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We the People Occupy Wall Street: Democracy on Display October 27, 2011

Posted by legalethicsemporium in Law, Ethics & Society, Occupy Wall Street, U.S. Constitution.
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A leaderless movement….decision by consensus…everyone has a vote…sounds a lot like my son’s world history chapter on ancient Greece and the development of pure democracy.  Our Founding Fathers took note of the Greeks, but also studied the Roman system of representative government or a republic.  Synthesizing the two, along with the philosophies of Locke, Rousseau and others, our country was founded as a democratic republic–we all vote for the our representatives and the president and then they take it from there. We agree to be governed in exchange for the government’s promise to protect our fundamental rights. Under Locke’s theory of social contract, if those we elect, ( i.e. the  government) are not living up to their obligations, we have a right to call for change.  This “call” from the people is bolstered by our First Amendment rights to free speech and freedom of assembly.

And so we have the 99% camping out in cities all over our country essentially claiming that their has been a tremendous breach of the social contract.The citizens defining themselves as the 99% believe that they are living up to their end of the contract. They explain that they  have abided by the law, paid taxes and worked hard to succeed.  Many are now facing unemployment, foreclosure, mounting student loan debt–the list goes on. Their frustrations stem from not only their own struggles, but also from the bailouts of wall street, the insurance industry and the big banks–some how those institutions that also faced financial ruin seemed to have been bailed out of their problems while individual citizens are suffering without relief in sight.

Okay, so what’s the solution?  Exactly how  do the 99% want “the contract” amended? They are exercising their First Amendment rights and engaging in a modern-day version of the Greek’s pure democracy.  Pure democracy–therein lies the rub–a leaderless movement spread across thousands of miles….no specific platform, no elected leaders.  The movement has succeeded in garnering the attention of the public, the politicians and the media. An impressive feat!  Now is the time for it to speak specifics.  I guess that means it will need some designated spokes people.  Maybe even some policy requests supported by….the majority of the 99%?  Perhaps it’s time to read the chapter on the Romans….or just consult our Founding Fathers about how a group articulates its frustrations as cogent demands for social and political change. 

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