Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
—Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 4, Marcellus to Horatio
In the months after the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the bailout of almost all global banks, politicians, businessmen, and pundits were convinced that we were in the midst of a crisis of capitalism that would bring about far reaching reforms.
Nothing would ever be the same again, we were told. “Another ideological god has failed,” the dean of financial commentators, Martin Wolf, wrote in the Financial Times. Companies will “fundamentally reset” the way they work, said the CEO of General Electric, Jeffrey Immelt. “Capitalism will be different,” said Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.
Months and years later, nothing has changed. Frustration boiled over, and people took to the streets and town halls. The Tea Party movement sprang up spontaneously on the right, and thousands of people marched on Washington and confronted their elected representatives across America. The Occupy Wall Street movement grew on the left and spread from the tip of Manhattan across the country. The populist movements were two sides of the same coin. Both resented the bailouts of large banks and bonus payments to executives who had brought down the financial system, while the middle class struggled with debt and unemployment. But the protests faded away like faint tremors. The big political earthquakes came later.
On the night of the US election in November 2016, the ...