Is It Time to Privatize the Occupy Protests?

The aims of the “occupy” protesters are not always clear. But I think it is safe to say that a large number of them favor public policy solutions to our problems. If the top 1% is making too much money, they’d like politicians to raise the top marginal tax rate. If banks are taking on too much risk, they’d like politicians to regulate them. In essence, if the status quo is broken—and you don’t have to be an “occupier” to agree that it is—the occupy movement would like public policy to fix it.

In Zuccotti Park, public policy has just turned against the protesters: Mayor Michael Bloomberg has ordered the park cleared. The problem for the protestors is that they are on “privately owned public space” which means that public policy makers can decide what happens there (HT, @JoelWWood and @Cobrown).

This is a useful reminder that if you don’t like some outcome—be it the compensation package of a CEO, or the risk profile of a bank, or the way a piece of property is being used—then making it the purview of public policy doesn’t always guarantee your preferred outcome. In fact, as public choice teaches us, public policy often favors the entrenched special interests, not the little guy.

How might the occupiers keep their protest alive? I’d recommend that they privatize it. Take it to a private piece of property. I’m sure that there is some sympathetic property owner (maybe even someone in the top 1 percent?) who would be willing to donate their land. Better yet, they could pool together and buy some land themselves? A few thousand dollars would buy a few acres in many rural parts of the country.