One of the critical socioeconomic developments in the United States in this decade is the Occupy Wall Street Movement (OWM). The main question that is posed by people at the mention of the Occupy Wall Street Movement is the course that was being pursued by the
Movement and the nature of activities that marked the pursuance of social and economic issues. The Movement sought to streamline the social and economic state of affairs in the United States. In this paper, it is argued that the Occupy Wall Street Movement was a purely socioeconomic movement that sought to advance the moral and ethical issues that were imminent in the US economic environment.
This paper explores the Occupy Wall Street Movement. The paper brings out the critical moral issues of the Movement and its implications on the economy. This is followed by a theoretical analysis of the implications of the Movement using ethical models like utilitarianism, virtue ethics and the Kantian ethics.
Moral and economic implications of the OWM
It is critical to bring out the reason that led to the birth of the Movement to understand the moral issues that informed the Movement. The OWM refers to the protest that began in the year 2011, on the 17th of September. The protest took place in Zuccotti Park in the Wall Street Financial Street in New York.
The protest was initiated by Adbusters, A Canadian Group and magazine, together with the public relations Workhouse based in Manhattan. The protest later spilt to other cities, thereby attracting more protesters. The protest came after the period of financial uncertainty in the United States, where numerous people had been subjected to the impacts of the financial crisis.
According to the protesters, the financial and the economic crisis in the country had resulted from the exploitation of the economic systems by the profiteers, who failed to pay attention to the broader needs of all the citizens. Instead, they focused on expanding their profits at the expense of the economy of the United States. The Occupy Wall Street Movement carries a similar moral message, just like other movements in the world (Moore, 2011).
Among the potent implications of the protest was that it resulted in the end of a decade of economic depletion in the United States. It is argued that the misfortunes of the United States economy began in the same street in which the protest movement began.
Among the misfortunes entail the two failed wars: the United States war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq. Others are the unsustainable management of corporate firms in the country and the worst economic recession since the 1930s recession, and the deficit in the US budget and unsustainable tax cuts.
Corporate firms had grown in influence and had a lot of influence on the political institutions in the United States. An example that can be given at this point in time is the ‘too big to fail syndrome’, where large corporations were being cautioned from collapsing amidst the global financial crisis. All these issues pointed to the existence of economic injustices in the country. Most Americans felt that the economic system of the country was proving to be unfair and oppressive to them.
The economic oppression was highly witnessed by the low income earners in the United States. Monetary insolvency and the growth in wealth disparity was the order of the day, which caused the protesters to occupy the Wall Street (Occupy Wall Street, 2012).
The Wall Street Movement was financed by donors; people with incomes that ranged from 50,000 dollars to 100,000 dollars. The increased cost of sustaining the movement was one of the main problems with the Movement since sustaining the stay of the protesters in the Wall Street was an extremely expensive affair.
As the financing became problematic, the protesters were forced to do away with some basic needs. In the protest camp, a substantial number of crime incidences were reported. Among the incidences included sexual assault and theft. There were also cases of police arrests and lack of protection of the protesters by the police (Occupy Wall Street, 2012).
Analysis of the Implications of the OW: Utilitarian, Kantian and Virtue Ethics
Terrall (2007) observed that one of the philosophies that are used in the explanation of ethics in movements is Utilitarianism. In weighing the OWM against the utilitarian philosophy, it is critical to look at both the actions and the impacts of the actions.
One of the main arguments in the utilitarian philosophy is that the rightness of an action is determined by the amount of pleasure that is derived from engaging in that action. The opposite of this statement is, therefore, true according to the proponents of utilitarianism. The OWM was a large movement that had a lot of challenges.
The Movement began well, with more people joining the movement as the days progressed. The most critical thing about the Movement is that it was sustained for several weeks. However, there are other questions that are raised over the problems that were encountered by the protesters and whether the Movement can be termed as a success. As noted in the preceding part of this paper, the protesters in the Movement encountered a lot of challenges, something that denotes the loss of pleasure.
There are a number of economic reforms that have been made as a result of the Movement. Nonetheless, the main question here concerns the possibility of sustaining the reforms in order to address all the demands of the protesters. The protestors also embraced economic equality, which denotes the greatest good for the population (Hinman, 2012).
