Protesters from the "Occupy" movement moved a family of four into an empty foreclosed home in southwest Atlanta last week. They were evicted by local authorities yesterday. From WSB:
Atlanta police arrested Occupy Atlanta protesters who stood firm at a foreclosed home that group members had taken over.
Channel 2’s Sophia Choi was with the group last week when Reneka Wheeler and Michelene Meusa moved into the home on Windsor Street in southwest Atlanta with their two kids. Other members kept them company, vowing to stand their ground if officers showed up. When officers arrived Wednesday, protestors refused to leave and were arrested.
“Housing is a human right, not for the banks to hold hostage,” Meusa said.
Choi was there when Meusa and three others were taken into custody. They will face criminal trespassing charges, a misdemeanor.
So many Americans view foreclosed properties as "just empty houses" and "not being owned by anyone". Those homes are sitting there vacant, so why not just move people into one? "Libertarian" extremists (read: "criminals", not actual libertarians) use similar reasoning to file false titles with local authorities and take "possession" of distressed properties.
Essentially, from the view of the protesters, the home is empty. Nobody's using it. So since it's abandoned, just move in a needy family who has nowhere else to go. The bank isn't using it, and the needy family can. No one's hurt by it.
Here's the problem with this line of reasoning: It's bunk. What's more, as I'll describe later the protesters don't really believe it. It's just how they justify the patently absurd to everyone else.
It's actually very hard for me to clearly articulate the reasoning of the Occupy protesters because of how twisted their logic has to be to justify it. From their perspective, because the bank doesn't have an active tenant in the home it's simply going to waste, so why not just take it? This kind of reasoning is not only dangerous from a moral perspective (theft is theft, after all), but consider the economic ramifications: Banks unwilling to lend for mortgages at all, because if the home is foreclosed then someone else can just take it, rent free. Loans secured by property become meaningless. Mortgage interest rates, despite the Federal Reserve's best efforts, necessarily rise dramatically to cover the cost of the bad loans and lost property. Essentially, mortgages become little different from credit cards.
The fact of the matter is that the house is owned by people: The owners of the banks. Not all of those owners are the evil One PercentersTM, either. Many of those bank owners are individuals like you and me, who own shares in mutual funds and other securities in our IRAs, 401(k)s, 403(b)s and pensions. I happen to be a member of a credit union, so any mortgages underwritten by my bank are owned by me and my fellow depositors.
Despite my aspirations to be one some day, I'm no one percenter.
Imagine the chaos that would result from allowing people to simply take was is disused or laying vacant. Unused automobiles simply taken and distributed to the "needy". Camcorders or metal detectors, purchased on a whim, taken from their owners simply because they never use them and given to other people. Exercise equipment not used in months, taken because "they don't need it".
Seems ridiculous, doesn't it? But it's the same concept. It's not even moral relativism, it's exactly the same: Taking someone's rightful property without permission or a mutually agreed payment, simply because it's vacant or unused. The only difference is that a theif can easily move a car or a camcorder. Moving a house is generally a much more difficult proposition.
Besides, as I said above, the protesters don't really believe what they're saying, anyway. They give lip-service to "just occupying something that's vacant", and many people hear this and think it seems reasonable. However the protester's own words betray their real intentions. In responding to the arrests, one protester stated the following:
“No amount of individual arrests is going to stop what the 1 percent has coming to them," protestor Ben Smith said.
Did you get that? "What the 1 percent has coming to them." This protest isn't really about getting a homeless family into housing. There are dozens of government programs for that, as well as numerous shelters, group homes, charities and other options. It's not about occupying an empty house, or even using something that "isn't owned by anybody". It's not about helping the deserving poor, or even the undeserving poor.
Nope. This is about punishing the wealthy. This is about punishing people who worked hard and built a life for themselves (or at least, people who were smart enough not to blow the trust funds their hard-working parents left them on trips to to visit spiritual gurus in Nepal, expensive parties, and mind-altering substances). This is about people feeling that life was just unfair to them. That they shouldn't have to suffer the consequences of the decisions that put them in the life situation they now face, so just take it out on people whose decisions were better than theirs.
In other words, this is about pure envy. Nothing more and nothing less.