Ben from Ben and Jerry's serves ice-cream to OWSers

Scott Lynch was kind enough to place this photo of Ben "Ben and Jerry's" Cohen scooping up free ice-cream for the Occupy Wall Street protesters in the Boing Boing Flickr pool.

Occupy Wall Street: Day 52, Zuccotti Park, Ben and Jerry's, scooped by the real, actual Ben


  1. In my country the philippines, there is something called a “party list” and we have more than two political parties. In the USA with your bicameral politics, its very difficult to become a congressman without joining one of the 2 parties. In the philippines and other countries with party list, several congressional seats are reserved for party list groups so there are always several congressmen who are not affiliated with a political party.

    A party list is like a new start up company among established giant companies, but in the congress. Any private person can start a party list group with various causes like senior citizens, the environment, anti-government corruption, leftist or rightist groups, etc etc as long as it doesnt violate the law. If you get enough votes during national elections, you get 1 to 3 congressional seats. In our laws, the party list organization internally decides who get to sit on the seats they win in election.

    If the occupy movement happened in the philippines right before an election year and none of the big political parties supported it, we would just form our own party list political parties (maybe more than one) and after winning seats in the congress you could then exert influence and even evolve into a minor political party after some time, maybe even up to fielding a presidential candidate. So the occupy movement in the philippines would quickly move from street protests to right inside the congress, at least theoretically

    1. If you get enough votes during national elections, you get 1 to 3 congressional seats.

      I’m a little confused as to how this works. Could you explain a little further?

      In the US, each Representative represents a very specific part of the US. In the Senate, they represent the state. In the House, they represent a district in a state. There is a very specific number of seats available and they have nothing to do with political party, but rather region. The system was setup because, generally speaking, states even today have very strong governments. I wouldn’t trust someone from Kansas to represent my interests in California given we have radically different economies, taxation rates, demographics, laws and culture.

      If say, 5% of the national population decided to vote Libertarian, but no single Libertarian wins any election, it wouldn’t make much sense to give them a seat. What district would they represent? They can’t represent the interests of the 5% of the national population spread over the entire the US, especially if I had no say in *who* got selected to represent me and instead the person was installed by the party itself.

      1. > They can’t represent the interests of the 5% of the national population spread over the entire the US

        Why the heck not? It’s starting to be ridiculous that our congresspeople even pretend to “represent” anything other than their party. My representative in the house doesn’t represent me, he represents the Republican party, and other than earmarks, what is he doing for our district? I doubt he was even born here or grew up here, and that has never been a requirement to be a “representative”. So he’s not providing any cultural or financial link to the place where I live, in what sense does he represent anyone from here?

        Same goes for the senators. I don’t imagine mine represent California, they represent their party.

        Why don’t we drop the pretense and give me the ability to vote on national politics directly.

      2. Congratulations, you have discovered the limitations of our Constitution, a document designed specifically to keep wealth concentrated in the hands of the wealthy. 

        Parliamentary legislatures allow smaller parties to remain ideologically focused while exerting some political power during close, critical votes. The legislative branch as laid out by the US Constitution, on the other hand, basically guarantees an endgame consisting of two monolithic parties that differ only in minor details while agreeing on everything else.

      3. That’s the problem with district systems. Minority votes don’t get representation, and you effectively end up with a 2-party system. In the UK, a third party has managed to sneak in, but most of the times, they’re pretty inconsequential. I believe most democracies have proportional representation, which means if a party gets 5% of the votes, they also get approximately 5% of the seats. Here, representatives don’t represent districts, but voters from the whole country, and I think that generally leads to less “bridges to nowhere” (something that seems to happen mostly in district systems). Also no need to vote for the lesser evil, because there are more than two viable parties.

        If you really want regional representation, I suppose you could go with some sort of hybrid system. Reserve half of the seats for regional representatives, the other half for national party lists. Keep representation proportional, but district winners go before candidates on the national list. I think that could work, but it’s a bit more complicated.

        Also, do you really have a say in who gets to represent you now? Aren’t your options effectively limited to the main party candidates? In the Dutch system, if someone low on the party list receives a lot of votes, he can get the seat that the party had intended for a candidate higher on the list.

        1. That’s the problem with district systems. Minority votes don’t get representation…

          Not always. San Francisco never had a Board of Supervisors that represented the population until district elections, because there are actually gay neighborhoods, Asian neighborhoods, etc. If you have any kind of widespread ghettoization, you have to have some kind of regional system.

          A bigger problem in the US is that the Federal system gives every state two Senators. Thus California (which is very diverse demographically) gets one senator per 19,000,000 people, and Wyoming (which is 96% white, for example) gets one senator for every 280,000 people.

          1. I disagree that the Senate is the problem.  The problem is that *all levels* of our government are infiltrated by the rich and moneyed special interests, and case law supports it.  The corporate lifestyle we enjoy in this country will be our undoing.

