Dirty Wall Street

November 5, 2011

Dirty Hands


Being a student in college I’m not one to watch the news everyday, but since I have ties to New York I felt I should learn more about the Occupy Wall Street dilemma.  It seemed like something of importance since my brother is constantly complaining to me about the crowds of people surrounding his apartment building in the city.  Little did I know, Occupy Wall Street is being talked about around the country.  The protesters are trying to make a difference by stopping social and economic inequality, corporate greed, and the corruption of the government.   They want to prevent the upper class, or 1% as they’ve stated, from growing in power.  The men and women for this cause have held these demonstrations for over two months already, which is impacting our society greatly.

This past week in lecture we learned about the “dirty hands” political theory, where someone does something wrong in order to do something that is right.  This causes moral conflict for the acting party.  We were given examples of situations that represented the “dirty hands” problem such as President Truman dropping the atomic bomb in Japan and the War on Terror.  In general, protests are when a group takes action to enact desired change.  The situation in New York is representative of “dirty hands” since the protesters are creating chaos in the city, yet are doing it for the greater good of the community.  For example, Occupy Wall Street has blocked off the roads in the financial district and sanitation in the area is now horrendous.  The city also has had to pay policemen overtime since they monitor the protesters at all times.  Overall, this is a huge inconvenience for New York yet could have a huge payoff for the “99%” supporting it if they successfully get their message across.

In my opinion, the idea of “dirty hands” is very debatable as to whether a situation applies or not.  How are we supposed to decide if actions are morally right or just flat out wrong?  I’m sure Hitler and his followers believed his actions were justifiable because he believed in the Aryan movement.  Yet, how many people does he have to benefit for his actions to be for the common good?  Does this include his followers or do we have to consider all of Europe, or the whole world?  Also, does it matter if the actions helped us in the end?

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3 Comments on “Dirty Wall Street”

  1. bsrobin Says:

    The questions you pose simply have no answer; there is no guide or general rule to deem something necessarily wrong or morally wrong. This may sound strange but the fact is everyone has different opinions on what is considered right or wrong. However, when people, like Hitler, begin to harm, injure, and sometimes kill others then it is safe to assume that is immoral. The dirty hands theory can sometimes be applied or used as an excuse in situations like Hitler. In his mind, he is simply doing some horrific acts for the greater good and the final outcome. This is similar to the mind-set of the ends justify the means but much more extreme and sadly harmful. People who are in power and think this way can, and in history, can harm society in devastating ways.

    This article mentioned President Truman and his decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan. Although as Americans we see that as something that was necessary and successful, Japan may see Truman as a Hitler-like individual. People can only decide what they believe and argue against others if they think differently. Hobbes would say that all people should think differently and express those ideas; he encourages the most ideas and opinions possible and there is nothing that people are more opinionated on than what they consider moral or not.

  2. tylerhoffman1 Says:

    The author of this post makes a connection between the “Dirty Hands” theory and the Occupy Wall Street protests that may not be entirely accurate, according to Machiavelli. Protestors on Wall Street, or anywhere in the country for that matter are expressing their 1st amendment, the freedom of assembly. As long as their protests are peaceful, and most have been, they are doing nothing wrongly, legally or morally. Machiavelli’s political theory isn’t applicable to any peaceful protests in the United States simply because we are given the freedom to do so. Dirty Hands refers to powerful political authorities doing unmoral/wrong (in the public office sense) so that the consequence can be ultimately positive. The story would be much different if the Occupy Wall Street Movement was trying to do some “under cover” or illegal work to get things done. In that situation, they would be trying to accomplish something good by doing something unmoral/wrong. Only then could the “Dirty Hands” political theory be applicable to the Occupy Wall Street movement.

  3. Yahya Syed Says:

    This is an interesting conversation. The “Dirty Hands” conversation appears to be an interesting conundrum to say the least. To go off Danielle and bsrobin’s point, I agree that it is a very subjective topic. “Good” in one person’s eyes may not be good in another’s, especially if they are opposing sides. I also do not believe that we can say that it takes an action to be “illegal” for us to start up a conversation about Dirty Hands. Some may argue that the top 1% (and I am not saying that I support this opinion) earned the money that they have made, and that Occupy Wall Street is willing to disrupt the status quo in an attempt to restructure society and the way it works. It believes that all the trouble that both it and society in general faces as a result of its actions is worth the causes that it fights for.

    Similarly, the US Government believed that it was worth the time, money, and other resources in the Iraq and Vietnam Wars in order to preserve democracy in other parts of the world. However, the Iraqi and the Vietnamese people might not feel that the cost of that democracy was not worth the cost and trouble that ensued.

    As Mika mentioned at the end of lecture this past Thursday, politicians make a sacrifice in a way when they choose to take a position of office, as they understand that they might not be doing something that is under everyone’s agreeable terms. Both President Bush, President Obama, President Johnson, and President Nixon had to deal with the consequences resulting from the unhappiness and outcries of protesters of these wars.

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