"She Blinded Me With Science" - Thomas Dolby
Evidently David Brooks is going to alternate columns between paeans to David Cameron and the British political elite with pseudo-scientific claptrap, his great new love. I read these columns by him -- and descriptions of his "novel" -- God the aesthetic horror that grips me when I contemplate this -- and I am struck by what a tepid, soulless, reductive, unimaginative fellow he is and, ultimately, his almost complete political and philosophical incoherence. Brooks has, what I would imagine to be the requisite IQ to get one through the University of Chicago and enough glibness to seem on NPR or PBS like a fairly smart fellow, but Jesus, any critical examination of his writings leaves one wondering if the man understands anything at all about life.*
Today's column is filled with his profound thoughts for the graduates of 2011. Let us count the ways in which Brooks is insipid or in total contradiction to the politics he has embraced all these many years:
1. "It's not about you." Brooks attacks the excessive individualism of the baby boom generation and its emphasis on finding oneself. This is classic hippie punching -- the 60s, man, they ruined society. But what have Brooks and his fellow Republicans (Brooks sometimes pretends now not to be a Republican -- to which I say bullshit) been preaching for the last three decades if not the worship of unfettered individual freedom in the market place. Read Brooks earlier stuff and it is a virtual psalm to the glories of self-definition through consumption. Christ, he devoted an entire book -- Bobos in Paradise -- to this sort of thing. Brooks and his ilk have generally opposed the communitarian and social-democratic world view and argued for the efficacy of private actors acting privately to bring about a better world through selfishness, What's changed?
2. Brooks speaks of the terrible job market and the ruinous borrowing of the past decade. But the question arises 1) what does Brooks propose to do about the job market -- the short answer seems to leave it to the wisdom of the invisible hand; and 2) where was Brooks when the ruinous borrowing was going on? Was Brooks crying out for greater regulatory oversight of lending? Did he foresee that we were fueling our economy with increased credit and risk as a means of compensating for stagnant wages and in the quest to be "Patio Man?" The answer to that would be no and fuck no. He was as clueless as the captain of the Titanic. See, in contrast, Krugman, Paul.
3. Brooks has virtually fallen in love with the phrase "ruinous national debt," using it in multiple columns recently. But when, pray tell, did that debt become ruinous? Because as I recall, Brooks was supportive of tax cuts at a time when the country was on track to pay off its debt, that he supported a ginned up war of choice without paying for it, and that he has basically marched in lockstep with the tax cuts pay for themselves ideology of the Republican Party since the 1980s. He only got religion on the matter when a Democratic President and Congress appeared to be on the verge of expanding the social democratic state. Only then did fiscal rectitude became a matter of gravest urgency to Brooks.
4. Brooks' take on evolutionary biology is both mechanistic -- one is reminded of Marxists and history -- and convenient. In the end, our genes seem to want us to be monogamous, self-effacing, moderate Republicans who don't care overly much about issues, ideology, or religion. Just as long as we care about something -- but in a luke-warm fashion -- we are fulfilling nature's equivocating mandate.
Why am I so mean about this pleasant and well-meaning fellow? Well, I guess several reasons, but first and foremost might be that we are total contemporaries and I see the path that Brooks took as being the ultimate in self-satisfied careerism. He chose in the 80s to be a Republican shill and that is what he has remained his entire life. Second, would be his utter lack of seriousness, while masquerading as the epitome of the very serious person. One gets the sense that Brooks actually never thinks hard about anything, either political or personal. He skate on the surface of life, is glib, genial, articulate, and an expert at sounding expert. But it amounts to nothing. Read the columns and articles and blog posts and books cumulatively and you see that there really is no there there. He lacks the discipline to see any idea through or to accept the consequences of his beliefs. He treats his many previous errors as if they never existed, takes no responsibility for what Republicans have wrought in the world, ignores the manifest ways in which the market has failed people, and has no feel whatsoever for what passions, for good or ill, do to people. He is in short, a lazy hack, lacking in intellectual honesty, and a critical mind. He is all phony middle class rectitude with no ultimate convictions other than a desire to be liked and successful. He is, simply put, a waste of space on the page.
*I am totally envious of Doug J at Balloon Juice for having come up with the title of his post. Nice work.