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Semiformalishmaybe

Occupy and Location

OccupyPHL is currently facing a major issue; the area in front of City Hall where they're camped has been slated for renovation for many months, and the permit giving them legal occupation is set to expire when construction starts. There's a nearby park which the city would like them to move to, and the movement is unsure if it wants to move; tomorrow's GA will have them vote on whether to move, expand to both sites, or remain where they are. I've done some research into this after being exposed to the strong opinion of a guy who I sometimes see there, and I've come to the conclusion that it would be a mistake to do anything but more entirely. However, I recognise there's a point the pro-stay people have; how compliant is Occupy to be with authority? If, for example, the city were to ask Occupy to disband for good sometime down the road, or offer them a space distant from public sight, obviously Occupy should not accept that and should engage in civil disobedience. Occupy should not be in the habit of unnuanced obedience; this relocation should be a tactical one specific to the situation rather than a generalised one. The specific facts that convince me that relication is wise:
*This seems to be a legitimate renovation project that is good for the city
*The alternate site is nearby, still in sight of City Hall, and looks well-suited for the needs of OccupyPHL
*The city seems to be treating the interests of Occupy seriously and in a non-hostile way; it's about as much as we might expect for a city working in the tradition of sleepy-democracy confronted with a more vibrant-but-narrow-demographic movement (not that the interests are narrow, but the involvement is fairly narrow at this point); broad confrontation with the powers that be is not warranted at this point
*Various minorities participating in Occupy, particularly the homeless, are uniquely vulnerable to state power, and their interests should be considered, even in the context of peer pressure by the movement as a whole. Expansion rather than a move is, in my view, socially irresponsible given the current interaction with the city

The proposals to deal with the issue will be handled in tomorrow's GA. I hope to convince as much of the GA as possible towards a conclusion to move rather than remain or exist in both locations.


I'm going to go way out on a limb and state an opinion on economics here. I accept that anyone with a better understanding of economics might reasonably gainsay me here.

I've been reflecting a lot about whether, faced with economic difficulty, a government is better off with thrift or targeted spending. In my mind, this is a scientific question, kind of. It has, I think, an answer independent of values, or at least some interesting frameworks that depend on the values we have (some of which are social values, some are tactical national-interest questions).

Are job-creation programmes bad? As an extreme example, we consider the TVA programmes during the Great Depression; they included park renovations, farming projects, infrastructure, and libraries. I would start by categorising labour into three categories:
*Infrastructure projects that enable other economic development
*Business-type activity that is of a type reasonably similar to what would be expected of private development, but that was not happening due to economic problems
*Fluff

I believe that the first two kinds of labour are worthwhile under government organised programmes. This is based on the theory that the purpose of economic systems is to motivate useful labour in a society; given the choice between any model that leaves people fallow and one where they are doing even moderately useful labour, the latter is preferable in that in the latter they're contributing to society and in the former they are not. There are bookkeeping and public debt concerns that figure into this, but in contrast to the "save in tough times" mentality; I consider inflation to be an acceptable cost; even defaulting is an acceptable cost in a society sufficiently large to have a reasonably self-sufficient economy (provided it does not lead to war). There are costs of inflation, but these can be dealt with through sufficient social programmes (the elderly are hit hard by inflation as it reduces their savings at a time when they're not able to easily replenish them).

Fluff labour is to be avoided for three reasons:
#It is inconsistent with socialist ethics
#It does not contribute to the public good in a significant way, either in GDP terms or more generally
#It decreases confidence in the economic system

To elaborate on the first, this is consistent with a general ban on servantry that I believe is appropriate for ethical socialists (even when a guest in cultures where having servants is the norm for the well-to-do, I hold that an ethical socialist should consider themself forbidden to have them).

Related, we should expect of Unions that they never act to protect raw numbers of jobs when technology makes positions unnecessary; unions should not be a voice for ludditism, but for reasonable wages and working conditions. When a job becomes fluff, it should be abandoned, provided society (most ideally an industry as a whole if it can manage) retrains workers for other positions when technology eliminates their original one. I believe that to the extent possible, unions should not promote seniority as the principal determinant of payscales; I recognise that it is often difficult to weigh the relative merit of a worker's skills and effectiveness, and it is undesirable that employers be able to punish those less pliant on workers' rights issues with lesser wages, but where possible pay should be merit-based.

I believe that stronger social programmes, particularly retraining, education, and a stronger safety net would eliminate some of the desperation that leads Unions to some of their less-effectiveness-friendly positions. I also believe that to the extent possible, we should see worker-owned-and-run collectives replacing private corporations.

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