Was the Occupy Wall Street movement a social, political or an economic movement? This is what rings in the mind of a substantial number of analysts whenever there is a reflection on the Movement. The Occupy Wall Street Movement is a movement that took place in the United States in 2011, when the impacts of the global economic recession were almost fading and paving way for economic recovery.
The movement was spontaneous, yet it became quite organized as the protests progressed. The dimension and the grievances that were raised in Occupy Wall Street Movement depict the search for social and economic justice for the consumers in the United States. This paper discusses the Wall Street Movement.
The aim of the paper is to provide a coherent analysis of the issues by bringing out the moral issues of the Movement and analyze the Movement in relation to philosophical theories like Kantian, utilitarianism and virtue ethics.
Overview of the moral and economic implication of the movement
The Occupy Wall Street Movement is a protest movement that took place in the United States in the year 2011. The protest was spontaneous and took place in Zuccotti Park, in the Wall Street financial district, in the city of New York. The Movement attracted people of diverse races, gender, age, and political inclinations. The main slogan of the Movement was ‘we are the 99%’.
The slogan refers to a large percentage of the population that is dissatisfied with the prevailing economic conditions in the United States. Income inequality and inequitable distribution of wealth are the main issues that were being aired out by the protesters (Selinger & Seager, 2011). The implication of the movement was that income inequality in the United States is a kind of social injustice in the country.
Only one percent of the American population represents the rich, yet the rich own more than 90 percent of the wealth in the country. The majority of the citizens in the country strive for the little wealth that remains. The rich collude with governments to protect and amass more wealth at the expense of the people who occupy the middle and the low economic classes in the country (Occupy WallStreet, 2012).
A number of developments have come out recently, which point to the fact that most Americans are undergoing economic difficulties and subsequent social problems. During the global economic crisis, it became evident that most of people in the United States cannot afford a medical cover. Economic surveys had also been indicating that most Americans earn wages far below the set minimum wage.
There is, therefore a big difference between the highest wages that are paid to top executives of companies in the United States and the majority of the population, especially the population that lies under the minimum wage bracket (Occupy WallStreet, 2012).
According to Occupy WallStreet (2012), there is a need to create a society that is fair. Such a society cannot be attained when the country is still witnessing a widening gap between the wealthy class and the other socioeconomic classes in the country. Large corporations that are owned and controlled by the wealthy class have been blamed for colluding with the political class to exploit the citizenry.
The Movement, therefore, seeks to see into the issue by pressuring for the separation of politics from the economy. Corporates have a huge influence on the political sector and have taken advantage of their influence to manipulate the citizenry and make huge profits, which end up only benefiting few individuals.
This is the only way through which the society can manage to offer equal opportunities for the advancement of the lives of all individuals. According to the OWM, it is immoral for the society to be structured in such a way that the rich are the few individuals who amass dozens of wealth. Poor pay and inequality in the distribution of economic resources need to be condemned at all costs.
Utilitarianism, Kantian and virtue ethics philosophies
The philosophy of utilitarianism is commonly applied in normative ethics. According to this philosophy, the moral value of a given action is measured by the outcome of that action. The end result of any course is, therefore, critical in evaluating the moral worth of that action (Hinman, 2012).
According to the Movement, the action by a smaller section of the population to become rich at the expense of the wider population does not find a backing in the utilitarian philosophy. This implies that the end result of amassing of wealth by the few rich causes social inequality and suffrage to most people in the country.
If the United States focused on the utilitarian philosophy, then it could have struggled to structure an economy that backs a fair distribution of resources. Such an economy is supportive of most people and prevents the case of the largest section of the population getting poorer, while a few people get extremely rich.
Cushioning the income of most families through offering economic and social schemes would has greatly aided in a fair development of the economy, which embraces the social welfare of the entire citizenry.
According to Hinman (2012), utilitarianism can be easily likened to the Movement in the sense that the final payoff of the course is what matters. The outcomes of the Movement are the ultimate consideration and not the course or the motives of the protesters. The wealthy are left to enjoy in wealth, while the poor are left with limited resources that cannot support their needs.
According to utilitarianism, it is undesirable and unethical to keep watching as the actions in the economy result in the widening of the gap between the rich and the poor. The financial difficulties that were faced in the recent years are attributed to inaction.
