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FEBRUARY 7, 2012 12:29PM

Can Occupy and the Tea Party Agree About Something?

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Drumming against the failure of the un-free market
Drumming against the failure of the un-free market
When you really get down to it, The Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street are both trying to defend everyone. They disagree about who the enemy is, but agree on the problems: the diminishing middle class, a systematic corruption of politics, and the experience of being controlled by powerful institutions that set the rules for our lives. There are more examples of agreement.

We need to get a handle on the power relationships between us and corporations, on the one hand, and the government on the other.
Compare a very large amount of power in a corporation and the same amount of power in a political institution, such as a government. (This is a plausible comparison, for example, since several corporations have more income even than many western countries.)

The relevant question is: which one do you have more power over, the corporation, or the government? Which one has more checks and balances designed to limit power?

Articulate at Occupy Wall Street

Limits on Corporate Power
The corporation has other corporations, i.e. competition, to limit its power. This limiting force is undermined, however, because these corporations cooperate, and they integrate. That's it. You have no say in what they do or don't do.

For example, the company that makes the blockbuster films also makes the cameras, the lights, the sets, right up to the cinemas that play the movies, and the television shows and newspapers that review and promote the movie strategically.

This matters more when it is something that affects everyone, like the Asbestos industry in Canada: when large companies are doing construction they decide what products and tools the employees use. Hypothetically speaking, if the same companies also owned the asbestos companies, then they would make it the policy to install it. This industry also writes 'model legislation' and promote it so heavily to the Canadian Government that Canada is one of the only Western countries that actively promotes the use of asbestos, even while we remove it from the Parliament Buildings... selling it to other countries of course, because it is all but banned in Canada (See CUPE’s statement here).

Limits in and Control of Government Power

Now, compare this to our relationship with government. The US government is divided into three branches. Each of these is designed to limit the others, and the legislative branch is divided into two parts, so can be at war with itself, as it is now.

Structure of US Government: Checks and Balances

The system is designed to be inefficient, so that people can't go in and pass crazy legislation quickly and mess everything up. A divided Congress alone is the equivalent of having competition between the major auto companies. In addition to this, there is an elected official who can veto its bad decisions, and the courts to test their legality. The thing is, they also have to work together, or nothing happens at all. So government exercise of power is extremely limited.

Then there's the fact that you get to petition the government: they are supposed to listen to you because they represent you. Finally, and perhaps most relevantly, you vote on who you think should be in office. That means that if politicians do things you don't like, then you can fire them. This is completely impossible when it comes to corporations. Voting for your officials means that you have power over their agenda: they are there to serve you, and if they don't you fire them.

Back to the contrast: a corporation is not there to serve you, it's there to make money for its shareholders, and only in a derivative way will it be there for you. You can't determine their policies, AND you can't fire its leaders if they are going in the wrong direction.

In a word, corporate power is not limited on its own. Government power is internally limited. It is also designed to serve you, that is, being a representative democracy means that your government is an extension of your power as a citizen, and it is accountable to you, the voter.

Finally, a friend of mine tried to say that limits on the size of corporations are good, but that they are actually a matter of the Rule of Law (which Tea Partiers and OWS both champion), but not a matter of regulation. The problem is, this is a false distinction: a law that limits the size of corporations and corporate power just is regulation. This means that if you think that the amount of power that people (including corporate people) are allowed to have over you should be limited, then you need government to limit it.

 Wal-Mart: How good is it for your community?

An Objection

There’s another part of the comparison I left out, and which a friend helpfully supplied, namely that we vote with our wallets. It isn’t Wal-Mart that puts local stores out of business, it’s the fact that we choose to buy things at Wal-Mart.


It is certainly true that we vote with our dollar.

To say that it is us, and not Wal-mart that puts local people out of business is like saying that it wasn't the gun that blew open his skull, it was that I chose to move my finger. Put otherwise: of course it's you who chose to pull the trigger, i.e. shop at Wal-Mart, and because of that, it's Wal-Mart; Wal-Mart just is the pattern of a lot of people spending their money outside of their own community for short-term savings.

It sucks that people freely choose to buy things at Wal-Mart and put their own town out of business, and line the pockets of someone living beyond the tax law of any country (GE for example paid $0 in US taxes last year, and received $3,200,000,000 in tax credits)

Why would people do that, when it hurts them and communities? Because we don't know what we are doing. One reason we don’t is that Wal-Mart spends a lot of advertising money to make us think that they are investing in our community.

