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Occupy Wall Street

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Occupy Wall Street

Professor Sanjib Guha
Business Ethics
November 12, 2012 Occupy Wall Street Many Americans have wanted to take a stand against the corruption that occurs within big business, banks, and Wall Street. It was not until September 2011 that people band together to take a stand in Liberty Square, which is located in Manhattan’s Financial District (2012). This movement started with many passionate people that would no longer hold their silence. Having to deal with an economy that tanked and a high unemployment rate brought this to a head. The message was clear – a change was needed. It is said that the collective worker in America does not have a voice (About, 2012). Many are told to just deal with the outlined terms of employment or find another job. Union workers would say that they have choices, and their representatives fight for them. The union workers also have a higher salary than non-union workers in the same field of work. Occupy Wall Street (OWS) provided a springboard for a joint voice that was loud enough for some to hear. Many that were out of work and many that needed to speak up band together to focus on this inequality. Moral that was once low, soon increased as the movement took form. The movement had some setbacks a few months after it started which included protestors being faced with arrest. Looking from the outside into the movement, one would wonder if all involved had the same goals as the movement, or were they there to simply take advantage of the movement. According to Shaw (2011), the definition of utilitarianism states that our acts should create a way in which good reigns over bad for everyone that could be impacted by our actions. The Occupy movement started out in the direction of pushing the bad out, so that good would win, but then the legal system got in the way. The protestors took to occupying cities in a literal fashion and this caused a disturbance in many cities. Many camped out for days, erecting tents, and other makeshift sleeping accommodations that were not allowed within certain city limits. For example, Washington, DC has a camping ban on the federal land around the white house (Police, 2012). Many disregarded this ban and camped out. Police warned protestors that if they did not remove their sleeping gear that they would subject to arrest (Police, 2012). These same issues were occurring in many states as well. Oakland, CA dealt with a major upset and hundreds were arrested (Police, 2012). The literal act of occupying a space was counterproductive to the Occupy movement, and as the protestors resisted, the implications that resulted went against the utilitarianism doctrine (Shaw, 2011). Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill were the first philosophers to really outline the meaning behind utilitarianism. The third point about utilitarianism speaks to actions having consequences and that one should consider the consequences when making a decision (Shaw, 2011). While the Occupy movement as a whole is aligned with Bentham and Mills ideas on reform, the actions of protestors were not aligned with the utilitarianism doctrine (Shaw, 2011). The protestors actions caused millions of dollars of damage in some areas and have set back some of the progress certain cities have made (Police, 2012). One may ask themselves if this was really necessary and how did this support the movement. Looking at the movement and comparing it to the ethics that Immanuel Kant has outlined which is commonly referred to as Kant’s Ethics (Shaw, 2011). Kant states that one’s morals should not be based on whether there is a wrong or right consequence; instead they should just come naturally (Shaw, 2011). The entire Occupy movement is based on the injustice that the 99% feel and all actions that are taken are to fight the 1% that has made these decisions for everyone (About, 2012). Reading the articles, and watching the news coverage that detail the Occupy movement, can influence morals and beliefs. As a result, Kant’s ethics would not apply to this cause as many are easily swayed when it comes to these causes. The utilitarian and Kant theories are not broad enough to apply to the Occupy movement. Shaw (2012), shares another view from W.D. Ross that shows how different situations, and different associations impact an individual to the point of said individual having different moral obligations. Ross explains this from her viewpoint by outlining her many associations as a teacher, mother, spouse, and friend (Shaw, 2011). This introduces the prima facie obligation which summaries how one obligation may supersede another (Shaw, 2011). For example, if one is a participant in the Occupy movement, but has a sick child, then the obligation would be to the sick child, and not Occupy. Once the child is well, then the obligation could be redirected to Occupy. Occupy Wall Street has provided a stage for the 99% that state there is injustice in a variety of settings. The movement was created to fight back against corruption of big corporations, big banks, and Wall Street (About, 2012). These three main areas are blamed for the economic collapse, job loss, and recession (About, 2012). The burning question that no one seems to be able to answer with facts is “Who is really to blame?” Some point the finger at the current U.S. President, others point the finger at the last U.S. President, then some look at the Wall Street Banks, and others blame Alan Greenspan (Rein, 2010). Shaun Rein (2010) brings up a very valid viewpoint, one that turns the finger towards the individual, and one that does not blame just one group. Greed became rampant in the U.S. and many were living outside of their means. Consumers should have recognize their limits and been realistic about their circumstances. Banks selling the “American Dream” to these consumers should not accept their business if finances cannot support the dream. Is it fair to blame the banks or should the consumer be blamed? Income inequality and wealth distribution in the U.S. is at the top of the list of the Occupy Movement. This has been a sleeping giant and the recent recession has begun to wake that giant. Trends are showing that the inequality between the rich and the poor is growing at a fast pace; faster than recent decades as the rich are recovering more quickly from the recession (Babcicky, 2012). Taxes, minimum wage, and other variables are to blame for this income gap. These gaps can start to be filled in if the individual States step in to make changes and come up to speed with the ever changing times (Babcicky, 2012). In addition to the individual states changing, the private sector has to change the way in which they make their profit. Outsourcing jobs to an offshore company is said to save a lot of money, thereby increasing profits, but it hurts the U.S. economy (Shaw, 2012). There should be a limit imposed on companies that outsource, they should incur higher taxes, and only be allowed to do it for a shortened period of time. The Occupy Movement has a voice that could speak to those who can change our capitalistic society. Occupy’s goal is to move the U.S. towards a more democratic society but in order to do this the government would have to change (About, 2012). This would be a tremendous undertaking and involve a vast government upheaval. It could be done and it could start with a jobs program to employ those that are not currently working (About, 2012). Occupy Wall Street has grown to be in over one hundred cities in the U.S., and although it is a timely cause, it may not be around long enough to make any real significance. Subjected to the camping bans, almost all physical occupy groups have disbanded. Late in 2011, finances had dwindled and the media coverage has as well. There was not as much public activity during 2012 when compared to the previous six months. The one year anniversary only gathered a few hundred protestors according to a newsletter posted and brought with it more arrests (Occupy Wall Street, 2012). New information regarding financing and new events were scarce outside of the main occupy movement website. The movement appears to be winding down and may eventually fad away.

References

About. (2012). Occupy Wall Street. Retrieved from http://occupywallst.org/about/
Babcicky, P. (2012). U.S. state-level inequality: on a steady rise. Retrieved from http://inequality.org/statelevel-inequality-rise-nation/
Occupy Wall Street Anniversary Protests Spark Nearly 200 Arrests. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20120917/financial-district/occupy-wall-street-returns-year-after-taking-over-zuccotti-park#ixzz27m6rMwLB
Police in nation's capital enforce sleeping ban for Occupy protesters at two parks. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/01/28/occupy-oakland-crowd-grows-to-nearly-2000/
Rein, S. (2010). Blame yourself for the recession. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/2010/07/15/recession-blame-self-leadership-managing-rein.html
Shaw, W. H. (2011). Business ethics: 2010 custom edition (7th ed.) (p.53). Mason, OH: Cengage.…...

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