October 22nd, 2011

Occupying forces

I've seen a lot of comments on Twitter recently about the "occupy" campaigns. In particular, there's an Occupy London campaign going on at the moment, which seems to be a direct response to the Occupy Wall Street campaign in the USA. Both groups refer to themselves as "the 99%", as distinct from the 1%.

I freely admit that I don't really understand much about economics. I'd like to, but I'm not sure where to start; my provisional plan is to go through some of the AS level textbooks. (I bought a copy of Adam Smith's "The Wealth of Nations" several years ago, but it was a bit too heavy going for me.) I think that there are problems with our current system, e.g. the idea that paying off debt is good for an individual but bad for society. However, I'm not sure how to improve it. One approach would be to hack the whole thing down to something I can understand, e.g. a barter economy, and there are people who advocate that type of freeconomy. However, that would be a drastic change, and would introduce new problems, so I think it's best to stick with the inertia of the current system until we have something better to replace it.

The "occupy" groups apparently feel strongly about this subject, so I'm interested to hear what they have to say. Unfortunately, I've struggled to get any kind of clear information about what they are actually trying to achieve, so I think that the London protest is basically a waste of time.

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Going further back, @jdpoc wrote: "British Public ... Ignores Bankers thefts, NHS stripping & Vodafone tax avoidance. BUT Flips when Facebook changes its layout. ... Explain." Honestly, I think it's quite simple. I'm not an accountant, and I don't know what tax Vodaphone should or shouldn't have paid; all I know is that "tax avoidance" is legal (exploiting loopholes) whereas "tax evasion" is illegal. Similarly, I don't understand all the implications of the proposed changes to the NHS. However, if I see that a website has a new layout then I can understand that and make an informed choice about whether I like it or not. Personally I don't have strong feelings about Facebook, but if other people do then I won't mock them for it.

Looking at the protesters who are "occupying" London, it's possible that they understand macro-economics a lot better than I do. However, I haven't seen any evidence of that, so this just seems like a simplistic exercise in finding someone else to blame.