Here’s an argument that Wal-Mart is good for communities. I think it is dubious where it deduces its results from made-up axioms of economic theory, assumes that because a person chooses something that she does so freely, and seems to think that having purchasing power and supporting your own community are mutually exclusive.

Here’s a discussion of how Wal-Mart has created astro-turf groups of “citizens” who are passionate about the benefits of the company to Chicago communities.

Our money does things we do not control

It's 12pm. Do you know what your money is doing?
But our current problem is that we never know what our money is doing. Did you know, for example, that there’s a good chance that you got some key minerals in your cell-phone, computer, or tv remote from an armed group that gains access to and secures these minerals through murder and systematically raping women to destabilize communities? 

Did you know that by using plastic bags and buying bottled water (plastic everything) you are contributing to infertility and to enormous soups of plastic garbage that are collecting in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans

Pacific Garbage Patch of Plastic Trash
These are things our money and our practices do without our consent or awareness. It is true that we have the power to vote with our dollar, and that is one way we can do something about these things.
Corporations Vote With Our Dollar Too 
The main problem with corporations, however, is that they do what they like with our money, without asking permission first. This has political effects too: I vote with my dollar, but the people who have found ways of making huge amounts of money off of my dollar—multiplying it—They also vote with my dollar. In fact, they vote so much more than me, that I don’t get heard any more.

In politics we say one person one vote. When dollars are votes, however, it matters that 400 people in the US own more than the poorest 150,000,000 people—the bottom 50%--combined. Here is a visual representation, not of wealth, but of income:

Comparison of US income is like the sun to planets

Because we vote with our dollars, the Citizen’s United decision to allow corporations to freely spend to influence election results means that our votes will be utterly eclipsed.

This is exactly what OWS has a problem with: people with vastly more dollars have more votes. In addition, we are not in control of our money; we do not know, and cannot decide enough about what it is doing.

Tea Partiers, who like OWS support the free, robust individual, also support his ability to choose what happens with his money, and seek to protect him from the effects of other people's decisions. No matter whether that's really possible, it's clear that this person's vote and his freedom are both undermined by the power of money in the hands of the wealthy to shape our world.

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Interesting. I'm coming back later to re-read this in greater detail. The "separation of powers" that you discussed was described by a political philosophy professor of mine many, many years ago as the "mutual extortion theory" and it's as apt a description today as it was then.
This was an interesting piece. Your statement at the very end:
"'s clear that this person's vote and his freedom are both undermined by the power of money in the hands of the wealthy to shape our world"--seems to me that there was this guy named Marx who posited similar sentiment almost a century and a half ago.
Not to criticize or anything but it's circular isn't it?
And, from my years in the Midwest, I have seen many instances of WalMart pushing local businesses aside. However, Sam Walton in Tom Peters' book "In Search of Excellence" asserted that his stores were always "invited" into every town where they located--based upon inconsistent hours, non-competitive prices, lack of promotion, etc.
However, it is interesting that there have been more than a few instances over the years where WalMart moves into a community, businesses atrophy and then WalMart leaves because of insufficient business and then is sued for having created a "dependency" and their departure creates a total business void.
Thanks, for your comments, Walter. I appreciate especially your description of the whole life-cycle of a Wal-Mart... occupation (?)--that it dries up the town, and then leaves a void when it departs.
Can you say more about what you mean by circularity?
Baltimore, I really think you're on to something in your characterization of both Occupy and the Tea Party, that they both agree that the government should not create winners and losers.

Also, you are completely right to say that the remedy for the bailouts is not for the government to give out more money, this time to the 99%. It is a complex idea, which might end up being as much a critique of more simplistic Tea Party and Occupy protesters.

From a straightforward concept of corrective justice, it is easy to say: we have been wronged, now we have to take back from the corporations what was wrongly given, and return it to those who lost it.

First, in point of fact, the bailouts are now turning a profit for US taxpayers.

Second, you make an excellent point that doing more injustice, this time in favor of the other side, does not right the injustice committed. Nor does it help us economically.

