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The Wall Street demonstrators have managed to capture the attention of people across the globe.

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Woodstock in New York

The Wall Street demonstrators have managed to capture the attention of people across the globe.

The Wall Street demonstrators have managed to capture the attention of people across the globe. For some, this is the Arab Street transplanted to the USA. For others, it is the anti-capitalist sentiment exemplified by the Obama administration. However, it also could be an attempt to recreate the Woodstock happening in the minds of an adolescent generation.

This outpouring of emotion about greed and exploitation is a rant against what the demonstrators say is Wall Street greed. Alas, financiers are greedy and the bailout of the banks may have been good for Wall Street, but certainly not Main Street. However, the occupiers of Zuccotti Park in downtown Manhattan seem to be oblivious to Adam Smith who argued that greed in the aggregate can have a healthy effect on the economy.

The venting often yields fatuous solutions. “We want to change the system,” say the demonstrators. Which system is not clear, nor is there a strategy for making that happen. It is easy to be sympathetic to a demonstration against unfairness, but it would help if the sympathy could be translated into actionable policy.

Is it the free market they oppose? Or is it income disparity? Is it the lack of opportunity or high-paying jobs? Is the entire demonstration a form of Marxism or anarchy to to bring down the country, or is there a foundation at the core of the demonstrations?

Perhaps at some point the progeny of Saul Alinsky will convert the expression of despair into a “cause.” That could be an opportunity for the left or a tragedy for the country. It would be a tragedy of Saul Alinsky’s plan to have a central authority redistribute wealth, to satisfy a totalitarian wish for social levelling, were actually put into place.

One man, who said it was hypocritical of me to denounce these demonstrators when I hadn’t denounced the Tea Party, seems incapable of appropriate distinctions. If you prefer the American Revolution to the Russian Revolutions, does that make you a hypocrite? Alas, the demonstration near Wall Street hasn’t any real focus at the moment. It is a display of unhappiness. What the young adherents seem to be saying is that life is unfair. By contrast, the Tea Party has a specific gripe and a specific method for addressing it. Tea Partiers believe that our government has become too large and intrusive. It is their belief that expenditures must be cut to ensure our future. You may agree or disagree with this position, but it is precise and subject to evaluation.

How is someone supposed to respond to unfairness or sin? Most New Yorkers realize that life is unfair. But most go about their business paying bills, taking care of their families and meeting their obligations. It often appears as if the occupiers of Wall Street have forgotten about the 99% who pay their taxes so the police can protect those in Zuccotti Park.

Weather conditions in New York have cooperated with the demonstrators thus far. But wintry conditions are a month or two away. Will the demonstrators remain as devoted to their causes when snow is on the ground?

One member of the Zuccotti Park occupiers said he left his construction job in Pennsylvania to lend his support to the demonstrators who are clamoring for more jobs. “You left your job to protest for more jobs?” I said. Being part of the action is probably more what he wants. Most likely he is not alone.

This is a huge, live burlesque show of kids craving attention and getting it from pandering adults. One cop said, “Let them have their fun.” Unfortunately fun for them isn’t fun for those who live and work in the Wall Street area, and do not appreciate destruction for its own sake.

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Written By

Herbert London is president of the Hudson Institute and author of the book Decline and Revival in Higher Education (Transaction Publishers).

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