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Should We Worry About Mercenary Occupiers?

Occupy Wall Street 10
A photo of the Occupy Wall Street protests in October, 2011 by Jackie Weir. See more.

Paul Solman frequently answers questions from the NewsHour audience on business and economic news on his Making Sen$e page. Here is Tuesday’s query:

Name: CJ Franklin

Question: Who would pay someone to become an “Occupy” protester and why? I recently read about a town with a small police force that is struggling to cope with busloads of protesters who have repeatedly surrounded the home of a local bank executive, trapping his family until enough police from other communities can be summoned to disperse the crowd. The affected neighborhood appears to be nice but not extravagant; I would call it upper middle class. The newspaper article mentioned that one of the protesters admitted to being paid to “protest.” I understand frustration with exorbitant Wall Street bonuses and executive compensation, but who benefits from hiring people to harass a bank employee’s family?

Paul Solman: Now seriously, CJ, of all the economic problems our country faces, how high up on the list is mercenary Occupiers? One person in one newspaper article, assuming we should believe everything you read.

How about mercenary soldiers, as in Iraq and Afghanistan, of which there are thousands? Mercenary prison guards? How about the practice of buying and selling places in line for Congressional hearings and Supreme Court arguments, as outlined by Harvard professor Michael Sandel in his new book, “What Money Can’t Buy,” and featured in a story of mine in June?

I can understand consternation about such incursions of private incentives into public life. And if it’s spread to the Occupy movement, so much the worse. But I’ve spent time at four different Occupy sites and if the folks there were deliberating endlessly, sleeping in tents, and otherwise hanging out with fellow travelers not because they believed in the cause(s), but because they were being paid, then believe me, the most troubling thought is that they were not being paid enough.

This entry is cross-posted on the Making Sen$e page, where correspondent Paul Solman answers your economic and business questions

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