Third, another option is that the real rectification of the injustice may not be to punish and compensate taxpayers (see #1) but to reform the financial sector instead. I'll post something on this later today.
"The relevant question is: which one do you have more power over, the corporation, or the government? Which one has more checks and balances designed to limit power?"
its very simple, think outside the box, dude. BOTH ARE BROKEN. the power arrangement must be REALIGNED. both have too much power (where its not appropriate) and too little (where it is).
"There's a big difference between financial manipulation and capitalism."
--newt gingrich

“Is capitalism really about the ability of a handful of rich people to manipulate the lives of thousands of other people and walk off with the money, or is that somehow a little bit of a flawed system?”
--newt gingrich

"Crony capitalism, where people pay each other off at the expense of the rest of the country, is not free enterprise. And raising questions about that is not wrong."
--newt gingrich

"Are there no fair questions about the distribution of wealth without it being seen as envy, though?"
--matt lauer

"I think it’s fine to talk about those things in quiet rooms..."
--mitt romney

"The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid dens of crime that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice. Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the offices of a thoroughly nasty business concern. "
--cs lewis

gamechanger-- occupying republicans
you forgot the 4th branch of the US govt.. the WARMA$HINE
You have nailed the cross to the two incestuous creatures -- the craggy, scarred and abused citizen's governing body and the faceless, soulless corporation -- in hopes of examining this cruel arranged marriage.

We are beginning to deal with the idea that we may not be able to control either. So, we con ourselves with the notion that we can influence it by the political process, which is, right now, quaking of its own ineptitude and beaten body -- fighting off the ropes: and what we have is a caricature of the brilliant Ali, attempting to cover up a broken jaw, a liver punch that has the acid-speak of sudden puke biting into the larynx.
But we are learning and feinting, bobbing around with trial balloons sent in texts, Android notes and melodies of our awakening despair. The OW people want to change the system, just as we did in 1968, when the streets would fill in Paris, London, New York and Prague ( who actually pulled it off, years later). We can not get off this now, the velour revolution has begun ...

We are finding out that we can not change the government. Or the corporation, as it is now constituted. Wow, we are working so hard to make things happen, confront, test and show our stand, that we may not be seeing what is the value of such effort, angst and resolve. What is next, then?
Comparing the Sixties to this is worth the trip, I feel. Maybe, we can start by realizing, OK, they are there, we are here. But when they -- and the people -- realize that we can change how we respond to these dinosaurs, then the game has changed -- we have David's sling and are ready to knock out the other eye. The Japanese realized this, as they minimize to the optimal degree of lean ...
The power that we have is, the knowledge that we can change how we behave, react to this struggle. The Recalls have begun. Boycotts, demonstrations do work.
Is Spring in the air?
Sorry, I think they want completely different countries.

Tea Party - a government that is in our lives as little as possible. A government that allows us to keep as much of our money as possible. A government that champions the individual and not the group (and mainly the former by leaving them alone). A government that allows us to provide for our own health care (and costs), our children's education (and costs), our own homes (and costs), etc.,

I don't think the Tea Partiers care much about corporations as long as they are not criminal and, should they be asked, I think the Tea Party attendees would say they want corporations taxed at a low rate, less regulated by government, and able to locate their companies in the states they desire - again absent actual criminality. I think a Tea Partier, should he bother to break down his thinking, fears big corporations a lot less than big government. The former he can, if he isn't lazy, usually ignore, the latter has the power to put him in jail.

I think the Tea Partier is sick of the "liberal fascist" mentality that is explained in the book, "Liberal Fascism". (You can hate the book, but I don't think the Tea Partiers do.) I think they fear the efforts by "progressives" to control, tax, spend and regulate.

I don't think the Occupiers feel that way at all in regard to government.

I think the Occupiers see the constitution as a living document and the Tea Partiers want it to be strictly interpreted.

I think the Tea Partiers see the Left as a problem and big government as a problem and people telling them what to eat, buy, smoke, etc., as a problem. I think the Tea Partiers hate the American school system (in general, seeing it as conntroled by the Left) although not education. I think they are more religious than the Occupiers (in the sense of following "traditional" religions) and, again, rightly or wrongly, see progressives as making war on their values and beliefs and (see the Catholic Church anger of this week) their right to practice what they believe.

I think the Tea Partiers will, although if Romney is the nominee not with enthusiasm perhaps, vote for a Republican for president and the Occupiers, again perhaps not with enthusiasm perhaps, Obama.

Oh, and the Tea Party types don't give a fig about Wal Mart.

