So much has been in the news lately about the Occupy Wall Street protestors. What is the point of Occupy Wall Street? Well, their website states that this is what they are about:
OccupyWallSt.org is the unofficial de facto online resource for the growing occupation movement happening on Wall Street and around the world. We're an affinity group committed to doing technical support work for resistance movements. We're not a subcommittee of the NYCGA nor affiliated with Adbusters, anonymous or any other organization.
Occupy Wall Street is a people-powered movement that began on September 17, 2011 in Liberty Square in Manhattan’s Financial District, and has spread to over 100 cities in the United States and actions in over 1,500 cities globally. #ows is fighting back against the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations over the democratic process, and the role of Wall Street in creating an economic collapse that has caused the greatest recession in generations. The movement is inspired by popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, and aims to expose how the richest 1% of people are writing the rules of an unfair global economy that is foreclosing on our future.
The occupations around the world are being organized using a non-binding consensus based collective decision making tool known as a "people's assembly". To learn more about how to use this process to organize your local community to fight back against social injustice, please read this quick guide on group dynamics in people's assemblies.
Okay. But is there another way? Can the goals of this group be accomplished in a more productive and democratic manner? I would say that the answer is, "YES, YES IT CAN."
How? Well, we have a thing in this country called voting rights. It is kind of a fundamental right, and unfortunately, a majority of United States citizens do not exercise this right. In addition, we have a judicial system which used to provide the Constitutional right to trial by jury. Unfortunately, the lack of voting amongst those similar to the members of Occupy Wall Street has allowed the right to trial by jury to be eroded.
How can voting and the right to trial by jury help the Occupy Wall Street mission? Well, it can make those responsible for crises such as the financial meltdown accountable for their actions. For example, our legislators and FINRA have implemented an arbtration system whereby investors can only arbitrate claims, not have a jury of their peers rule on their case. This gives more power to the industry because the people deciding the case are industry members typically, and they rule in favor of the industry much more often than not. Why should these claims be taken out of the judicial system?
Another example? In Alabama, and in many other states, jurors are not told that the person or company at fault for an injury has insurance. Why not? Insurance companies are worried that jurors will dole out larger awards if they know an insurance company is involved.
Caps on damages limit the accountability of companies who benefit from the caps. If a company knows its limit of liability, what's its incentive to be responsible? It has none, and the people running the company have none.
In the mortgage crisis we are in, we argue all the time who is at fault, the homeowner who obtained the loan or the financial institution who approved the loan? Both are at fault. Many of these financial institutions knew the homeowner couldn't afford the loan, but they issued it anyway, and the homeowner should have known as well. But, the financial institutions are in a better position to assess this risk, so as our tort system intends, the financial responsibility could be shifted to the person (entity) in the best position to prevent the loss. In many cases, that is the financial institution.
I can go on and on and on about this, but I think you get the idea. Trial attorneys serve a good purpose in our society. They make people and companies accountable for their actions. Do they make money? Yes. Do they earn their money? Yes, in most cases. People like to poke fun at attorneys, but we are starting to see what life is like when "greed" takes over with little to no accountability.
So, next time you hear politicians clamoring for tort reform, think about what they are asking. Next time you go to the polls (if you even go), think about who you are voting into office. Next time you hear someone talking about juries gone wild, think about the reason. We have (had) systems in place in this country to check politicians and companies who run amuck, we can use them.
Protest in the streets if you want. But, if you really want to protest and make a difference, vote and serve time on a jury. These are the democractic ways to REALLY make change.