The Daily Beast
April 17, 2012
By Michael Lewis
It’s been seven months since protesters gathered at Zuccotti Park in New York, introducing the slogan “We are the 99 Percent.” This week, editor Janet Byrne has gathered some of the best writings on the movement into The Occupy Handbook, featuring essays by authors like Chris Hedges, Paul Krugman, Amy Goodman, Barbara Ehrenreich, Jeffrey Sachs, and Nouriel Roubini. In this excerpt, Michael Lewis has a back-and-forth with Michael Lewis.
What was your first reaction to the Occupy movement?
Some blend of glee and relief. Glee because, by both temperament and occupation, I have a rooting interest in socially disruptive behavior. Relief because I had begun to think such protests might never happen. Given the provocation—intense and effective political pressure from Wall Street to codify two sets of economic rules, one for people who work at giant Wall Street firms, the other for people who don’t—I was surprised it has taken as long as it has for people to hit the streets. The chief cause of the financial crisis was what the government didn’t do (regulate) rather than what it did (subsidize homeownership), and so it seemed strange to me that, until now, the most potent political reaction to the financial crisis has been an antigovernment backlash. It was as if, after some infectious disease killed a million people, the only political reaction was a popular uprising to prevent the manufacture of antibiotics.
Have your feelings about the movement changed?