And they hate Obamacare which, in a sense, gave them their push to organize.
Thank you for putting the ? at the end of the title. I've often had the same thought. Then upon further examination, I come away with that same "?" In my gut though, I cannot ignore all those homophobic, racist, anti-union, vote against your own best interest Tea Party signs. And the hatred expressed in the angry faces. It is then that I remember the KKK and the racist South of my youth. Then I lose the need to compare!
Inthisdeepcalm, you write vividly. I like that you are pointing out that this is this generation's '68. I'd be interested to hear more about what you took '68 to be about, and what differences you see between then and now. What can we learn from those times?
Barbara, your point about the different visions they have of the country, is well taken. Actually, I think that those ideas emerge from each group thinking that different enemies are the cause of our current troubles. My only stake was that they agree about the problems, my attempt, to make an argument comparing them on the question 'what would make you more free and more powerful?'--in other words, what route would allow them more say in correcting these problems.

As for Tea Partiers afraid of "people telling them what to eat, buy, smoke, etc."--it is that kind of thing that begins to count as hysteria. Nobody is actually going to tell you what to eat, buy, smoke, etc. It's like saying that the NFL isn't socialist because, while the league makes teams pick in reverse order of rank, the NFL doesn't tell the teams who to pick. If that is what socialism is, it would be limited mainly to the monarchy and the Mafia.

The government doesn't tell people who to hire (though they do give bonuses for hiring veterans... and should for hiring women and minorities). And, no matter how you slice it, saying that homosexuality exists and is ok, is not the same as trying to make people homosexual. A person who is happy abortion is legal does not thereby want you to kill your unborn fetus. The government just does not interfere with your life in those ways (and if there are exceptions, I will be hella surprised, but please correct me!), and the people who think it does, think this out of a kind of hysterical fear brought about by misinformation.

On the NFL, by the way, see:
I'm very glad to see that I'm not alone in my belief that the TEA party and Occupy movements have some similar goals and complaints.

I agree that government should have checks and balances... but does it?

I don't think this is working very well right now. Yes, there is some amount of gridlock in Congress (which is a designed feature, as has been pointed out here and elsewhere, acting as a check/balance). But when someone complains to their Senators and Congressmen that FDIC is picking winners and losers (or whatever other agency; I happen to know about FDIC preventing certain sectors of certain industries from being able to use banks*) and the reply is that the Senator doesn't know the federal agency is answerable to the Senator, something has badly broken down in the checks and balance system. We cannot fire the heads of FDIC. Much as it is needed, we cannot fire people at CDC (and since we mostly elect attorneys to Congress, those bodies have no idea what's going wrong at CDC and little thought of interfering). Our agencies are badly, badly broken.

(*viz, construction and development businesses who banked with a bank which was shut down, and whose loans were in good standing, but were not allowed to refinance at another banking house--all the banking houses said: not allowed to take on any loans of that type)

About corporations, the idea of these super-huge dominating conglomerates is as antithetical to a free market as it is to the sensibilities of OWS. In order for the free market to function well, it requires competition, and the ability of the purchaser to vote with her dollar or his feet. So yes, some amount of regulation is necessary and desireable. The current state of affairs does not represent the free market.

I think there is some confusion between conservativism--perhaps better referred to as classical liberalism--and libertarianism. Classical liberalism (liberation from oppression, specifically government oppression--government is uniquely positioned to be an amazing oppressor) requires some government, but limits the intrusiveness of it to that which is necessary to prevent people (and corporations!) from hurting and taking advantage of one another, and unique functions of the government such as defense. (Plus, many of us would make room for social programs for the truly needy, and for medical and technological research.) Libertarianism, on the other hand, is more like what has been described as wanting to be left alone from government.

Finally, there is a bit of a difference between TEA party movement and the Occupy movement in that, to TEA party movement a dominating conglomerate is, ipso facto (in and of itself), a wrong, while a dominating conglomerate is offensive to the Occupy movement more in who is holding the cards--if it's a private, for-profit corporation, that's evil, but if it's a government monopoly, that's a positive good (single payer system for health care, anyone?).

