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Is this the era of leaderlessness?

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Michael Dwyer/AP

(Read caption) Boston University Economics Professor Kevin Gallagher (L.) lectures at the Occupy Boston encampment in Boston's financial District Oct. 7.

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The tea party and the “Occupy Wall Street” movements evolved on different planets, even if members of both groups sport red-white-and-blue face paint, funny hats, and placards proclaiming their anger. Tea partyers tend to be older, antitax, and more Midwestern or Southern in origin. Occupiers are younger, in favor of higher taxes on the wealthy, and more urban and coastal.

But in that way that left and right can sometimes intersect, the tea party and OWS are in the same place in at least one important sense. Both have lost faith in established institutions. TPs are more down on Washington, D.C., than Wall Street. OWSers are more irked at big money than big government. But both are deeply skeptical of the stentorian voice that says “trust us, we know best.”

The spirit of the times, whether in town-hall shoutfests or on the streets of Europe and North America, is infused with anarchy – and I mean nothing pejorative by that. “Anarchy” is now a synonym for chaos and wild-in-the-streets mayhem, but in the original Greek it simply means “without a leader.”

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