As long ago as 1917, acerbic Baltimore journalist H.L. Mencken could write, “There is always an easy solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong.”

That’s what comes to mind when a number of younger people show up on downtown streets in Portland, New York and other cities across the nation to support “Occupy Wall Street,” a movement expressing anger at what they decry as economic “injustice.”

It’s quite true that our current economic situation is considerably short of ideal. Unemployment remains high and growth nearly flat far longer after the most recent recession than after most former downturns.

In recent decades, while recessions have occurred, their bottoming out was an indicator that a growth spurt was on the way.

Not this time, however, as housing starts and sales, and purchases of major consumer goods like automobiles and appliances (except for electronics), remain stagnant or still in decline. But the idea that our problems have been caused by irresponsible financial institutions alone, instead of poor policies instituted over many years by government agencies, politicians and regulators as well, is badly off the mark.

There’s plenty of room to say the system failed — but no space at all to say that radical change, instead of careful reform, is the way to fix it.

It’s one thing to paint your face, grab a bullhorn, scream slogans and block ordinary citizens trying to cross a bridge to go their jobs or get home from them. It’s something else entirely to create a careful agenda of reform and calmly and rationally present it to voters so that democratic processes can actually be allowed to work.

Protesting is a right, no doubt about it. But producing real reform, and not just spouting slogans based on tired and worn-out ideologies, is the only true path out of the mess we are in.