The problem I see with the "who is holding the cards matters" view is that, in the end, both corporations and governments are made of people, thus, both susceptible to errors of ambition, biases, etc., and neither one is either more or less likely to be acting for the good or the bad of society. I get the shareholder argument; I really do. But that is just one facet of a complex situation. A corporation also has a responsibility to keep the corporation going, and that involves many more things than a good return for stockholders. It involves benefits for employees, a good presence in the community (i.e., charitable giving), long-term goals (e.g., investment in tools and equipment), and so forth. (Yes, there are some Enrons, but those are evil exceptions; we have some laws against fraud, etc., and we maybe need some new ones to prevent/prosecute golden parachute fraud. )

However, the government has some serious drawbacks compared to corporations. Not needing to make a profit, it has no incentive to be efficient. Not needing to compete for business, it has no incentive to offer good customer service or a competitive product (except in rare cases such as NASA and defense; they or their colleagues could die if it isn't good enough... still sometimes politics tells them what to do instead of them being allowed to make their own decisions).

Still, corporate corruption is related to government corruption. Not sure if we can fix the one by fixing the other or if we need to take on both at once.

In the end, the TEA party and the Occupy movements do have a lot in common. If we can figure out how to take down the corruption in our government and in the corporations of our country, we can meet our shared goals.
oh, and of course the TEA party movement does contain some libertarians, but it's not, in general, a libertarian movement--contains also many classical liberals, and Sen. Jim DeMint, for example, is a conservative.
"The main problem with corporations, however, is that they do what they like with our money, without asking permission first."

I love this point, in particular the moral assumption that it matters when you spend money what the person who gave you that money would or wouldn't have wanted it to be used for. We need to embrace new values to solve today's problems, and I think this is a great suggestion of what we should strive for.

For fun, just imagine that we could invent some kind of e-dollar currency that is programmed to value itself differently depending on what it is being spent on. For each dollar, it remembers the preferences and moral choices of all the previous owners of that dollar, and will weigh its value during any transaction based on what is being paid for, and how that particular activity is preferred (or not) by the previous owner(s) of that dollar. I wonder what kind of world we'd live in, if dollars could be programmed to enforce collective integrity like this. Hmmmm...
Hi there. You wrote - "My only stake was that they agree about the problems, my attempt, to make an argument comparing them on the question 'what would make you more free and more powerful?'--in other words, what route would allow them more say in correcting these problems."

I guess I should clarify that I do NOT think the two "groups" agree on the problems. The Tea Partiers think government is a large part of the problem - maybe MOST of the problem - the Occupiers don't. The Tea Party types think high taxes are part of the problem, the Occupiers think the opposite. The TP thinks governmental attempts to REGULATE our lives and what we do via taxes and "health laws" (my term) on soda, cigarettes, sugar(?), etc., is part of the problem. I suspect the O. people are fine with a nanny-state approach for the sake of "our" health. The TP doesn't believe in "our" health, but in "my" health. The TP is a group that thinks more of themselves as individuals to whom the government owes, say protection from foreign invasion, and the O. see themselves, I'd say, more as part of a group to whom the government owes money, a job, a loan, etc.,

The TP hate the nanny-state and statism, the OWS types are not concerned with it as a threat, but just want it done "right". The TP supports capitalism, I suspect the OWS supports Michael Moore's view that we'll reinvent a financial system.

BTW, I didn't mention socialism.

And trying to control people's actions via taxation is what I meant when I mentioned eating, smoking, etc.

It is interesting that you mention a sports team in an analogy. The TP sees themselves as parts of teams ONLY if they choose to be - say in a synagogue, a bowling league, a church, a civil or private group - whereas the OWS sees the citizens of the country as part of a team. This is very different.

I didn't mention homosexuality or abortion.

The government is trying to control what we do when they punish (via taxes) people's choices on things like having a fireplace, smoking, buying alcohol, and such and nanny-state laws and taxes, do force us to do things a certain way when we, as individuals, are the only ones affected physically should an accident occur. The TP doesn't think they should be forced to wear a seatbelt or motorcycle helmet or stay in lousy schools because vouchers are not available. They don't think a Catholic charity should be forced to give kids to a gay couple or get out of the business. (And, by the way, the Church should NOT be taking government money either. They've brought this on partly themselves.)

The Tea Party isn't afraid someone will force THEM to have an abortion, but is afraid they will be forced to have medical insurance they don't want, and also to pay for abortions they may not believe in. (You raised this issue, by the way, not I.)

And on and on.

I suggest that like either side or hate either side or come out somewhere in between, it doesn't matter - the two groups want different countries.

I appreciate your reasoned tone, but please drop the hysteria line. Both sides can be accused of hysteria and you really don't want to get me started. (I mean that nicely, really.)

