What Next for OWS?

It is clear that OWS-type encampments cannot sustain long term occupations of public spaces; inclement winter weather and the even more hostile atmosphere of establishment reaction (e.g., police actions to deny access to port-a-potties) have dispersed many of the social democracy insurgents.

Should OWS become a political movement? Can it? What could it accomplish? How long would it take?

The endpoint or vision of OWS aspirations is probably best described in the 2010 book:

Ill Fares The Land
by Tony Judt, (Penguin, 2010).

Read this if you would prefer our future to be one of social democracy rather than corporate feudalism.

An inspiring vision is fine, but how do you get there? How do we fill in the blanks, write out the recipe? Realizing that we want to change EVERYTHING, and that we are in the minority as regards financial, physical and political power, where do we start?

I describe a suggested starting point and a procedure for advancing “a revolution,” which are fitted to each individual’s nature, and would be carried out empirically rather than dogmatically. My purpose is to encourage us all to maintain our shared social democratic vision, and to offer ideas that may stimulate your own thinking for better ways to actualize that vision. The new article making my case has just been published by SWANS:

What Next for OWS, Politics?
5 December 2011

You will do yourself a favor by reading Judt’s book. You would do Swans a favor by sending a letter to the editor if an article there moves you. You have already done me a favor by reading this far, but I’ll enjoy readers’ comments, too.

Equality – Freedom Mapping

Here is my equality-freedom mapping, or ethical-freedom mapping from 1994, which I described in an earlier post called Afta’ NAFTA the Occupy Disasta’. The idea behind the mapping is to parametrize all types of political regimes (hierarchies, economies) on the basis of two parameters: equality and freedom.

Equality can be thought of as the magnanimity of the social contract (“welfare”) within a regime, and freedom can be thought of as the lack of restraint on individuals by government (“liberty”).

Equality (ethical) - Freedom Mapping

          equality (ethical) – freedom mapping                     (MG,Jr. 1994)

Afta’ NAFTA the Occupy Disasta’

I began writing political essays during the 1992 US presidential campaign. My first readers were members of a small local 3rd party discussion group. Writing was my way of clarifying my understanding of what the group was showing me about the American public mind. I then recycled my own analysis of these currently popular political attitudes into newsletters for the group. This effort only lasted for about six weeks, after which I focused all of my political energy into the tasks of the unionization group (Society of Professional Scientists and Engineers) at my place of work.

Three of my political essays from 1993-1994 seemed worth saving: “Life Among the Entitled”, “Don’t Get Passed”, and “An Ethical-Freedom Mapping of Political Hierarchies”, and I’ve collected them into one document.


“Life Among the Entitled” includes a comparison of Japanese industrial expansion onto mainland Asia during the 1970s and 1980s, to American de-industrialization — “outsourcing” — as facilitated by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which was signed into law in 1994. I repeated the essence of this discussion in my just posted article on the Occupy Wall Street movement, “From Social Contract to Occupy Wall Street” (see Swans.com, 7 November 2011). A quip in 1994 was “afta’ NAFTA disasta'”, meaning an expected major loss of jobs in the United States, which Ross Perot predicted would be such a southward rush that it would create “a great sucking sound” in the American heartland. In 2011 we can see the fruition of US de-industrializaion: Occupy Wall Street.

“Don’t Get Passed” is a short meditation on the most popular goal of Americans when seated behind the steering wheels of their automobiles: don’t get passed!

“An Ethical-Freedom Mapping of Political Hierarchies” is a short discussion of ideal anarchism, and my presentation of a map, or graph, which displays the wide variety of political hierarchies that history has shown are possible, as characterized by two parameters: freedom and equality. In the article, equality is called “ethics” or the “ethical dimension”. This ethical dimension could also be taken as some indicator of the magnanimity of the social contract within the political entity being mapped. In an earlier post (about the Swans.com articles of 7 Nov 2011) I stated that political stability is a reflection of the balancing of political freedom and the social contract.

I should make a 3D map by adding a “political stability” axis out the the plane of the equality-freedom map. It may be that the peak of political stability is in the “parliamentary” and “populist” regions of the equality-freedom map, and falls off in every direction from there.

Dusting off these nearly 20-year-old essays, I am struck by how clearly my father foresaw the economic decline that would follow from NAFTA and American de-industrialization, and whose human face we see today as the Occupy Wall Street movement. I also notice how I always gravitate toward the socio-political dyad of “freedom and equality”, or equivalently “political freedom and the social contract”, to characterize and understand political fairness, which may be another name for political stability.