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Protesters’ educations failed

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Publication:Waukesha Freeman (Conley);Date:Oct 27, 2011;Section:Opinion;Page Number:8A   

Protesters’ educations failed
They ignore lessons of history, economics

 
(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at http://www.wigderson.com and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)

    In the television series “Mad Men,” the main character Don Draper tells a group of potsmoking bohemians “I hate to break it to you, but there is no big lie, there is no system, the universe is indifferent.”

    So many in the Madison protests and the Occupy Wall Street movement (with its local components) like to indulge in the fantasy that there is some great conspiracy at work to keep them economically oppressed. It’s as if they really believe that somewhere the Koch brothers, the American Legislative Exchange Council, or even some “neoconservative” cabal are meeting right now to figure out how to make gender studies majors take out more student loans.

    Some of the protesters have even rediscovered anti-Semitism, a sign that they may be running out of scapegoats so they’re resorting to the worst forms of the mob mentality.

    It would probably never occur to them that control of their existence is largely in their hands. If it did, the thought of taking personal responsibility has obviously caused them to lose their senses.

    A common theme is that the protesters are against “capitalism,” as if there is some alternative. They might as well be opposed to gravity. We see how well that works for the coyote as he chases the road runner.

    Unfortunately for the Occupy movement, so much of this has all been heard before. Where it was actually put into practice, there was nothing but misery, economic collapse, political oppression, and in some cases mass murder. We have the whole of human history to draw upon as lessons but somehow these children believe that they can force a different outcome.

    Yet even as they camp out creating their temporary utopias, underneath is a very ugly reality. In New York, the protest organizers have noticed that their efforts have attracted “freeloaders” (their word), crime and vandalism. Different factions are disputing how to spend the money they’ve collected for their effort. In Oakland, public health and safety concerns forced the authorities to shut it down.

    Closer to home, blogger and University of Wisconsin law professor Ann Althouse reported that the Occupy Madison protests were not “occupying” so much with people as they were with trash. Given Madison’s reluctance to ask for civil behavior from protesters, we can probably expect the cardboard public space claimants to see the spring thaw before they’re removed.

    This really is not surprising when you consider how much of the current protest movement is built upon nostalgia for the 1960s. They forget that Woodstock was a drug-filled sanitary nightmare that almost was a human disaster if it wasn’t for the assistance of the very “system” they were supposedly against.

    Perhaps we should find some amusement in the banners and signs calling for the forgiveness of student loans. Since the protest organizers have no military draft to protest, they’re left with this cynical appeal to students to join the movement.

    Of course, many of the young protesters were making a rational calculation (we hope) that their borrowing now would result in increased earnings over the long term that would make repayment of their loans possible. Instead of protesting against capitalism and corporations they should be demanding policies that will make corporations flourish in the hopes of increasing their employment opportunities.

    As for the high cost of tuition, we should wonder how many of the protesters will condemn waste and fraud in the University of Wisconsin System that drives up the costs of their educations. Will they march on UW-Green Bay and demand the resignation of the chancellor there that allowed his vice chancellor to “retire” and then be “rehired” so he could collect both his pension and his salary at the same time?

    When we’re confronted by the stunning ignorance of the protesters regarding economics and history, perhaps we can muster some sympathy for them. They don’t need forgiveness of their student loan debt. They need a refund on their tuition.

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