When Officials Fail, Volunteers Fill the Void
Occupy Sandy - A Movement Moves to Relief
The relief groups present on New York's battered Queens peninsula: National Guard, FEMA, the Police and Sanitation Departments — and Occupy Sandy, established by Occupy Wall St. How much state do people need? This 2012 article is from the New York Times, Nov 9.
by Alan FeuerAfter its encampment in Zuccotti Park, which changed the public discourse about economic inequality and introduced the nation to the trope of the 1 percent, the Occupy movement has wandered in a desert of more intellectual, less visible projects, like farming, fighting debt, and theorizing on banking. While several nouns have been occupied — from summer camp to health care — it is only with Hurricane Sandy that the times have conspired to deliver an event that fully calls upon the movement’s talents and caters to its strengths.
Maligned for months for its purported ineffectiveness, Occupy Wall Street has managed through its storm-related efforts not only to renew the impromptu passions of Zuccotti, but also to tap into an unfulfilled desire among the residents of the city to assist in the recovery. This altruistic urge was initially unmet by larger, more established charity groups, which seemed slow to deliver aid and turned away potential volunteers in droves during the early days of the disaster.
Occupy Wall Street is capable of summoning an army with the posting of a tweet, and many of the volunteers last week were self-identifying veterans of the movement, although many more were not. Given the numbers passing through, both fresh-faced amateurs and the Occupy managerial class — a label it would reject — were in evidence.
Volunteers at field sites in the most hard-hit areas bring flashlights and hot meals to residents.
It’s evidence that when official channels fail, other parts of society respond.
The long-term needs are where the real problems are.
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JJS: The Occupier’s last two points -- about the self-reliance of non-official people and the long-term problems -- are key.
Take the long-term poverty (please!). If people did not have to pay taxes on their houses, they’d build higher quality ones, as the experience of Sydney Australia shows. And if people did have to pay a levy or dues for the land they claim, then they take less and use that wisely, leaving more land for others. With more land available, others don’t have to do things like in-fill swamps and commit all the other acts that make an ecosystem more vulnerable to storms. Shifting the property tax off buildings, onto locations, is technically easy even if politically hard -- but it sure is necessary medicine.
Consider widespread autonomy. If regular Janes and Joes had more resources, they might need less government. If regular people had less outgo and more income, they might meet their needs in cooperative ways, face to face, rather than in the impersonal way of the state taking people’s money as taxes and returning, for the people’s payment, a mix of social services, waste, and corruption.
What if politicians and bureaucrats were to focus only on defending rights? Punishing criminals, fining the dishonest, enforcing environmental standards, and the like, instead of trying to provide so many varied services. Could people take care of themselves?
If they no longer had to pay so many different taxes -- imposts in which they had no say in creating -- people would not feel so powerless. Indeed, feeling more in control of their lives, they'd make better life choices in general and become effective neighbors in times of need. And if they received a share of the revenue raised by land dues, then they’d have more resources for acting on their good intentions.
Libertarians and anarchists should love it! Somebody famous who did was the science fiction writer Robert Heinlein. In his Number of the Beast, between pages 408-412, he writes: "the United States (called that, although boundaries differ) is not as smothered in laws, regulations, licensing, and taxes as is our native country. There is no category 'Lawyers' in the telephone book. Taxation is low, simple-and contains a surprise. The Federal government is supported by a head tax paid by the States, and is mostly for military and foreign affairs. This state derives most of its revenue from real estate taxes. It is a uniform rate set annually, with no property exempted, not even churches, hospitals, or schools-or roads; the best roads are toll roads. The surprise lies in this: The owner appraises his own property."
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Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics and helped prepare a course for the UN on geonomics. To take the “Land Rights” course, click here .
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