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Winning Hearts and Minds on K Street

I’m all for the Occupy Wall Street movement going out there and having their say. Many of the activists seem almost completely innocent of economic knowledge, as I’ve written before.

But I do lean left on many issues — I’m against crony capitalism and corporate welfare. It’s time to get out of Iraq, Afghanistan, and our other top-down nation-building adventures in this Hayekian bottom-up world. The PATRIOT Act and the Bush-Obama administrations’ other civil liberties excesses should be repealed outright. I favor LGBT rights and legalizing gay marriage. Drug prohibition is as bad of a policy failure as alcohol prohibition was. I prefer welcoming immigrants to shunning them.

As someone who has studied the economic way of thinking and makes his living looking at the data, obviously my preferred economic policies differ from what most Occupiers want; they haven’t and they don’t. But we share the common aim of helping the poorest of the poor. Means may differ. Ends don’t.

I question their means.

Today in DC, Occupiers occupied a stretch of K Street and snarled up an already-hellish evening commute for thousands of people. Two points:

One, this is not the way to win people over to your side. It is an astounding PR failure. As Rory Cooper tweeted, “Hey OccupyDC – my wife is stuck downtown and my child is trapped at school. You’re doing a heckuva job selling your socialism.

Not how I would have put it. I prefer tact. But you see his point.

Socialism is also a dead horse; one wonders why Republicans insist on beating a horse that died two decades ago. Cooper may work for the partisan Heritage Foundation, but you also don’t have to be right-wing to resent people who block your way home after a long day at work.

Occupiers have closed a lot of minds that they could have opened instead.

The second point is more subtle, but also more fundamental. They are saying, “I have set up a tent on a busy street. Therefore, your arguments are invalid.”

The shallowness of this kind of thinking speaks for itself. But the real shame is that they have much better arguments to offer. Some of them are right, and some of them are wrong. But they still have substance. They should offer those arguments instead.

My unsolicited advice is to keep saying what they have to say with passion — but also with tact. Again, why close minds that you could open?