          2. He doesn’t mean minority in the sense of race or orientation. He means the 49.9% of voters who voted for the “loser” get nothing whatsoever.

          3. He doesn’t mean minority in the sense of race or orientation. He means the 49.9% of voters who voted for the “loser” get nothing whatsoever.

            And quite a number of countries are split unevenly by two ethnicities. Extrapolate.

          4. I think if we still had state appointed Senators instead of elected versions, they would be more focused on state’s interests rather than party interests, but that’s not going to happen anytime soon.

            The fact of the matter is, the US Federal Government was designed to be slow. Our system does not promote sweeping changes or quick fixes and in fact, throughout the history of the Legislative branch, you can see that. Even sweeping reforms were preceeded by years and years of proposals along the same lines. Heck, the basis for our health reform law was first considered more than 15 years ago.

          5. I will never understand the recent, profoundly revisionist enthusiasm on the Right to repeal the Seventeenth Amendment. I mean, have you read any history? The Senators we’ve got are bad enough, but when they were appointed by the state legislatures they were worse – they were more partisan hacks, because the state party had so much more power in promoting their careers and sending them to the Senate, and they were even more likely to buy the office, because it turns out that it’s a lot easier to buy a few dozen state legislators, to whom no-one pays attention, than it is to convince a few hundred thousand voters, no matter how much money you have to do the convincing.

            In an era when the Occupy movement is protesting the new Gilded Age, the Right is embracing the worst ideas of the first Gilded Age. Without presuming to know your politics more generally, the repeal of the Seventeenth Amendment is one of those worst ideas.

          6. True for Senators, but in the House, California has 53 Representatives, Wyoming 1, and yes, she’s white.

          7. True for Senators, but in the House, California has 53 Representatives, Wyoming 1, and yes, she’s white.

            Even 53 to 1 still gives them proportionally more representation! Of course, to get it correct, we’d need to up the House to about 1,000 members. NOBODY wants that.

          8. I do! I think the constitution did until it was amended to limit the size of the House.

            Think of how hard it would be to herd 4x as many cats!

        2. representatives don’t represent districts, but voters from the whole country, and I think that generally leads to less “bridges to nowhere” (something that seems to happen mostly in district systems).

          Hello from Italy, where that principle is enshrined in the constitution (“Each member of parliament represents the Nation and is free from any explicit mandate”, roughly translated). We ain’t very good at bridges, but “motorways to nowhere” are our speciality! Oh, and white-elephant universities in minuscule, undeveloped towns. And and and…

          Neither system is perfect or less corrupt, because inevitably you’ll need a *local* organization to get out the votes, regardless of how you count them; if anything, regional representation at least makes the process transparent, reducing corruption. 
          Germany seems to have found a good way of formalizing both ways, but they’ve built it on an historically-decentralized culture of government which not everyone shares.

          1. Well, in constitutional theory  our members of parliament are independent, too, but in practice  subject to party discipline, which makes truly independent representation kind of hard. Nonetheless, we seem to do okay with the creation of new parties when the need arises: At least two of the newcomers are well-established (Greens and Left) and the Pirate Party seems to gain impact. 

            About decentralisation: It’s assumed that this is deeply rooted in how the Holy Roman Empire of German Nation elected their emperors, but probably more grounded in the later formation of the nation itself.  I’d think that Italy, which is similar in this regard,  could work the same way.

  2. I guess 62-billion-dollar international corporations are okay after all if they give out free samples of Chubby Hubby. 

    1. Nice black and white world you live in there, ever considered shades of Grey? Perhaps some corporations aren’t as horrible as others, and some founders, while bound by their actual corporate owners, want to show their support for certain movements. Ever considered how much money this guy’s time is worth, and what it means to the owners of his corporation (and it’s workers) that he’s decided to spend his time on the street, handing out icecream?

      1. ” Perhaps some corporations aren’t as horrible as others”


        Looks like Unilever’s guilty of all the same stuff the OWS object to other corporations doing.  Exploiting 3rd-world labor, unfair competition, and so on.  Maybe Goldman Sachs should start turning out a New York Super Fudge Chunk clone. 

        “Ever considered how much money this guy’s time is worth and what it means to the owners of his corporation” 

        Very little.  He hasn’t worked for the company since 2000 when he stepped down as CEO after he sold it to Unilever for $326 million. 

        1. If he doesn’t run the company, I can’t even figure out what your point is, since it was ostensibly about the company. I don’t see a corporation there handing out ice cream, just a big anthropomorphic logo. I see Ben. He’s doing a good thing.

  3. So that implies Ben is still the 1%….

    I wonder if it’s a company perk (free ice cream) since he was a founder?

  4. He may be part of the 1%, but there are members of the 1% who are equally frustrated with the inequalities of the current system.  I’m not familiar with Ben Cohen’s personal philosophies regarding taxes, but I do know that  his company (pre-Unilever at least) was one of the best examples of a large corporation that worked with charities from the start and actively built Free Trade relationships.