According to Terrall (2007), the Kantian philosophy propagates the principle of morality, thus the moral duty of the person engaging in an action is quite critical. The worthiness of an action, therefore, does not depend on the results of the action, but it relies on the level at which the moral obligation bestowed upon the doer of the action is fulfilled.
The OWM can be likened to the Kantian philosophy by basing on the fact that the Movement was well organized. The protesters did not largely engage in heinous acts, which could have implied the loss of morality. The protesters were highly organized and highly embraced the course for which they were pursuing, in spite of facing numerous challenges.
However, there were a number of reported cases like sexual defilement and theft in the protest camps, which denotes a lack of morality. Nonetheless, the scale of such problems was quite low given that the number of people who participated in the protest was quite high. Conclusively, this movement can be highly attributed to the Kantian philosophy, especially deontology ethics (Hinman, 2012).
The virtual ethics theory focuses on shaping of characters of individuals in order to encourage individuals to do the right things rightly. Among the traits that ought to be embraced by individuals include generosity, love and courage to pursue the course. Individuals ought to be moulded in time so that they can do the right things (Terrall, 2007). A look into the movement denotes a high level of discipline among the protesters, which implies the articulation of virtue ethics.
Income inequality and the distribution of wealth in the United States
The income disparity in the United States has been the subject of a substantial number of economic commentators. The income disparity has been increasing with time. The financial crisis that was faced in the US is to a larger extent likened to the income inequality in the country.
Several reasons are attributed to income inequality in the US. Among the reasons is the absence of mechanisms of social mobility. This implies that the class issue cannot be done away with easily. Most of the people in the country, therefore, fall in the middle wage category. The stagnation in the middle class wage has persisted, thereby widening the income disparity (Ryscavage, 1998).
According to Ryscavage (1998), most of the wealth in the country lies in the hands of a few individuals. Amassing of wealth by the few individuals prevents people from the middle and lower classes from climbing up the socioeconomic ladder.
The few rich, therefore, get richer, while people in the middle and lower class slide down the social ladder. The other issue that has compounded the income disparity in the United States is the increase in the number of immigrants. Most of the immigrants have low skills; therefore, they work for lower wages than the set minimum wage. Income inequality and the distribution of wealth have been growing gradually.
The problem has been speeded up by the growth in the population, which denotes a reduction in the number of job opportunities. Most of immigrants are, therefore, forced to take up low wage jobs for sustenance purposes. Monetary policies such as a rise in the rate of savings have encouraged the broadening of the income gap (Coibion, Gorodnichenko, Kueng & Silvia, 2012).
A number of suggestions have been put forward to explain how the OWM can acquire an equitable outcome. One of the suggestions points to the fact that it is critical to pay attention to the underlying causes of inequality in the US. Among the underlying issues that ought to be checked is the improvement of the education system so that the young population can be more creative and craft their own jobs.
Creative thought is vital to innovation in the economy and the improvement of earnings in the economy (Norton, 2011). There is also need to pay attention to the vices in the society, like corruption and greed. These vices are an impediment to the stabilization of the social system. Extreme capitalism should be discouraged.
Future of OWM
The momentum with which the OWM started has significantly gone down. However, it is important to note that the Movement has had significant impacts beyond the United States. The United Kingdom and Canada are examples of countries in which the Movement is taking place. As long as the inequalities are still prevalent in the economy, the Movement will keep having significant influence (Hinman, 2012).
The Wall Street Movement is one of the forces that have necessitated alertness in terms of the issues of economic inequality. If the government pays less attention to the movement, the magnitude of the movement is bound to rise, just as the recent uprisings in the Arab world. The demands of the movement point to the need for radical reforms in the economic system to attain a balance in the economic system.
Coibion, O., Gorodnichenko, Y., Kueng, L., & Silvia, J. (2012). Innocent bystanders? Monetary policy and inequality in the U.S. NBER Working Paper No. 18170. Web.
Hinman, L. (2012). Ethics. Australia: Cengage Learning.
Moore, K. (2011). Occupy Wall Street’s moral ground. Web.
Occupy Wall Street. (2012). Occupy Wall Street: The revolution continues worldwide! Web.
Ryscavage, P. (1998). Income inequality in America: An analysis of trends. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe.
Terrall, E. (2007). The ends or the means? Kantian ethics vs. utilitarianism. Web.