Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Occupy Wall Street, and Saying Grace on Thanksgiving: What do they have in Common?

The following words were spoken by an Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protester:
“[Bosses] and upper management people who have these top floor offices here, they don’t work; they don’t produce anything. They sit at the top and they count money, and their money makes money for them. They don’t provide anything for society; they suck wealth out of it.”
Another protester claimed that Steve Jobs “didn’t produce anything", but merely “took in the wealth that others produced”.

Now let’s have a look at Thanksgiving:

Thanksgiving started out as a celebration of good harvest. It is an acknowledgement of production. But whom do most families thank for the food on their table? They either thank no one in particular. Or they say grace, expressing their gratitude to God.

Do you see what’s common between the OWS and saying grace?

Both attempt to discredit the real producers.

The premise behind the statements of OWS protesters is that laborers and lower-wage employees are the only people essential to production (as explicated in a pamphlet that was widely distributed among the protesters). But this cannot be farther from the truth. Those with “top floor offices” are indispensible to production. They include the CEOs, investors, and top-level managers, who exercise their judgment to discover new talents, generate the capital to incentivize them as employees, and combine the product of their efforts. It’s only because of productive men like these that we have amazing products in the marketplace, including the technology that the OWS uses to organize and popularize their protests.

Likewise, saying grace attributes production to a nonexistent. It evades the fact that every luxury and delicacy at a Thanksgiving dinner is produced by producers who are unmistakably human. A turkey might exist in nature on its own, but it must be domesticated, processed, packed, distributed, retailed, and cooked before it sits on the silverware and becomes a food product. As writer Craig Biddle has pointed out, saying grace involves an “injustice of thanking an alleged God for the productive accomplishments of actual men.”

How can the OWS and those saying grace so easily ignore the nature and source of production? The culprit is the dominant morality of altruism. Focusing on other people blinds a man to the fact that his life depends on values that must be produced. It blinds him to the fact that production requires thinking, which is not automatic, but requires conscious effort. This, in turn, disables him to identify productivity as a virtue, and a producer as someone who is profoundly moral. The result is to ignore, detest, or vilify the producers. And if the demands of OWS are met, even rob them of their possessions.

This Thanksgiving, let’s reverse the injustice committed by the OWS and by those saying grace. Let’s thank real producers, including those with “top floor offices”, who bring into existence all products and goods, including the wonderful ones on our Thanksgiving table.

Thanks to the Center for Industrial Progress, and Ari Armstrong, for the interviews of OWS protesters.

2 comments:

  1. A friend on Facebook posted the following quote by Ayn Rand:

    "Thanksgiving is a typically American holiday. In spite of its religious form (giving thanks to God for a good harvest), its essential, secular meaning is a celebration of successful production. It is a producers’ holiday. The lavish meal is a symbol of the fact that abundant consumption is the result and reward of production. Abundance is (or was and ought to be) America’s pride—just as it is the pride of American parents that their children need never know starvation."

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  2. A good article. I enjoyed it. Thank you for posting.

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