Anthony Esolen

As I write, several thousand young people are squatting near Wall Street, insisting upon some kind of change or other. Change, of course, is the natural state of affairs on earth. "Change and decay in all around I see," says the great hymn.

Not so long ago people praised the virtue of steadfastness, the loyalty that binds the heart to this place, these neighbors, these children, this spouse, and God above all. To sever those bonds was to be changeable, that is, fickle.

But there is nothing so definite about what these protesters desire. They are not holding placards that read, "Everyone back to his station! Long live the neighborhood!" No, they are there to protest some hypostatized "system," though what exactly the system is, nobody can tell.

Some seem to believe that "corporations" are free-floating entities brooding malevolently over the waters, creating misery for mankind. They do not consider that, if Godfather's Pizza is to make a profit and return money to shareholders who have risked their investments, it must actually make something that people will declare to be good, and must offer it at a price that people will think reasonable.

In other words, at the base of all businesses lie an idea (here is something that people will find useful or sweet), hard work (here is how we will create that thing), and capital put at risk (here is the means for making the creation possible).

What the protesters are demanding, though, is magic – and that makes them strangely similar to the high-rolling brokers and financiers they despise. We've come far from the time when investors searched into the workings of a business, its ethos, the character of its managers, the skill of the workers, and decided to invest accordingly.

Some reforms of the financial market, if only to settle its dangerous volatility, and to discourage the building of air-castles, are in order. But they will require considerable perspicacity, and they are not going to be whipped up by silly children who are themselves building castles in the air, and whose education has left them foggy about what a percentage means, and how interest accumulates.

The protesters, for example, are demanding the forgiveness of all debt – an Old Testament jubilee year, without fields and farms and flocks, and of course without rejoicing in the love of God. 

No matter that such a thing, sprung upon an unsuspecting people, would constitute the greatest act of theft in the history of the world. No matter that banks would fail and that the savings of ordinary people would be wiped out. No matter that it would reward those who have not paid their bills at the expense of those who have.

It should just "happen" – with a wave of a political wand. Glinda the Good Witch will simply appear out of a pink bubble and grant a clean bill of financial health to everyone, and Toto, too.

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