WITHER th' fuck David Brooks, huh? At the risk of repeating myself, I have no interest in the man as a thinker, or "thinker", a pundit, a stylist, or a Political Personality, in which role he manages to regularly increase the drabness of a PBS talking heads news program (which, while not exactly a record, is still no mean feat) while simultaneously employing a little strangled half-laugh of inherent superiority which would cause any full-blooded person forced to endure it regularly to simply haul off and clock him at some point. It's a hothouse maneuver, and if one must continue it into middle age one ought to have enough respect for others to actually be superior, or to acknowledge that one feels oneself to be despite all evidence to the contrary. (Think Tucker Carlson. Brooks, so far as we know, has never been fired from anything, and Jon Stewart has never publicly called him "a dick", but, between the two of them, it's Brooks this would probably do some good.)
No, the interesting thing about Brooks--okay, let's make that "curious"--is this lack, this unacknowledged deficit which one apparently must pretend not to even notice, while demanding the same of everyone else. From a perspective of age it seems impossible not to conclude that Brooks found a solution to his teenaged angst in the arms of Milton Friedman, and immediately turned into Miss Havisham. We do not mean to belittle the role of unchecked hormonal frenzy in human history, au contraire. It's just that by dint of some Cultural Biorhythmic Convergence--concerted Reagan mythologizing, concerted formulation, and re-formulation, ad infinitum, of anti-Sixties cultural backlash as "normal" "American" "behavior", the accidental congruence of geek chic with their personal fashion choices, and the mere fact that, as "conservatives", Reagantots were able to defend intransigence and groupthink as Tradition long after people with real jobs would have been forced to quit slamming into that Same Brick Wall--Brooks, et.al., were given a twenty-five year free pass. It's as if The Monkees, once they charted, were guaranteed a position in the Top Ten for the next three decades, regardless of whether they ever recorded anything new, or different, ever again. In fact it's almost exactly like that, except it turned out that one of The Monkees had some personal integrity.
Brooks, on the other hand, found himself a nifty gig updating old hippie jokes for the Age of Real Estate, something which proved effortless in more senses than one, and he drew a regular stipend from The Weekly Standard for name-dropping right-wing texts from Poli-Sci 235. And it shows; the man does not seem to be able to engage an argument, even his own. In the recent past he has simply disappeared from issues--Iraq, the economy--whenever they became inconvenient. He was swept away by the power of Barack Obama's oratory when Hillary Clinton was the frontrunner; he was disturbed by his hollow speechifyin' after the tables turned. He's a man the GOP can always count on in a crisis. Always count on to turn in some dreamy, three-quarter Randian pseudo-futurist pseudo-profundity that might slip in three or four talking points obliquely, that is.
The essence of the problem is this: Rich people used to set their own norms. For example, if one rich person wanted to use the company helicopter to aerate the ponds on his properties, and the other rich people on his board of directors thought this a sensible thing to do, then he could go ahead and do it without any serious repercussions.
But now, after the TARP, the auto bailout, the stimulus package, the Fed rescue packages and various other federal interventions, rich people no longer get to set their own rules. Now lifestyle standards for the privileged class are set by people who live in Ward Three.
For those who don’t know, Ward Three is a section of Northwest Washington, D.C., where many Democratic staffers, regulators, journalists, lawyers, Obama aides and senior civil servants live. Thanks to recent and coming bailouts and interventions, the people in Ward Three run the banks and many major industries. Through this power, they get to insert themselves into the intricacies of upscale life, influencing when private jets can be flown, when friends can lend each other their limousines and at what golf resorts corporate learning retreats can be held.
Note here that it's not Brooks who defends $35,000 commodes (although he does insist it was for the Merrill-Lynch washroom [!]) or helicopter pond aerations, oh no; these are the excesses of the fatuously wealthy, but the Board approved it! Therefore the people to whom you come to beg handouts should just keep quiet about it, lest their gutter-cleanin' hands betray the pathological jealousy behind every instance of the regulation of commerce.
I'm sorry; is there someone at the Times who can explain how this constitutes an argument. Or even a simulation of one? If not there, how 'bout the University of Chicago? Just answer one of the following:
1. Who fucking came to whom with their hands out? Whose administration was it?
2. Is it conceivable that one can be both a Free Market Privateer and wholly innocent of the very concept of government regulation, let alone the fact that the great majority of non-hallucinatory Americans support it in some form or another?
3. Is he fucking serious?
Last week Brooks wrote a piece which seemed to argue for a return to Enlightened Surfdom; now he seems to be suggesting that the real economic problem we face is that a few peasants have grown wealthy enough to install gutters. It is, we think, a lot like arguing that David Brooks' ideas must be good, since they're published.