Occupy Wall Street Slashes $15 Million in Debt With Voluntary Donations

November 13, 2013 1:05 pm Comments Off on Occupy Wall Street Slashes $15 Million in Debt With Voluntary Donations Views: 250

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 17: Occupy Wall Street protestors hold a large banner during a demonstration on September 17, 2012 in San Francisco, California. An estimated 100 Occupy Wall Street protestors staged a demonstration and march through downtown San Francisco to mark the one year anniversary of the birth of the Occupy movement. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (INTELLIHUB) — Occupy Wall Street is raising money so they can buy up debt at random and pay it off, in a brilliant campaign of radical agorism.  I have been critical of Occupy Wall Street in the past because I have been opposed to their support of taxation and government regulation.

However, this new approach does not require the force of government, nor does it give the government more power.  This is simply a voluntary act of charity that works to undermine the system, which is something that I can definitely get behind.

Members of Occupy Wall Street have recently started an effort called “Rolling Jubilee” and the stated mission on their website is to: “buy debt for pennies on the dollar, but instead of collecting it, we abolish it. We cannot buy specific individuals’ debt – instead, we help liberate debtors at random through a campaign of mutual support, good will, and collective refusal.”[1]

By purchasing the debt at cut down prices the group has managed to free $14,734,569.87 of personal debt, mainly medical debt, spending only $400,000.

“We thought that the ratio would be about 20 to 1,” said Andrew Ross, a member of Strike Debt and professor of social and cultural analysis at New York University. He said the team initially envisaged raising $50,000, which would have enabled it to buy $1m in debt.

“In fact we’ve been able to buy debt a lot more cheaply than that.” [2]

The Rolling Jubilee project was mostly conceived as a “public education project”, Ross said.

“We’re under no illusions that $15m is just a tiny drop in the secondary debt market. It doesn’t make a dent in the amount of debt.  Our purpose in doing this, aside from helping some people along the way – there’s certainly many, many people who are very thankful that their debts are abolished – our primary purpose was to spread information about the workings of this secondary debt market.” He said.

“Very few people know how cheaply their debts have been bought by collectors. It changes the psychology of the debtor, knowing this.  So when you get called up by the debt collector, and you’re being asked to pay the full amount of your debt, you now know that the debt collector has bought your debt very, very cheaply. As cheaply as we bought it. And that gives you moral ammunition to have a different conversation with the debt collector.” Ross said.

As a friend, supporter and also a critic of the occupy wall street movement over the past year and a half, it has been exciting and interesting to see the loose knit, decentralized movement transform and grow into many different branches that are taking a more local and decentralized approach than we saw from the protests last year.

Recently, I have been noticing that various pockets of occupy wall street are beginning to practice agorism, and starting initiatives and projects to replace inefficient state programs with their own voluntary mutual aid approaches. This Rolling Jubilee project is one example, and the recent efforts to go where FEMA wouldn’t after Hurricane Sandy is another example.[3]

For those of you that are not familiar with the term “agorism”, it is a strategy of noncompliance that uses counter economics and underground markets as a way of keeping power in the hands of the average people, thus slowly diminishing the power and relevance of the control structure.

Growing food, starting mutual aid or charity groups, using bitcoin, homeschooling, running a small business without licenses, bartering and starting community currencies are all examples of agorist activities. Some agorists are even so bold as to create businesses that will challenge existing state monopolies, like we saw earlier this year when Detroit residents created their own community protection agencies because the police were no longer responding to 911 calls.[4]

It is as simple as finding a need in your community for a particular good or service, and attempting to provide that value without any sort of interaction with the government or any other unchosen 3rd parties. In other words, the basic idea is to try solving the problem yourself, with your community instead of waiting around for a politician to make the problem worse.

Occupy Wall Street outshining FEMA in the wake of a natural disaster is reminiscent of actions taken by an agorist in early American history, Lysander Spooner. Lysander Spooner was an outspoken philosopher, abolitionist, and anarchist during the 19th century who was not only a brilliant author and speaker, but he also started a letter delivering service to compete with the government post office.

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