Demands Show Protesters’ Naivety

Demands Show Protesters’ Naivety

October 11, 2011
Originally published in Financial Times

Sir, I was appalled by John Gapper’s column “In praise of Wall Street protesters” (October 6), extolling the virtues and idealistic aims of the Wall Street protesters.

His column was as naive as the protesters and their demands. Even though they are an inchoate group, several declarations have emerged – endorsed by substantial numbers of protesters – that show absolutely no understanding of how a market economy works. Most of their demands and their placards have a sense of entitlement: education “is a human right” and those many thousands of college loans should be wiped out. So should mortgages that are difficult to repay. Life is unfair; and corporations – through their greed and oppression of workers – are the cause of it all.

Yes, the protesters are expressing “popular outrage” – an outrage perhaps sparked by some financial institutions that contributed significantly to the financial crisis but then fuelled by anti-capitalistic demagoguery by political leaders and many in the media.

Mr Gapper refers to one of the models for the protesters – the Seattle World Trade Organization meeting. I was there, promoting free trade and trying to converse with young men hiding behind balaclavas. They were against trade but admitted that their ski jackets and other clothes were produced in other countries. That same naivety about economic issues was apparent, but they took their “public outrage” a step further with destructive riots.

I’m concerned that these current protesters, with their “peaceful” hate messages against corporations, financial institutions and even some wealthy individuals, could morph into something that I hope Mr Gapper won’t praise.