eclipses all corruption. Notice, BTW, that this government that has failed us is us (cf. Pogo’s, ‘we have met the enemy…’). We the people are in need of redemption.

  4. Duncan October 12, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    “2) Use Congressional oversight and authority to investigate and prosecute Wall St criminals….seems like a reasonable request.”
    This one is actually quite humorous. I presume that the recommendation is being made with the same rationale that FDR gave for appointing Joseph Kennedy to head the SEC? Namely, “it takes a thief to catch a thief”?
    I would argue that Congress is too busy and demonstrably too corrupt for this task. I don’t mean to draw too close of a parallel, but consider the approach and outcomes of Congress’ recent televangelist investigations.

  5. Adam Shields October 12, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    I worked for a little while as a state legislative aid. I agree lobbyists are not all bad. They can provide good information and a range of research. But if lobbyists didn’t work corporations would not be spending so much money on them. It is not a simple issue, I am not going to pretend it is. But there is a disproportionate effect of power and money on Washington that average people do not have.
    I think that Duncan is right that a significant part of the protestors are mad at Obama for not having done more. But at the same time he is reviled by the right for being the most liberal president ever. Reasonably, both cannot be right.

  6. Adam Shields October 12, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    I do not want to suggest that anything about the economy is simple or easily solved. But I do not think it is appropriate to just mock protests like this. Mark’s portion of the post seems like it is mocking. There is real problems when people with power take advantage of that power, because people without power often end up losing.
    I also think it is reasonable to suggest that there are more than just individual solutions. My pastor had a sermon series that was essentially, “we are all greedy and the way to solve the problem is to repent and stop being greedy.” He has a point, but that does not take into account real corporate sin. There is corporate (I do not mean business, but systemic) sin in the US and too often I see politically right responses as being simplistic and suggesting that unregulated capitalism will solve the problem (no not from you John).
    The left has their own problems with corporate sin as well. I am not going to say they don’t. But I see this post as predominately a politically right response to corporate sin and I find it lacking.

  7. John H. Armstrong October 12, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    I entirely agree that sin is not entirely personal and private. This is, in fact, a form of dualism. I also agree that greed can be systemic, not just personal. All of this has bearing on the present problems but corporate sin does not, as you say, mean business is itself sinful. If this were true nothing could be done and government would be given total control and power over every part of our life. So, yes sin is systemic and corporate but not business is not the culprit at all. What we need is healthy and productive business which thrives best where freedom promotes it and supports it. Monte may seem to be arguing for a simple political right position but actually he is making a case for markets and morality both.

  8. Duncan October 12, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    I read Monte as mostly describing how the protestors have failed to grasp some key economic principles and therefore have allowed their desperate plea for help to work itself up into a [somewhat irrational] frenzy with resultant [somewhat foolish] recommendations. As such, I didn’t think that Monte was intending so much to make a case for a particular approach but rather indicate that whatever approach is taken out to be significantly tempered by a commitment to what we know about market economies.
    Missing, perhaps, from Monte’s post is consideration that some percentage of the protestors reject the notion of a market economy. Just as a conservative might say “well, for a small group of people, a cooperative approach might be fine, but for populations over 50 people, it falls apart”, the protestors might say “free markets are a nice concept, but we have proven [by the last decade] that they cannot actually function because they act as an accelerant for greed”. So, even if they cannot articulate it, the protestors might be implicitly requesting a review of what balance of regulation CAN work? A worthwhile response might include an exposition of in what ways the last decade has NOT been a valid test of markets and a description of what is needed to implement a more valid market economy. Christians should joyfully join this dialogue since they already recognize that 1) our nature promotes greed, 2) accountability is an important part of one’s walk, 3) we cannot simply tell (or even convince) people to make nice — because of our nature, it is only temporal. (This is where Adam’s pastor’s sermon is kinda sorta like standing on Wall Street and shouting “greed is bad, repent”. One cannot repent away one’s nature. Only the Holy Spirit can convict and change us.) In this sense, if Monte is making only a case for morality (I don’t think he is), his suggestion is no better. The beauty of a market economy is that freedoms create natural checks and balances (e.g., against greedy monopolies), so attempts to legislate morality are unnecessary. The Occupiers are crying out for peace and goodness — this is exactly what Christ delivers. They are asking for bread, which of you would give them a stone?

  9. Al Shaw October 12, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    Like most conservatives at this stage of the Protests, Monte appears to be responding to the half-formed debates emerging from the Wall Streeters as if they are fully-formulated social policy proposals, which clearly they are not.
    Dismissing the movement on this basis, however, fails to recognise that revolutionary movements (paradoxically) tend to evolve. This can be observed, for instance, in the gradual development of political protest in America from the end of the French-Indian War in 1763 to the ratification of the federal Constitution 24 years later.
    The Wall Street protests represent, in my opinion, an early stage in a possible mass movement seeking a significant reallignment in the distrubition of economic and political power in the United States.
    As such, incomplete though some of its demands may appear at present, we should broadly welcome the movement. Clearly the current settlement in which corporate elites so radically dominate the politial process to their advantage has manifestly failed.

