In the 1953 movie, “The Wild One,” a girl asks Marlon Brando’s character, “Hey Johnny, what are you rebelling against?” Johnny looks at her and deadpans, “Whadda you got?” I get the same feeling from many supporters of Occupy Wall Street. They’re angry about something, so any protest is as good as another.
I’ve made it clear that I’m opposed to government handing out taxpayer money — whether real money or fictitious money made up out of thin air by the Fed — to anybody, whether it’s individuals or business interests or other groups. I’ve strongly opposed every bailout of any company or industry. But the current Wall Street protests miss the root of what’s wrong. The problem isn’t on Wall Street. The problem is in a political system that claims the right to transfer money from any group of people to any other group.
If you’re going to protest against people who are being bailed out, you’re going to have to “take over” autoworker union halls and big farms and government-operated schools all over the country, among many others. I don’t have any special love for Wall Street bankers, but it’s irrational to pretend that they’re the root of the problem. This protest just diverts attention from where the real root is — a coercive state that claims moral authority to tell all of us what to do.
If you want to be angry, direct your anger where it should be directed. Fight against the system, not one small part of a financial and social structure. The truth is that we need Wall Street. Most of what those bankers do is key to making the economy work. If we could go back to the day before they were being bailed out (and regulated) by governments, we could return to the day when a vibrant and risk-taking part of the financial system allocated capital in efficient ways. In those days, firms took calculated financial risks and sometimes made great profits. Other times, they took the same sorts of risks and failed — sometimes taking their firms down with them. The point is that without government interference, they provided a service to the economy that is vital.
The truth is that many of the Occupy Wall Street protesters are simply left-wing types who don’t like free markets. They support Democrats’ efforts to raise taxes on productive and successful people. They support socialists’ efforts to force “the rich” to subsidize the rest of society. Many other people who are angry about the economy — but don’t understand the root of the problem — have been suckered into supporting these socialists.
The official Occupy Wall Street website makes it plain that the group stands firmly with Barack Obama and the tax increases he’s pushing right now. This isn’t a protest of people who want to bring real market freedom. This is a protest being led by people who want more taxes and tighter control over the market.
There’s something seriously wrong in this country today, but the problem isn’t centered on Wall Street. It’s centered in the political system. It’s certainly true that slick and immoral Wall Street bankers have lined up at the taxpayer trough to take money, but the problem is that the politicians have provided the trough in the first place — to anybody.
I don’t want to occupy Wall Street. I want to leave Wall Street alone. I simply want to take away the power that government currently claims to take our money (and make up new money) in order to give it to anyone, whether those people are Wall Street bankers or GM union workers or anyone in between.