When I buy a restaurant, pay for it, run it and such, I should have the right to have smokers or not. You asked for an example. That is a very small and in some ways rather unimportant example.

The Tea Party wants a man to the right of Ronald Reagan and the Occupiers want a man to the left of President Obama. I think they are very different groups who want very different things.
This should have been - "The government is trying to control what we do when they punish (via taxes) people's choices on things like having a fireplace, smoking, buying alcohol, and such and nanny-state laws and taxes do force us to do things a certain ...."

I've corrected a punctuation error.

Thanks for your blog and good luck with it.
I do not mean what is to follow as a badgering of you or in a nasty way. I think that articles like this and people's belief (or desire to believe) that the two groups DO HAVE more in common than they do or can be MADE (nicely) to see that they have more in common than they do IS part of the difference between them. I suspect the Occupiers and the left in general believe in consensus as a good in and of itself a lot more than the TP folk do. In fact worry over consensus and "a Washington that is broken" is, I'd submit, a leftist one. This is not a worry, the brokenness of government nor the desire for consensus, that TP types are concerned with.
And allow me one more point - and really I was wrong to not include it before and I apologize.

I think the TP sees a larger government as a detriment to freedom (as Dennis Prager often says, "The bigger the government, the smaller the person.")

I think the left does not see government PER SE as a threat to freedom. They think the TYPE of government may be a threat.

These are two different world views.
Thanks for your substantial responses, Barbara! I can agree with almost everything you say--which I do--and yet still make my point.

You are arguing that the problem the Tea Partiers are focused on is different because the country they want as a result of fixing it is different. I can concede, and conceded from the start, that they think of it differently because they take it to be produced by different enemies.

But when you get down to brass tacks, the Tea Party's programmatic, consistent message has been that their real concerns aren't abortion or race or homosexuality, but instead debt and government spending. They tie their message to a particular problem with government. Their opening message is not "back off, government"--that is their /second, deeper/ message, the one they give you once you admit that there is a problem with government.

But even more deeply, they are angry that some powerful people screwed up the economy, and their middle class is shrinking, and they feel overwhelmed by the complexity of ways that their actions are controlled. This is why conspiracy-theorists feel at home in the Tea Party (also true of Occupy!): they feel controlled and they are looking around wildly for some explanation.

I'm saying: alright, let's say I believe you that that this is what it's all about. Those are exactly the things that OWS is worried about. Insofar as their political views are founded not on ideals or theoretical systems of interpretation or on conspiracy theories, but on something they actually experience and worry about, the two groups have something in common.
Janelle, Thanks for your complex response. You agree that OWS and the Tea Party have shared goals, and that mutual corruption is one of the major problems. You argue that Occupy is ok with a monopoly, while the Tea Party isn’t, and you want to say that because it is a monopoly, government is inefficient.

On the last two points I partly agree with you, and partly don't. The reason we say monopolies are bad is that they can manipulate us for their own ends. So on the one hand, in an earlier comment, someone mentioned that TP does not care about Wal-Mart. I take it to mean this: they don’t care about corporate monopolies, because we are free to shop there or not. (Do you think that's right? I'm not sure, but my TP friends do say stuff like that.) They only care about government, because they think of government as a special kind of corporation: a ‘them’ that has their own agenda and imposes it on ‘us.’

On the other hand, Occupy isn’t worried about government monopolies because for them we are the government: if it is manipulating us, it is not for someone else’s profit, but it’s (supposed to be) for our profit, our good, and we have a say in what they do: we can vote them out, for example. What they deeply object to--and which you note already--is a common government that is run for someone else’s profit. This means they object to government monopoly just as much, and for the same reasons, that Tea Partiers would.

You agree that both government and corporations are flawed. You make the argument that government becomes inefficient because there’s no competition, while corporations also have to serve the public good.

The problem with the second is that corporations are legally obliged to put their profits over everything else (see the Craigslist vs. ebay ruling): if they serve the public good, it can only be as a means to profit. By contrast, government’s whole purpose is to serve the public good.

On the other hand, I can see two problems with the idea that government becomes inefficient without competition: 1) government is incredibly competitive, in that people compete for votes. This does not ‘go all the way down,’ however, since agencies are inherited from one generation to another. But in principle it can. 2) Compared to the inefficiencies of a free market system, the inefficiency of a government system looks rather good. In addition, the inefficiencies of free market systems are making someone a profit, so they are interested in having them.

