I’ve delayed writing about the amazing article in Rolling Stone, Five Economic Reforms Millennials Should Be Fighting For, because I wanted to make sure it wasn’t a parody. But, no — apparently it’s quite serious, so I feel comfortable wading in.
The article is by Jesse Myerson, a self-described “polemicist” and one-time leader of the Occupy movement – which gives you a pretty good clue, right off the bat, as to how seriously you can take anything he proposes.
And what he proposes is this:
1. Guaranteed work for everybody. (Because, as he says, “Unemployment blows.”)
2. Social Security for all. (“Because as much as unemployment blows, so do jobs. What if people didn’t have to work to survive?”)
3. Take back the land. (“Ever notice how much landlords blow? They don’t really do anything to earn their money.”)
4. Make everything owned by everybody. (You guessed it: “Hoarders blow.”)
5. A public bank in every state. (Because – wait for it – “You know what else really blows? Wall Street.”)
The article provoked the predictable storm of outrage. Conservatives, not surprisingly, went on the rampage and freely tossed around the word “communism.” Myerson, the argument went, was simply recycling old Marxist nostrums that had already been tried and found wanting. These accusations were not exactly weakened by Myerson himself, whose Twitter included the hashtag #FULLCOMMUNISM.
But I think all that misses the point. You can debate the wisdom or stupidity of any of his points – I vote solidly for stupidity, although the last point about public banks is already in effect one or two states (and, to be fair, he does point this out). But beyond all that, a breathtaking lack of seriousness pervades the entire thing. It’s a smarmy, wisecracking polemic totally detached from the question of how such “reforms” could possibly be brought about.
Instead, Myerson kisses it all off in the closing line, noting simply that if any of the ideas sound good to the reader, “there’s a bitter political struggle to be waged. Let’s get to work.”
“Let’s get to work” – except that, as Myerson pointed out earlier in the article, “work blows.”
The “reforms” exist simply in his mind. He knows (or if he doesn’t, it’s even scarier) that there is no practical way of guaranteeing work for everyone at the same time as you are guaranteeing that nobody has to work at the same time as you are funding the public acquisition of all land and goods. Even if you thought these were desirable aims, how, precisely, would you go about achieving them? How long will it take? What comes first? How are the laws of unintended consequences to be avoided?
There is no room for any of these questions. It’s all a pose – a faux moral outrage at the way things are today, coupled with a laundry list of mutually contradictory programs and policies. (This is why I had to wait a while, and check out a lot of articles online, before I was ready to believe it wasn’t a gigantic practical joke, in which Rolling Stone would lend its name to a MAD magazine-like list of idiotic ideas and see who would be suckered into taking it seriously enough to actually engage in a debate.)
But it fits, in a way. The Occupy movement, of which Myerson was an organizer, was the ultimate pose: occupy a few parks, write a few slogans, pretend to be dealing with something profound and then, as soon as the weather gets bad, declare victory and go home.
And on whose backs are Myerson’s inanities now glued? The Millennials.
As if they didn’t have enough problems, what with Pajama Boy. Now they’re expected to march into battle behind this collection of ideas. Myerson’s list is supposed to represent their interests. He wants his attitude – essentially, “everything blows” – to attach itself to their brand.
After they’ve finished drinking hot chocolate, talking about health care, they are supposed to climb out of their Pajama Boy onesies, don some outdoor gear, and “get to work” – in unspecified ways – on the “bitter political struggle” ahead.
Yikes. Is this how Myerson really sees them? Is this how Rolling Stone sees them?
In case you want to read the whole article, here is the link. But be warned: it blows.