The Facts of Life Are Conservative, Even in Zuccotti Park
Peeking through Occupy Wall Street's cloudy drum sessions, group speeches, and celebrity visits are a few rays of reality's sunlight. These glimmers of the real world show that even the campers of Zuccotti Park aren't immune to Margaret Thatcher's famous declaration that "the facts of life are conservative."
Conservatism is the natural political outgrowth from the real life experience. Humans are naturally flawed, greedy, and untrustworthy. Conservatives recognize that fact and promote the market system and divided government in order to pit one greedy person against another.
Conversely, the left continually denies and fights against human nature (inevitably losing to it). For leftists, it's always a matter of finding the right human to rule -- the disinterested regulator, the consumer-protecting bureaucrat, the messianic president, etc. That is the nature of the OWS protests: to replace one group of self-interested people on Wall Street with another group of magically not self-interested people in government. But because government isn't magic, utopias never quite work out in real life -- not even in Zuccotti Park. In one news story after another, Thatcher's "facts of life" are on display. Let's look at four examples.
Conservative Fact of Life: Give a man a fish, and he'll stick around for another.
Providing for folks in need is a good thing, but handouts are dangerous tools. At any point in the giver-receiver relationship, there's a risk of doing more harm than good. If the recipient becomes dependent or feels entitled to his benefits, his initiative atrophies like an unused muscle. Too often the receiver is left less prepared and less likely to succeed in the future. Thus long-term well-being is sacrificed in the name of short-term "help."
The negative effects of welfare can appear quickly, as OWS recently learned. Zuccotti Park has become a hotspot for vagrants in search of free food. Protestor Lauren Digioia recently explained to reporters that OWS has "compassion toward everyone," but that "there are rules and guidelines." Specifically, "[i]f you're going to come here and get our food, bedding and clothing, have books and medical supplies for no charge, they need to give back." Digioia added, "There's a lot of takers here and they feel entitled."
Conservative Fact of Life: Everybody is wealthier than somebody, but that doesn't give anyone the right to take from others.
Protestor Nan Terrie allegedly came to Zuccotti Park with a $5,500 Mac laptop (near the top 1% of portable computers, perhaps). One night after Terrie succumbed to fatigue after a long day as a kitchen volunteer, preparing meals for fellow protestors, a thief made off with the high-end computer.
"Stealing is our biggest problem at the moment," Terrie told reporters. A problem indeed. Suddenly it didn't matter that the computer was $2,000 more than even the most tricked out MacBook Pro available in the Apple online store. Or that scores of laptops exist at a fraction of the price (the computer I'm using to write this article was 1/10 the price of the Terrie's stolen Mac). No, the only thing that mattered was that taking something that someone else earned was wrong. That fact holds for a college student's electronic devices as well as a hedge fund manager's compensation.
Conservative Fact of Life: Rugged individualism is the only sensible approach to life.
America was built by people who refused to wait around for someone else to make them a living. From the frontiersman who left everything to chase his dreams in the American West to the entrepreneurs of the Forbes 400 list, Americans who make their own way are the most successful.
It didn't take long for protestor Peter Hogness to learn whom he could trust. Angry about empty promises regarding the protestor status in Zuccotti Park, Hogness stumbled upon true wisdom. "One thing we have learned from this is that we need to rely on ourselves and not on promises from elected officials," Hogness told reporters.
Conservative Fact of Life: Though she's a seductive mistress, Utopia never quite works out as a wife.
Conservative author and columnist Dr. Thomas Sowell once said that he would love to live in the kind of world envisioned by the left. In such a world we would have few inequalities, few wants, and men would act as angels, working for the common good. The problem for the left is that their vision is based on a premise that does not exist in the real world.
The longer the OWS protests last, the more they confront the real world. As money has begun to roll in from supporters (reportedly $500,000), life has only become more complicated. "F**k Finance," said Bryan Smith when he couldn't get access to the funds he wanted. "I hope Mayor Bloomberg gets an injunction and demands to see the movement's books."
When Elija Moses requested $8,000 to replace his vandalized drum set, he was turned down. "We don't have the power for [purchases that large]," explained Finance Committeeman Pete Dutro. "They have to go to the General Assembly."
Moses put it best when he simply said, "I'm really frustrated." Yes, Utopia can be quite frustrating for anyone who believes it can exist. Alas, an earthly Eden does not exist, and its mortal imitations are no more than an unwieldy collection of committees, assemblies, and frustrated citizens.
It's unlikely that these experiences will change minds among the Occupiers. (But there's always hope -- even Sowell was once a committed Marxist.) Unfortunately, once Occupy Wall Street has picketed its final bank, sung its last rendition of Cumbayá and gone home, it will take just one sentence to define the movement: "The truths of conservatism stared them in the face; sadly, they failed to notice."