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The Nuttiness of the 'Occupation' Movement

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Al Sharpton, Nancy Pelosi, different leaders of varied labor unions -- pour it on, folks! Show your political solidarity with all the "occupations" going on around the country! Speak to us in anguished tones about the awfulness of free market mechanisms like banks and the horror of earning more money than someone else.

While you're at it, tell us what you're going to do about the horrors of free enterprise and the profit motive. The explicit Marxist-Leninist remedy seems out of favor these days. That leaves, what? Congeries of yelps ("Stop Corporate Greed," "People, not Profits") from the ragtag occupation armies enjoying the autumn sunshine in venues from Wall Street to the West Coast.

Many times over the past couple of years, I have had occasion to drag out the immortal piece of wisdom, "Those whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad." Truer words surely haven't been spoken (apart maybe from "There's no such thing as a free lunch"). Those "progressive" commentators and politicians egging on the occupation forces have conceivably taken leave of their senses. Whether the majority of occupiers ever had senses to take leave of is a matter, shall we say, for discussion.

The mainstream media, ever alert to possibilities for provoking a cat fight, have been prowling the various centers of "occupation," striving to make ordinary Americans think something real and vital (as opposed to fake and febrile) is going on around the land. Supposedly, to listen to the occupiers and their well wishers, the country is in revolt against heartless capitalism. As the website of CBS's "The Early Show" informed us Monday, "Americans are frustrated and making their voices heard." News machines like "The Early Show," are frustrated with the heavy lifting involved in sorting through proposals for actual, useful economic reform that would create jobs while reducing media sound bites.

The 1960s flavor of the occupation movement is unmistakable, though the occupiers themselves reference the Arab Spring movement as inspirational: Take over a public square or something and villains will topple.

One measurable difference between the occupation of "Wall Street" and the takeovers of college deans' and presidents' offices 40-odd years ago is that the countercultural types of that time, in their hirsute glory, had moderately clear and at least partly digested aims -- chiefly, "ending" a controversial war in Vietnam. So what if it was a glib and specious idea? It was clear. Also clear was the demand to accord blacks, as Negroes were coming to be called, their rights as freeborn Americans.

Nothing so clear comes to us from the occupiers who rant against greed and corruption, and want to redistribute wealth to the non-super rich who make up "99 percent" of the population (including those who eke by on a mere $750,000 a year).

The fun part of all this is the sudden urge on the part of Democrats and liberals to hide behind the occupation forces, touting their cause for at least as long as it takes to beat out the Republicans' brains in 2012. Sure will be a sight when the campaigns start in earnest and the president has to decide for himself how to walk a fine line between hanging bankers and soliciting their campaign contributions.

Genuine anger, disgust, pain, and heartache exist in abundance. Does that mean phony calls from the grassroots to forgive student debt and redistribute income have either merit or coherence?

What this mainly means is that "progressive" ideas about how economies work -- conditioned on government control and supervision -- are flatter even than once supposed. We wouldn't otherwise find a former speaker of the U. S. House trying to pass off T-shirt slogans and scribbled placard signs as some grand summation of the best in economic thinking.

Another thing this whole episode may mean (pardon my shaking up the syntax) is: These are the people to whom we gave power in 2009, so that they might revive the economy and spur job creation? We commissioned Congress and the president to guarantee loans to shaky, clean- energy projects and to take over health care and auto companies with no better result than trillions in debt and a 9.1 percent unemployment rate?

That's what the friends, the boosters, the encouragers of Wall Street occupation have done for us these past three years?

No wonder they want someone to hide behind.

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