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.

2 thoughts on “Is It Time to Privatize the Occupy Protests?

  1. Franklin Harris

    If OWS thinks it has a better model, the folks in it should stop making snide Bioshock jokes about seasteading and get behind it instead. Then they can form their own anarcho-syndicalist general assembly on the seas. Occupy the oceans!

  2. Anonymous

    One of the success of the movement has been to illustrate how little control the American public has over public spaces. “Public” in terms of public space, property, or land, was not intended to mean “government”. In this case it is a privately owned public space, chosen in part because it is against the law to be in a public park in New York after curfew. 

    Occupy movements around the country have shown how it is basically against the law to be homeless in the country and with less and less services available for the homeless, such as food, or shelter in the winter, the message seems to be that they should just quietly die, preferable out of view from tourists. 

    Aside from homelessness, we are also seeing that the police have the right to do pretty much what ever they want. Even if you ignore the obvious cases of police macing non violent women. In tape after tape we see them telling people to move because they are obstructing walkways, and then we see that there is plenty of room for passers by. We see footage of reporters with NYC issued press passes being told they they can’t film or report, even from behind the barricade erected by the NYPD. We are told by major TV news companies air space was shut down. Preventing any helicopter footage from being filmed.

    The problems that the occupy movement are trying to address is the fact that you have to be a privately owned, also wealthy, entity in this country to have any rights at all. Even if you are standing on your own publicly owned property. The constitution was not about elevating the private sector to person hood. It is a framework set forth to guarantee that all persons shall have rights protected under the law, and that the law shall know its place in relationship to the people, and other branches of government.       

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