Occupy Seattle Described as a Poker Game

You won’t see this analysis written anywhere else – this content comes from part of an email chain where a bunch of people were discussing the differences between the original Occupy Wall Street and the local spin-off versions such as Occupy LA and Occupy Seattle.  It all stemmed from an LA Times article that explained it would cost Los Angeles $2.3 Million to clean up the park which had been Occupied.  I’ll keep the whole email from this anonymous person for context, but the paragraph with the poker analogy is the one I found most compelling.

Note: At this point the discussion had moved to talk about whether the movement, or the offshoots of the movement, would be successful on getting student-debts absolved.  (And no offense to puppetry and history majors.)

People take risks and develop new and improved goods and services because they believe that they will profit from it. That is at the root of our free market economic system. That is exactly what Adam Smith wrote about all those years ago. Plus, where do you think all that money comes from to pay off people’s debts (whether student loans or mortgages or bank bail outs or whatever)? Government takes in revenue through taxes. The inhabitants of a country pay the taxes. So, if one group of people want money from the government (and that is exactly what asking to have your debts payed off is- getting money from the government), in essence those people are asking other people to pay for their choices. Why should I have to pay for the choices that another person made (that is the root of the whole social contract and the obligations of citizenship)?

For example, I am OK with helping to pay for education in general- most people are. That is why we have free public K-12 education. It is an investment in the future. I am also OK with student grants for college kids who can not afford college. That also helps society and is an investment in the future. But if some guy takes out a massive loan from a private business (i.e. a bank) to fund his two years in college to get a masters degree in literature or history or puppetry or what have you, and then the guy can’t get a job with his worthless degree, why should I have to pay to get his loan written off? That guy is in essence begging money from me. He better be able to explain why and persuade me to pay off his loan, or I will not want to pay it off for him. And if his first attempt to persuade me to pay off his loan is to “occupy” the park down the street from my house and threaten to stay there until I pay for his loan, then frankly he has failed at making his case from the get go.

To put it in poker terms,  imagine if some guy at the table made big risky bets over and over, chasing long odds on flush draws hand after hand, borrowed money repeatedly from other players to buy in on more hands, and when he finally craps out and has no more money, he demands that everybody else pony up money to pay off his debts. How would you feel about that? How would you react to that? How would the other players react to that? Now imagine if that guy- rather than to try to logically explain why you should pay off his debt- decides to go sit in the bathroom and “occupy” it for several weeks. He messes the place up, refuses to clean it up, disturbs other people who are just trying to use the bathroom, refuses to leave even though he is on private property and the owners ask him nicely to leave, and becomes belligerent when the police to evict him. How would you react to that?



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