Saturday, November 26, 2011

Why Every Capitalist Should Think Like a Lefty

So I recently lost my job, and wound up getting one in L.A., rather than staying in Vegas.  The funny part is, I got really, really excited about my new job, my new company, and everything it stands for, even though it is usually pretty associated with the left.

My new job is at a craft beer bar and restaurant with a very local, sustainable focus.  All but five of our 72 beers are CA craft beers.  All of them are on draft.  Even our wine comes in kegs, to reduce waste.  Our entire menu is locally sourced, with an emphasis on local, small, sustainable farmers.  This is like a hippy's wet dream.

Thinking  about it, though, it should also be every Libertarian, economic conservative, or free market Republican's wet dream too.  Part of the reason we should not feel bad about deregulating, or about cutting social services is that we should insist that the free market is capable of "doing the right thing," without regulation and over-taxation.  That is, we would wind up donating more to charity if so much of our hard-earned income didn't get taken away for welfare and social security programs.  Businesses would have an incentive to protect the environment, and the rights of workers, especially in today's world of free flowing information, if the government let competition take its toll.

My question is this, though.  How many Republicans or Libertarians have made a conscious choice to buy responsibly, or to help a charity, recently?  Let's put our money where our mouth is.

I'm not really huge on the environment, or on animal rights.  So why is local, sustainable, vegan-friendly dining such a big deal to me?  The human rights aspect.  Last time I took a class on this, the world produces enough food to feed its population three times The issue is not a lack of resources.  It is an uneven distribution and supply chain.  The vast majority of food produced in "developing" nations (poor places), goes to the U.S. market.  Moreover, a lot of it is not consumed by humans as food.  Instead, it goes into gasoline as ethanol, or gets fed to our  livestock in factory-scaled farms.  By buying locally sourced, grass-fed food, we leave more grain in those poor countries to support their populations.  I guess it is also more humane, and more green, but more importantly, it is a good step toward basic human rights.

Prove the left wrong and prove that the free market can be green, humane, and compassionate.  Donate some time or money this holiday season, do your Christmas shopping at a local small business, or eat a meal you know was sourced locally.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Occupy Oakland and Wells Fargo

So this story really cracked me up the other day when I saw it.  But when I thought about it, it made me sad and mad, more than anything.  Occupy Oakland's depositing their money at a large, "Wall Street" bank highlights three major problems, two with the movement, and one with our society.
First, the movement doesn't really seem to be asking for anything, or protesting anything in particular.  It's really very interesting.  There are thousands of people across the country camping out in intersections, parks, and empty lots, and nobody is quite sure why.  They're protesting Wall Street and the big corporations (especially the banks).  Well, what exactly are they protesting?  And when exactly are they going to leave?  When Wall Street or its banks cease to exist?  When they lose control over the U.S. and global economy?  Is there an official measurement for how much influence a particular group of companies has on our economy and politics?  Is it going to end when everybody is happy?  My guess is people will be camping for a while.  The movement is so un-focused that the closest thing that they have to a clear target was just given a large deposit by one of its "chapters."  With no focus, and with so many people unemployed (and therefor otherwise un-comitted), plan on being Occcupied for a while.

The second problem is another problem with the movement.  There is no real action involved.  If every single person who is currently parked on their ass in an intersection or a park, or who is donating money, or posting supportive comments on Facebook, Twitter, or a blog right now, or is otherwise involved in Occupying Wall Street, L.A., Chicago, or Lincoln, Nebraska, would get up and do two things, we could effect real change.  First, vote for someone other than a Democrat or Republican for at least a state-wide office.  Second, close your accounts with Wells Fargo, Chase, Citi, U.S. Bank, etc.  Open accounts at a local credit union.  Get your loans through microlending sites like  The amount of money that would leave the big system, and the amount of votes that could collectively be sent just to send a message, would be a real force for change.  Although, one wonders what the bank account of someone who has been sitting in a park for three months looks like.

Finally, this is irritating because of what it says about our society.  Even these protesters went straight to a major bank to drop off their check.  I feel like our society has become one where morally, socially, politically, and environmentally responsible choices are more plentiful and more convenient each and every day.  Yet we are part of a generation that thinks only about what's easiest and works best in the moment.  Depositing this money with a credit union could not possibly have taken that much longer than finding the nearest unoccupied Wells Fargo.  Even those who are supposedly more politically and socially conscious couldn't be bothered though.  They found somewhere "easy" to put the money until they figured it out.  We're a generation that does what's easy, and then when we get caught, or it catches up to us, go back and fix it later.

This maneuver was both amusing and a little depressing.  Thanks a bunch, Occupy Oakland.