What Is Occupy Wall Street?

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They've spoken at great length.

They've spoken at great length.

Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

We went downtown this week to talk to the protesters at Occupy Wall Street.

We asked people why they were there. We heard lots of different answers.

We went to the big nightly meeting, which lasts for hours. Everybody has something to say. Along the lines of:

Should we buy some sleeping bags? Why does that guy get to run the meeting? What if we just buy fabric and make our own sleeping bags?

This kind of back and forth, people told us, is the whole point of Occupy Wall Street. It's not a movement; it's a venue. Standing around, talking about what everybody wants — this is a model of how the protesters want society to be.

This being Planet Money, we immediately wondered: Can an entire economy run on group participation? How could that work? It turns out, there's an economist named Robin Hahnel who's been working on this problem for 40 years. And he has a proposal that he thinks would be perfect.

He calls it participatory economics.

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