Occupy Wall Street Movement Is Nothing to Worry About

Fringe on the left will not have the same effect as the fringe on the right

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At Big Hollywood, you can watch actor Alec Baldwin deftly parrying anti-Fed kookery at the Occupy Wall Street protest in New York City's Zuccotti Park.

"You want the banks to do what they do," Baldwin says.

When offered a practical-sounding alternative to the Federal Reserve system, Baldwin tells one of the protesters: "No offense, but I'm not gonna take your word for it."

Baldwin, still a diehard Democrat, also spoke of the need for a more vigorous and independent Securities Exchange Commission.

[See photos of the Occupy Wall Street protests.]

As a fan of Baldwin's, I was glad to see him talking common sense (that hasn't always been the case, both politically and, ahem, personally).

Two broad takeaways from the exchange: 1) The vast majority of Occupy-ers are obviously on the fringe; and 2) the left fringe in this country enjoys no real power.

I get this sort of thing from friends and family a lot lately: Why are you so hard on the Tea Party? I mean, look at these nutcases on Wall Street! When are you going to write about them?!

Put it this way: When the Occupy-ers finally decide to pack it in, we are still going to have a Federal Reserve, and we're still going to have large Wall Street investment banks, and we're still going to have CEOs who make a lot of money.

But the fringe on my side of the spectrum—different story.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Tea Party.]

The idea that taxation is theft; that the welfare state is tantamount to creeping fascism; that graduated income tax rates are Marxist; that macroeconomic stabilization is always and everywhere doomed to failure—this stuff isn't fringe at all, it's comfortably mainstream. And this is to say nothing of death panels, ACORN hysteria, the birthers, and on and on.

Jonathan Chait frequently laments this state of "asymmetry" between left and right, and I regretfully conclude there's something to it.

If Alec Baldwin, who, pre-Obama, was the paradigmatic raving secular-progressive-Hollywood-limousine-liberal-Democrat; if Alec Baldwin sings the praises of regulated capitalism in the face of the extreme left, what are we worried about?

If Tea Party darling Marco Rubio's intellectual nemesis is ex-central banker Timothy Geithner, what are we worried about?

If these are the people we have to "take our country back" from, what are we worried about?

Author's note: It occurs to me that I was being a bit sloppy when I said Alec Baldwin faced the "extreme left." He was actually in conversation with a Ron Paul supporter. Then again, Paul is running for president as a Republican. Perhaps this bolsters my point—extremism is more influential on the right—in a roundabout way.

  • See a collection of political cartoons on Occupy Wall Street.
  • Read Debate Club: Is Occupy Wall Street the Next Tea Party Movement?
  • Peter Roff: It's Hard to Take the Occupy Wall Street Crowd Seriously

  • Update 10/20/2011: This post was updated to include an extra note from the author.