From a historical point of view
I’ll just note that Occupy Wall Street is necessary and insufficient. That is, the revolt of the students and the young intellectuals is necessary. It must occur. It is insufficient. It’s nice that the unions are swooping in and out, but they are not committed to the idea in blood, and the working class and minorities are not showing in significant numbers (take a look at the pictures. White, white, white.)
Likewise, as Stirling Newberry notes, now that Occupy Wall Street has demands, they are very mild. They aren’t even as radical as FDR. The view of what is wrong with the world isn’t wrong “Wall Street!”, but whenever specifics are mentioned, they are insufficient to fix America’s problems, or even the problems of the class of people who started the movement.
At this point in time only radical solutions will work. That means radical: everything must go. Every institution in American society has failed. Every single one. They must all be shut down and the purposes they were meant to serve must be assigned to new institutions. You cannot save the Fed in its current form. You cannot save the banks. You cannot save the military or the police or the judiciary or the universities. And, most importantly, you cannot trust or do business with the elites who currently run society. They must be run out of power entirely, their riches taken away from them, and those who have committed crimes (virtually all of them) must be thrown in prison.
The protestors are not radicals.
Fortunately, the NYPD has been instructed to provide the necessary education, by being brutal, breaking the law repeatedly, and by engaging in serial deception. They are instructing the protestors that there is no rule of law in America, because laws applied unequally are always unjust. They are instructing the protestors that even if they are good citizens who do everything the cops say, they cops will still brutalize and arrest them. And they are instructing them that the police’s masters will not negotiate. They will concede nothing of importance.
These lessons are important, because they lead to radicalization. When the Occupy movement is spent, one way or the other, some of its veterans will become radical cadres. They will understand that negotiation with the current system, and the current elites is impossible, and understanding that, they will take the necessary steps.
They elites may, as in Egypt, at some point, decide to switch lead horses. Dethrone one part of the elite and put another in place. Rick Perry, were he President, for example, might be happy to get rid of the Fed and to engage in some purging of Wall Street. This would not mean a return to a functioning liberal democracy, however. (I know that the usual suspects are going to scream that Tahrir Square was a great success. It was not. It enabled a coup by one part of the elites against the other part. That does not mean it was not, and is not laudable, it does not mean it was not and is not necessary, it means that it was only a step on a long road. It is unlikely there is going to be a velvet revolution, and people need to stop thinking there will be. Likewise people need to face facts, and those on the left are as bad at it as our elites are.)
None of the above is to disrespect the Occupy movement. I’m a big believer that they’re doing something important and that they deserve props for putting themselves on the line. Their embrace of apparently leaderless leadership is a master stroke of organizing, and indicates they understand that any visible leadership will be destroyed, smeared or co-opted. This is all good, but it is useful for those of us on the intellectual margins to disengage our emotions, keep our hopes in check, and look at the state of play dispassionately.
This is a step on the road. It is necessary, but it is not the whole of the journey. This is also where we are, and anyone who wants to contribute to a better future should be supporting the Occupy movement.