  10. Stephen October 15, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    As I review Mr Wilsons article protesting wall street there are a few things that come to mind…
    1) Restoration of the living wage.
    Perhaps….for instance CEOs should not make more than 5 times the lowest wage earner. It a full time employee makes 30 000, the CEO cannot make more than 150 000. Incentive therefore to pull UP the bottom wage earner to something the CEO is more comfortable with (certainly would change the game plan!!!)….does he want to make 500 000, well then I guess he is going to have to bring the bottom up a but. Companies that can afford to offer 10 million to the Chairman can certainly afford to offer everyone under them a better wage. Seriously who really does 10 million dollars worth of work?
    $20 / hr min wage? Israel apparently affords this…why can’t USA simply raise it where necessary. I’m not sure how anyone in NY or Chicago could live in $7.25 /hr.
    2) Institute a universal single payer healthcare system. Why not universal healthcare? Canada, Great Britain, France, Scandinavia but not USA? You have 3/4 of a trillion for military spending to kill people but not enough for health? Health / insurance companies apepar to be quite used to taking americans to the financial cleaners. Why do american tolerate being fleeced? (I suppose we can all say this about auto insurance as well)
    3) Free College Education. It might be worth looking into subsidized education (maybe a 50/50 split). Again if you can afford 750 military bases and a massive nuclear arsenal etc….why not even subsidize education? You subside a bloated war on terror, why not a war on the under / uneducated?
    4) One trillion dollars in infrastructure. Uhmmm again, why not CUT military spending (including black budgets, invading countries) and spend it on your OWN people? I know lots of Americans… GREAT PEOPLE, worth spending the money if you want to keep the USA in the lead. Or why not increase corporate tax just slightly so fund infrastructure. Corporations that have flourished in America owe a debt to the american people.
    5) Debt forgiveness. If the US gov’t can dole out billions in corporate welfare to GM and Chrysler….couldn’t the USA forgive even a small portion of mortgages….or extend them for 10-20 years so that people don’t lose their homes?
    6) Corporations need ‘personhood’ rescinded. Period.
    and finally i think the free market is anything but free.
    I really hope the USA (as other countries must) can find its way through this, too many fantastic people to allow to fall thru the cracks. There needs to be a more ‘just’ way of thinking about these financial issues.
    I would check out THE AGENDA (TVO) that is a good 1 hr review of this movement.

  11. Duncan October 17, 2011 at 8:09 am

    Restoration of the living wage? (If companies could only employ people under terms that compensated at a living wage, this would mean the end of part-time / non-career employment for those in transition, such as college students, and even second earners in a household.)
    CEOs only making 5 times the lowest earner? (Many companies already have a spread of $30k to $150 for employees who are not CEOs or even VPs. BTW – The terms of this recommendation seem to radically de-value education as it would significantly restrict the return on investment [time & money] of advanced degrees.)
    Debt-forgiveness for home mortgages? (Many people invested unwisely during the hosing boom, so I guess that this recommendation must also carry a restriction that doesn’t allow people to make personal decisions about home ownership.)
    The apparent underlying philosophical view across these recommendations seems to be that people should not be held accountable for their choices — that one should be liberated form negative consequences. As nice as it might be to deliver material forgiveness (even though the nation’s debt cannot afford it), this view seems to ignore the value of positive incentives and internalized risk. Moreover, this view seems out of accord with the biblical examples of hard work bringing rewards and irresponsibility bringing punishment.
    Before we consider any such recommendations, we need to understand what incentive framework is being proposed. Free healthcare, ability to purchase any house that you want, and a guaranteed living wage no matter what you do (or don’t do) seems to play right to man’s sinful desires to sit back and let others serve him. I am interested in hearing what would motivate people to productive action — other than their own “goodness” (that the Bible says that they are short on) or the Holy Spirit (and the evidence seems to indicate that many are not filled with Him). As Calvin said, men are idol factories. Add to that a lack of incentive to work, and men are also idle factories.
    Consider Paul:
    “Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.” (2 Thess 3:6-12)
    In general, entitlements and redistributions remove the incentive for people (believers and unbelievers) to earn their own living.

  12. Luke December 6, 2011 at 11:56 am

    I’m unsure if y’all have seen this cartoon, but Monte hits every single one.
    It’s a protest movement that demands fairness. The OWS movement lack leaders and a formal platform, but their demands clearly emerge from the thousands of individual grievances expressed in homemade signs and letters. The demands boils down to “free us from the bondage of our debts and give us a basic ability to survive.” They note that the CBO finds that, between 1979 and 2007, income grew by:
    -275 percent for the top 1 percent of households,
    -65 percent for the next 19 percent,
    -Just under 40 percent for the next 60 percent, and
    -18 percent for the bottom 20 percent
    Those numbers are shocking to me. Upward mobility, the thing that made American great as opposed to the European aristocratic systems, has eroded into the exact feudalism our fore-bears were running from. I think that is something worth fighting for.

  13. Luke December 7, 2011 at 9:17 am

    unsure what the hyperlink didn’t show, here’s the cartoon:

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