Kantian ethics was developed by Immanuel Kant. According to this philosophy, actions are justified by the means and methods that are deployed in pursuance of a certain course. The universality of the course and the ethical considerations therein are of greater concern than the payoff. It is, therefore, upon the actor to review his actions and make attempts to put such actions into the perspective of the wider society.
This is evident in the continued pay rise of the wealthy class in the United States. According to the Movement, there is no wider consideration of the economy by the wealthy class and the political class, who cover the few wealthy individuals in the economy (Hinman, 2012). Proponents of the movement are, therefore, of the view that a review of the Kantian philosophy can help to positively shape the actions of the wealthy class.
Virtual ethics pay attention to the behaviors and characters of each actor. It is meant to shape the actions of an individual in a bid to ensure that the individual is engaging in the right actions. Individual actors are encouraged to be in possession of desirable character traits like love, kindness, courage, and generosity.
Such character traits are molded in individuals and shape the moral uprightness of an individual. The character of the rich in the United States and their actions depict the lack of morality (Terrall, 2007).
Income inequality and the distribution of wealth
According to Maxwell (1990), the inequality in income in the United States has been the subject of socioeconomic debates in the country for an extended period of time. The gap between the rich and the lower classes has been widening. Recent problems in the economy are attributed to the lack of balance in the economic welfare.
The country has not streamlined its social mobility standards, which implies the prevalence of classes in the economy. Most citizens fall in the middle wage class, which has remained stagnant for an extended period of time.
The largest fraction of wealth in the US is also controlled by a few individuals, which encourages income inequality and the poor distribution of socioeconomic resources. The increased inflow of immigrants in the US compounds the problem of social inequality.
Wealth is concentrated in the hands of the 1 percent. This means that the middle class can hardly go up the socioeconomic ladder. The wealth class, therefore, gets wealthier, a status quo is maintained in the middle wage class and the occupants of the lower class become poorer.
With few skills, the immigrants encourage the problem of poor pay since they accept to take up jobs, even below the minimum wage. Economic policies have also played a role in compounding the problem of income inequality and imbalance in the distribution of wealth in the US (Coady & Gupta, 2012).
The OWM has made a significant impact in as far as the change in thought about economic imbalances in the US is concerned. However, the Movement can deploy several tactics, among them the focus on the deep seated issues that cause income inequality and imbalances in wealth distribution. The Movement can press for educational reforms.
According to Rosnick (2012), education can help in shaping up citizens who are creative, thus no dependency on formal employment and wage. The seeking of jobs from corporations encourages exploitation. There is also the need for a radical surgery in the current social economic system to eliminate vices like greed, corruption and lack of transparency. Less capitalism can help reduce the socioeconomic vices (Occupy WallStreet, 2012).
The future of the OWM
The Movement still remains to be a critical forum in as far as the elimination of socioeconomic inequalities is concerned. There has been a significant impact of the movement in a number of countries outside the US, like the UK and Canada. The continued existence of socioeconomic inequalities implies the existence and sustenance of the Movement.
The contemporary economic hardships that are experienced by a majority of the Americans depicts the need to push for socioeconomic reforms, thus confirming the validity of the OWM. Extreme capitalism sustains the economic inequalities, thus the need for a counterforce that can help to press for equality in income and the distribution of resources.
This paper has presented an analysis of the OWM. It can be concluded that the Movement is one of the main forces that can help bring about the desired change in the economic set up of the US. It is evident that most of the resources are controlled by a few individuals.
The actions of the government encourage this trend. The earlier the government heeds to the demands of the Movement, the more it can prevent the likely socioeconomic upheaval. The current socioeconomic system needs to be restructured by the government to attain a balance.
Coady, D., & Gupta, S. (2012). Income inequality and fiscal policy. Washington, D.C.: International Monetary Fund.
Hinman, L. (2012). Ethics. Australia: Cengage Learning.
Maxwell, N. L. (1990). Income inequality in the United States, 1947-1985. New York, NY: Greenwood Press.
Occupy WallStreet. (2012). Occupy Wall Street: The revolution continues worldwide! Web.
Rosnick, D. (2012). Breaking down the causes of income inequality. Web.
Selinger, E., & Seager, T. (2011). Occupy Wall Street is part of a major shift in ethical behavior among young people. Web.
Terrall, E. (2007). The ends or the means? Kantian ethics vs. utilitarianism. Web.
Occupy Wall Street – Movement for Social and Economic Justice