The decision to be “retarded,” or irrational, was in some ways the most rational course the small investors could pursue. It made them formidable and, in fact, terrifying in the financial arena, much as a fearless army is on a battlefield. Their self-description as “autists” and “retards” is not just a gag; it is also an ethos and an identity.
And this has political overtones. The WallStreetBets group appears to have lost its bet but not its esprit de corps. It may well be able to move on to other battles, some of them a long way from its original grievance. There is no particular reason to believe such efforts will always please the likes of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sherrod Brown.
For decades now, the economic world has been politicized along progressive lines. Consider the threat of corporations such as Wal-Mart to boycott North Carolina over its laws regarding gender and public restrooms, or the imposition by “activist” hedge funds of climate-impact reporting on corporations. Populist countermovements to such initiatives are made difficult by the prevalence of “progressive” attitudes among the richest of the rich, as well as other obstacles. Still, the assertion of the little guy’s political prerogatives in the marketplace has always been a theoretical possibility.