Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party: Fighting the Same Battle?

The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement is often seen as the idealogical counterpart to the Tea Party movement (TPM).   Occupy wants to raise taxes, the Tea Party thinks we are “Taxed Enough Already.”  Occupy thinks corporations are too powerful, the Tea Party thinks government is too powerful.  Despite their differences, these two seemingly opposing movements may have more in common than you think.

Formed from the Grassroots

First and foremost is the logistical aspect that both movements share. Each movement sprung up from ordinary people, angered and frustrated with the way things are being run in this country.  OWS and TPM both began from the grassroots.


These movements weren’t started by politicians or super famous people.  Instead of being formed from the top down, both OWS and TPM were spontaneously formed from the ground up.

There is no single central authority controlling the actions of either movement.  Granted, there are online hubs such as OccupyWallSt.org and OccupyTogether.org for OWS, and TeaPartyExpress.org and TeaPartyPatriots.org for the TPM.  But all the protest and action for either movement have been decentralized, happening at the local level.

Protesting Corporatism (Crony Capitalism)

OWS is against corporations having too much power over government.  TPM is worried about the government having too much power over the marketplace.  Whether the constituents of OWS and TPM know it or not, they are fighting a common enemy, corporatism.

Corporatism, otherwise known as crony capitalism, is when the government grants special treatment, such as subsidies, regulatory or legal permit favors, to corporations.  Corporations have power over government, government gives money and favors to corporations.

The marketplace is thus lopsided towards corporations granted government favoritism.  The most prominent form of corporatism took place as bailouts during the last recession, with bankers receiving bonuses after receiving bailouts.  The odd thing is that OWS and TPM unwittingly attack such corporatism from opposite ends.

Two Sides of the Same Coin

OWS attacks the corporate side. Occupy Wall Street “is fighting back against the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations over the democratic process,” says OccupyWallSt.org, the unofficial de facto online resource.  How do these institution get the power?  From government favors.

TPM attacks the government side. The Tea Party movement is the “reaction of the American people to fiscally irresponsible actions of the federal government, misguided ‘stimulus’ spending, bailouts and takeovers of private industry,” says TeaPartyPatriots.org.  Where does government money go?  Much of the fiscally irresponsible actions were subsidies and bailouts towards corporations.

Both movements are protesting two sides of the same coin. It’s not just protesting one side or the other, but protesting the power and money held by the collusion of corporation and government. So, then, what is the solution to corporatism?

Shared Vision

It is unfortunate that the fight against corporatism is fragmented.  On the surface, OWS and TPM are opposed to each other’s ideologies.  Yet if we strip away all the differences, a common enemy emerges.  What would it look like if OWS and TPM united for a common goal?

One solution to this problem is to transform corporatism (crony capitalism) into something different.  “The current version of capitalism is not the one envisioned by (Adam) Smith at all. He was seeking to create a system defined by efficient allocation of resources driven by self-interest, but guided by self-restraint. This is conscious capitalism,” says Kyle Westaway of the HBR Blog Network.

So what do you think? What are other similarities the Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party have in common?  What is a common vision that both OWS and TPM protesters can agree on?

Image Credit: 99% – BlaisOne via Flickr; Gadsden Flag – Wikipedia

Jonathan Mariano is an MBA candidate with the Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco, CA. His interests include the convergence between lean & green and pursuing free-market based sustainable solutions.