One of the core differences between liberals and radicals is that liberals are capitalists. They believe in a capitalism that is democratically regulated—that seeks to level an unfair economic playing field so that all citizens have the freedom to make what they want of their lives. But these are not the principles we are hearing from the protesters. Instead, we are hearing calls for the upending of capitalism entirely. American capitalism may be flawed, but it is not, as Slavoj Zizek implied in a speech to the protesters, the equivalent of Chinese suppression. "[In] 2011, the Chinese government prohibited on TV and films and in novels all stories that contain alternate reality or time travel," Zizek declared. "This is a good sign for China. It means that people still dream about alternatives, so you have to prohibit this dream. Here, we don't think of prohibition. Because the ruling system has even oppressed our capacity to dream. Look at the movies that we see all the time. It's easy to imagine the end of the world. An asteroid destroying all life and so on. But you cannot imagine the end of capitalism." This is not a statement of liberal values; moreover, it is a statement that should be deeply offensive to liberals, who do not in any way seek the end of capitalism.
Zizek is not alone. His statement is typical of the anti-capitalist, almost utopian arguments that one hears coming from these protesters. [...]
These are not just substantive complaints. They also beg the strategic question of whether the protesters will help or hurt the cause of liberalism. After all, even if the protesters are not liberals themselves, isn't it possible that they could play a constructive role in forcing Americans to pay attention to important issues such as inequality and crony capitalism? Perhaps. But we are hard-pressed to believe that most Americans will look at these protests, with their extreme anti-capitalist rhetoric, and conclude that the fate of the Dodd-Frank legislation—currently the best liberal hope for improving democratically regulated capitalism—is more crucial than they had previously thought.
In the face of the current challenge from Tea Party conservatism, it is more important than ever that liberals make a compelling case for our vision of America. But we will not make this case stronger by allying with a movement that is out of sync with our values.
Reason's already voluminous and varied OWS coverage here.