As the Occupy Wall Street protests spread to cities across the United States, it's only fitting to look back at stories that shed light on what triggered all this discontent. The obvious author to start with is Matt Taibbi. "Why Isn't Wall Street in Jail?" he asked in a provocative Rolling Stone essay. "Financial crooks brought down the world's economy — but the feds are doing more to protect them than to prosecute them."
Henry Blodget is more forgiving, though he agrees that Wall Street helped to bring down the world economy. "The magnitude of the current bust seems almost unfathomable—and it was unfathomable, to even the most sophisticated financial professionals, until the moment the bubble popped," he writes. "How could this happen? And what's to stop it from happening again?"
Etay Zwick concurs that there isn't anything new about Wall Street and the rest of society having divergent interests. "More than a century ago, Thorstein Veblen—American economist, sociologist and social critic—warned that the United States had developed a bizarre and debilitating network of social habits and economic institutions," he writes. "Ascendant financial practices benefited a limited group at the expense of the greater society; yet paradoxically Americans deemed these practices necessary, even commendable. Far from lambasting the financiers plundering the nation’s resources, we lauded them as the finest members of society."
John Cassidy reminds us that there is sometimes a backlash—he tells the story of Eliot Spitzer, who went after Wall Street with rare aggression. Of course, it's as common for public servants tasked with reining in Wall Street to wind up cashing out by working for one of its firms. "Why do some of the most capable public servants in America, people like economist Peter Orszag, keep circling back from Washington to Wall Street?" Gabriel Sherman asks.
Those features and more await below.