Occupy Wall Street and the return of the McGovernites

Like their McGovernite forbearers, the OWS movement, though chary till now of making explicit demands, insists that key elements of the economy, from housing to health to college tuition, ought to be provided as a matter of right, and free of charge. But whereas some of their precursors knew something of the courts and judiciary because of their key role in advancing civil rights, these epigones seem to think of government as a black box: You put your wishes in at one end and a smoothly running government bureaucracy fulfills those wishes at the other end. Some of the protesters seem aware of the very reasonable Volcker rule to keep banking operations and proprietary trading by financial firms separate. What they don’t seem aware of are the 298 pages of explication to the straightforward rule, and the attendant difficulties of enforcing all of the exceptions to the rule, and the exceptions to the exceptions.

In the wake of the debacle of the Carter presidency, TNR wrote that “The biggest challenge for the Democratic party … is to make good intentions marketable again.” That’s true again today. That’s why the biggest problem posed by the Zuccotti Parkers wearing their Che Guevara t-shirts is not that they invited left-over Leninists such as Slavoj Zizek and Naomi Klein to address them. Rather it’s that the protesters, oblivious to our national debt, disregard the understandable disdain with which most Americans currently view the federal government. The denizens of Zuccotti Park seem hell bent on further expanding the bureaucratic black box when the job at hand is to it open it up so that it can be right sized and reorganized.