YOU might want to notice who gets to be first on the list:
Between 1997 and 2006, consumers, lenders and builders created a housing bubble, and pretty much the entire establishment missed it.
Isn't it interesting how "the establishment" makes a sudden appearance in a David Brooks column? Ya think there's anything up with that?
It’s easy to see why this happened. People who make it into the establishment work and play well with others. They are part of the same overlapping social networks, and inevitably begin to perceive the world in similar, conventional ways. They thrive in institutions where people are not rewarded for being cantankerous intellectual bomb-throwers.
Not to mention that it happens because the Perpetual 'Establishment' Anilingus Parade informs how all those Bottoms vote, as well, and the party that's the main beneficiary is also the primary rein loosener, skid greaser, and wheel releaser.
'Course I seem to recall that during that same period a major New York City newspaper gave one of its best Op-Ed kiosk locations to some libertoonian Republican who kept insisting that the Markets are perfect, excepting all the needless and counter-productive government regulation they're forced to fight.
Outside the establishment herd, on the other hand, there were contrarians who understood the bubble (which was the easy part) and who figured out how to take counteraction (which was hard).
Hey, wait up. There are always contrarians, though they haven't always have the benefit of collusion with Goldman Sachs. So what?
In this drama, in other words, the establishment was pleasant, respectable and stupid, while the contrarians were smart but hard to love, and sometimes sleazy.
Sometimes sleazy. Perish the thought. Incidentally, what exactly happens to that load-bearing "Conservative" belief in the Imperfectability of Man right at the point where it collides with the Republican donor class?
Note one mystery, solve another: the Voodoo Contrarianism, suddenly noticed for the first time, turns out to be part of the larger Well, those Perfect Markets are Actually Just Cadres of Well-Intentioned Schlubs Who March in Lockstep Most of the Time Defense, which tends to rear its head only when some CEO is in the dock. The Hapless Establishment!
This week the drama comes to Washington in two different ways. First, as is traditional in our culture, the elected leaders of the clueless establishment have summoned the leaders of Goldman Sachs to a hearing so they can have a post-hoc televised conniption fit on the amorality of Wall Street.
Does anyone recall the sinkhole of the Bush administration, and the sinkhole of Iraq, and how every idiot cheerleader of that excursion said, in its Darkest Hour, that the Democrats shouldn't criticize, they should explain their plan for Victory?
And let us take the umpteenth opportunity here to say, again, that while one can never go wrong describing--facilely or no--the Congress of the United States as a collection of camera-hogging gasbags, someone who's decided to spend his life and our times sharing the wisdom in his tiniest political tic ought, really, to take a slightly more nuanced view of Congressional hearings. There are only so many cheap laughs to be scored on the subject of parliamentary procedure, and most all of 'em come from the Gallery. This sort of thing always seems to come from someone who, when his own ox has been backed into a corner, says something like, "But, these are our Elected Representatives! Founders! Freedom! Tradition!" Th' fuck is Congress supposed to do when the criminal acts of a few powerful men bring pain and suffering to the entire country? Ask David Brooks for advice?
This spectacle presents Goldman with an interesting public relations choice. The firm can claim to be dumb but decent, like the rest of the establishment, and emphasize the times it lost money. Or it can present itself as smart and sleazy, and emphasize the times it made money at the expense of its clients. Goldman seems to have chosen dumb but decent, which is probably the smart narrative to get back in the establishment’s good graces, even if it is less accurate.
Y'know, one, I love the technique of concocting your own solution, sticking it in someone else's mouth, and declaring him victorious. Though it does work better when you're holding an Ace kicker.
Once again the historically-minded reader's attention is directed to the Republican party of a few years ago (it should, perhaps, be referred to as the Classic Republican party, since its soul is Advertising) when the mere finessing of extra-marital sex by a sitting President in a civil case threatened to demolish the Very Foundation of Our Liberty.
The second big event in Washington this week is the jostling over a financial reform bill. One might have thought that one of the lessons of this episode was that establishments are prone to groupthink, and that it would be smart to decentralize authority in order to head off future bubbles.
Jesus H. Christ, one might "think" that the lesson--which we've had over and fucking over since the Gilded Age, and not just as the most recent total refutation of Reaganism--is that we're dealing with some of the most larcenous men on the planet, and that turning our backs on them for a minute is an open invitation to appropriate everyone else's wallets. The budding historian is directed to something called the S&L Scandal, and the resulting Evil Bailout, and will have, by now, covered the accomplishments of the Reagan Revolution and thirty years of Republican rule in reverse chronological order.
You'd think, wouldn't you, that the entire episode would have taught the likes of David Brooks to Shut Th' Fuck Up about his magical formula for perfect economic bliss, seeing as how that's the one was in place when it occurred. That is, of course, unless you happen to remember what these guys have been up to for the previous thirty years.