    I think it’s a mistake to vilify the entirety of the 1%. The percentage of the 1% who agrees with most of the grievances of the Occupy movement are allies. They have money to support the cause and could be instrumental in transforming the current movement into a more powerful political force. Why ostracize them if they share our goals and want to lend support?

    1. I agree. Most progressive movements in the XX and XIX century were spearheaded by people belonging to the ruling classes… after all, nobody else could afford the necessary time and education which politics required. From Bakunin to Lenin to Marx to Gramsci, they all came from upper- or middle-upper-class families; maybe not all 1% (well, Bakunin for sure), but certainly all in the top 10%.

      I’m sure the top 1% of US earners contains a number of very enlightened individuals, and they should be welcomed by any progressive movement, as long as they pursue the good of the people against their own short-term priorities. Let’s be clear though: no matter how nice they are, they will have to lose some of their privileges or there won’t be any improvement.

  5. To paraphrase Emma Goldman,  “If we can’t share ice-cream – I don’t want to be part of your revolution”. Ben has found a fantabulous way to occupy.

    1. I don’t think Emma would approve of your paraphrase.  If someone worth hundreds of millions wants to support the occupation, that’s great.  But how about a contribution that’s really meaningful?  Coming from someone that excessively rich, a few gallons of ice cream is trivial to the point that it’s kind of insulting.  Like you consider this “doing your part”?  Really?  We’ve been camped out for weeks, getting arrested, many of us unemployed and in debt, and you’re gonna help us out by serving ice cream?  Do I even need to invoke “Let them eat cake”?

      Of course, maybe I’m wrong and he’s in the process of distributing millions of dollars in no-strings donations to occupations all over the world.  In which case I will happily eat my words (and hopefully some ice cream!).

    1. When you take yourself that seriously it’s not OK to get excited about anything, even if that thing is free delicious ice cream.

  6. As I recall, when Ben And Jerry owned Ben And Jerry’s, they had a rule that the CEO could only be paid a certain multiple of the lowest-paid employee’s wage, a modest multiple by American standards. Of course, they had ownership as well as their salary, so they could afford such a stance – but it was an important message, and it affected the salaries of the rest of the corporate hierarchy. One of the problems with our current economy is the way that senior managers are rewarded as if they were owners, not employees – perhaps to help blind them to the injustice of treating the lowest employees like chattels, not like dignified workers.

  7. Rich guy is rich = 1
    State of my acquisition of icecream = 0
    Rich guy is rich = 1
    State of my acquisition of icecream = 1

    Ooooh hard choice there as to which I prefer.

    1. You’re absolutely right.  The real way to settle wealth inequality in America is for the 1%ers to bribe everyone with $2 worth of their own merchandise. 

      Ben’s a bad example of this since he does really seem like a good guy but serious, how far does this go? 

      Rich guy is rich = 1
      State of my acquisition of stock in BP = 0…

  8. I’d like to see him sending more of a message if he agrees with the 99% (assuming he is one of the 1%). If he has free time now that he isn’t running B&J presumably he could “occupy” or even provide financial aid to those who are. Maybe food parcels rather than just ice cream.
    (Maybe he already is!)

    On an unrelated topic, it seems that OWS has lost a bit of momentum (from here in the UK anyway). Nothing is apparently happening now. Someone needs to bam it up a notch. Business just seems to be carrying on regardless.
    I’d recommend an “occupy the airwaves” where everyone in OWS gets on their phones at the same time and swamps all the available mobile signal in the area. Doing that every day, for an hour, at a “random” time is going to start to piss big business off. Protetors can just call each other to limit the damage to a local area.
    Of course, if the idea went viral, everyone world/country wide on their phones for as long as their free minutes allows them, at a set time, then it will swamp the entire network (I saw the stats from a major US carrier a 10 or so years ago and they flatlined their core on new year changeover for about 10-15 minutes, no new calls could be made). That’s really going to annoy big business.

  9. I’m not a fan of Ben&Jerry’s/Unilever. They opened a retail location in my city a couple years ago and threatened to run the locally-owned ice cream shop out of business. Yes, I understand that they had every legal right to do it. Fortunately, the locals rallied around the local shop and, after about 18 months, the Ben&Jerry’s/Unilever store went out of business instead. :)

  10. People pointing out this gesture is disingenuous because “Ben & Jerry’s” is owned by Unilever so the message is false are about as astute as wing-nuts who claim that anyone who protests against corporate malfeasance is disingenuous because they are using cell phones, computers & other products made by the same corporations they protest.

    1. I guess that depends on how high-road you can realistically go. Read something kinda funny today. 3 days after ditch your bank for a credit union, OccupyOakland, in order to bail out their arrested brothers and sisters, amassed and deposited $20k. At a Wells Fargo branch. I don’t mind – it’s a reliable bank. But that’s a little closer to the bone.

      Ant: Top ‘o list.

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