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Occupy Wall Street?

No—Liberate Main Street.

2:34 PM, Nov 5, 2011 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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Supposing Wall Street were to be occupied . . . what then? Would the left’s occupation be brutal, like that of occupied Poland or France? Presumably not. Would it be a reluctant and benevolent occupation, like Israel’s of the West Bank? Perhaps. Or would its occupation resemble an occupied restroom—temporarily in use, not properly cleaned upon departure, and then occupied by the next in line needing relief?

main street

Well, not to worry. The occupation of Wall Street isn’t going to happen. But it’s somehow revealing that Occupy Wall Street is the banner under which the left marches. For the left, all politics is about occupation. One country, one class, or one group takes from another. Politics is a scene of national warfare, or class struggle, or one group grasping for advantages over some other.

There is of course some truth to this picture of politics. But it’s not the fundamental truth, and it’s not the fundamental truth to which American politics aspires. That’s why it was an inspired idea on the part of Montana congressman Denny Rehberg to respond last week to the Occupy Wall Street movement with a call to Liberate Main Street. “We're over-taxed in small business, over-regulated, and over-litigated, and you can pick and choose which ones you want to address, but the government should be trying to lessen the tax burden, lessen the regulatory burden, and get the litigation out of the way,” Rehberg said.

More broadly, Liberate Main Street provides a rubric for a conservative agenda that contrasts with Occupy Wall Street. It would be an agenda that works to foster opportunity, not envy; that seeks change through democratic processes, not mob pressure; that encourages enterprise, not resentment; that enlarges the sphere of personal and civic freedom, not big government; that liberates Americans’ energies, rather than pandering to their weaknesses; that acts to fix Wall Street’s problems, not to demonize American business.

President Obama and other Democrats have allied themselves with Occupy Wall Street. Might Republican leaders want to develop a Liberate Main Street agenda in response?   

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