For example, it’s well known that starting government-run health insurance in the US would instantly save over $300,000,000,000 (that’s three hundred billion dollars) on bureaucratic paperwork alone—that’s because every insurer and every plan is different and requires different paperwork, plus each plan selects specific hospitals, so there have to be liaison officers, etc…. that would insure everybody who is not currently insured, with lots left over.

But, OK, the objection that you make is not about outcomes but about motives. You are saying that nothing would be forcing people to work effectively. To that, I just have to say that money and the threat of losing your job (e.g. because of the failure of your company) are not the only things that motivate people.

Hundreds of thousands of people working for government programs bust their butts for a minimum-wage salary, or even for no money at all, because they want to make the world a better place, because they want to help that family out of poverty, because they want those kids to grow up healthy, engaged, thoughtful, and wise.

The problem comes when people think of government as only an economic system, thinking that it must be motivated by economic reasons, that is, when people think of government as a business. It’s not a business.
You wrote - "But even more deeply, they are angry that some powerful people screwed up the economy, and their middle class is shrinking, and they feel overwhelmed by the complexity of ways that their actions are controlled. This is why conspiracy-theorists feel at home in the Tea Party (also true of Occupy!): they feel controlled and they are looking around wildly for some explanation."

No, I don't agree. I think that the impetus for the TP movement was the Obama administration and, specifically, Obamacare (and if you don't like the name, call it what you want). I think they are motivated primarily by big government and, as they see it, it is epitomized in the health care (whatever you want to call it) monster, as they see it, pushed and passed by this president. I don't think their focus is on the economy per se or on the "mess up" of it by powerful people. I think they DO see the "mess up" as coming not so much from powerful people in corporations, as from powerful people in government. They see Fannie and Freddy as part of the problem, maybe even the impetus of the problem. They see LESS regulation as a solution and LESS government as a solution. And, by the way, I suspect that any decent polling would find conspiracy types more on the left than the right. I doubt if many people at a TP believe that 9/11 involved the US government and I'd even bet fewer people on the right believe the JFK was killed by a conspiracy bit as well.

I don't even think the TP people feel overwhelmed as much as ticked off that the left is turning (or wants to) America into Europe.

I guess I am just an inarticulate moron, but as I see it, the only thing the TP and O people have in common is believing there is a problem and also their desire for a better country.
If the left sees the country as being in economic trouble and feels the solution is more regulation, more taxes and more government, okay. But if the TP sees the country as being in economic trouble and feels that the solution is LESS regulation, less taxes and less government, I don't see how that makes them similar. It means only that they both see a problem. Even see the SAME problem. But if they want totally different solutions and see the cause of the problem as totally different, they really don't have too much (I'd argue anything other than being in the same country) in common. If the TP types think the O types are, or their thinking is, PART OF THE PROBLEM and PART OF THE CAUSE of the problem, then they ain't gonna see their future ideas as part of the solution.

BTW, I don't think they feel overwhelmed, TP people, as much as they feel tired of the left and big government.

And, I also think it was the left's interpretation (and one that is in error too, in my view) that ever raised "race", "abortion" or "homosexuality as part of the TP issues of interest.

Bye now, we can't seem to communicate on this issue - and it is my fault I am sure - but again, good luck.

I still think there is a war in America. So far peaceful and may it always be so. But the left wants an America more like Europe. (I'm speaking in general.) The right wants an America that is more like that of pre-FDR and Wilson days. They agree, in short, with Mr. Goldberg's analysis in "Liberal Fascism".

Good luck with your blog. I invite you to mine.

A Tea Party member (I am NOT) explains some of the differences as he sees it.

Okay, good lluck.
I thought this a while back when the Occupy movement started. Glad to know I'm not the only one. Eloquently written. Thanks for putting this into words that define similarities and still acknowledge the differences. I believe thaat if two or more groups agree on one thing that needs to be changed,, they can temporarily put aside their differences to find a solution to a problem they mutually agree on. You've shown how that's possible. Only wish everyone else could understand.
I thought this a while back when the Occupy movement started. Glad to know I'm not the only one. Eloquently written. Thanks for putting this into words that define similarities and still acknowledge the differences. I believe thaat if two or more groups agree on one thing that needs to be changed,, they can temporarily put aside their differences to find a solution to a problem they mutually agree on. You've shown how that's possible. Only wish everyone else could understand.
We can agree HR 347 is an abomination.