Government Spending

Aye, For the Days When We All Agreed to Not Use Political Framing That I Disagree With!

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Bobos in paradise

David Brooks, the right-punditocracy's most influential big-government enthusiast, has another one of those Last Honest Man columns today, in which, after spending eight paragraphs on a 19th century writer's description of having her cancerous breast sawed off (no, really), he gets to the preamble:

This emphasis on mental character lasted for a time, but it has abated. There's less talk of sin and frailty these days. Capitalism has also undermined this ethos. In the media competition for eyeballs, everyone is rewarded for producing enjoyable and affirming content. Output is measured by ratings and page views, so much of the media, and even the academy, is more geared toward pleasuring consumers, not putting them on some arduous character-building regime.

In this atmosphere, we're all less conscious of our severe mental shortcomings and less inclined to be skeptical of our own opinions. […] We have confirmation bias; we pick out evidence that supports our views. We are cognitive misers; we try to think as little as possible. We are herd thinkers and conform our perceptions to fit in with the group.

Gee, I wonder where he's going with this line of reasoning?

There's a rigidity to political debate. Issues like tax cuts and the size of government, which should be shaped by circumstances (often it's good to cut taxes; sometimes it's necessary to raise them), are now treated as inflexible tests of tribal purity.

Et voila!

So after a decade of hysterical growth of government at all levels, which has left us with a crappy and unimproving economy, unprecedented debt and deficits, and a long-term fiscal outlook too horrifying to contemplate, it is a demonstration of confirmation bias, herd thinking, and inflexible tribal purity to question the continued growth of the state. I sure do hope that David Brooks is good enough to let us know when it's okay to come outside and criticize big government again. Though judging by his track record–whether 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2008, or 2010–it may be a long time coming.

NEXT: Joe Biden Is So Sentimental That He Wants To Keep Part Of GM As A Keepsake

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  1. Well, seeing as all politicians today are corrupt and on the take, I dont see what difference it really makes.

    http://www.isp-logs.es.tc

    1. Some pig!

      1. Alt alt-text contest!

        “Should we boil him or fire up the grill?”

        1. “We need to get a jar of peanut butter and take this baby for a test drive, Roger.”

  2. In this atmosphere, we’re all less conscious of our severe mental shortcomings

    Speak for yourself, bub.

    1. I suspect that as the pundit population ages in the greater proportions their generation represents, we will see a great many more stories tinged with the golden hues of how great society used to be.

      darn kids!

    2. Well, I’m increasingly aware of David Brooks’ severe mental shortcomings, so there’s that.

  3. “Where have you gone, Beaver Cleaver? Why hast Thou forsaken us?”

  4. It amazes me how stupid or willfully ignorant Brooks is.

    “Capitalism has also undermined this ethos. In the media competition for eyeballs, everyone is rewarded for producing enjoyable and affirming content. Output is measured by ratings and page views, so much of the media, and even the academy, is more geared toward pleasuring consumers, not putting them on some arduous character-building regime.”

    When has the media ever been about anything but selling sizzle? I understand what Brooks is saying. Yeah, people do seem to be more decadent and we don’t seem to work as hard as we once did in many ways.

    What Brooks doesn’t understand is that the solution to that is let things run their course. People learn even if it is mostly the hard way. Economic recessions refocus people on what is important and clean out the crooks and speculators. We are now currently learning the hard lesson that real estate is not immune from the laws of supply and demand. And we will learn other because reality is bitch of a mistress. Brooks can’t accept this. In his mind there has to be a place for smart people like him to lead and correct the country. There must be a place for the thoughtful and the smug to ply their trade.

    Well fuck you Brooks. There is not a place for you. Just step back and people will figure it out on their own.

    1. When has the media ever been about anything but selling sizzle?

      I think Brooks is referring to news programming, which I would agree has become more appetite-driven after the advent of competitors in cable news, talk radio, and the Internet.

      Of course, the good old days weren’t so good either. Liberal anchors could get away with just pushing their viewpoint on the public as fact without fear of anyone deserting them for FoxNews.

      1. But before that, there was like 15 daily papers in every city everyone of which was a partisan rag. There was a certain period when TV first got big where a small group of people really determined what most of the country read. That was an anomaly that lasted about 30 years. Brooks is so historically ignorant, he thinks that was the norm throughout history.

    2. What pisses me off is the very idea that somehow catering to consumers and giving them what they want, giving them (heaven forbid) pleasure, is somehow wrong.

    3. Well fuck you Brooks. There is not a place for you. Just step back and people will figure it out on their own.

      Awesome. This should be spelled out in dogshit on Brooksie’s lawn(not you P).

      1. Spelled out in burning dog shit.

        1. Even better.

          I wonder if this is what he meant by herd thinking…only one way to find out.

          1. Way cooler than just sticking it in a bag and lighting it before you ring the doorbell.

    4. I say, is this the gentleman who hosted the perfectly-creased trouser reach-around?
      I’d say Peggy Noonan has more credibility, but that would just be wrong.

  5. “so much of the media, and even the academy, is more geared toward pleasuring consumers’

    Oh pleasure me, Mandingo! Pleasure me!

    1. Oddly enough, I don’t feel pleasure from much that the media does. Maybe they need a better “move”, or at least to eat some mangos.

  6. Thanks Matt.

    Tyler Cowen really seems to like David Brooks. This is one of my favorite tests of tribal purity. If you like David Brooks then you are part of the enemy tribe. I encourage everyone to come up with their own tribal purity tests.

    It is nice to see that Matt has not completely succumbed to what ever brain eating parasite has inflicted other beltway libertarians.

    1. If you like David Brooks then you are part of the enemy tribe.

      ——-

      Tell me about it.

      “Bu- bu- but even some conservatives think it’s over the top to call Obama a socialist! Did you read David Brooks’s last column? He’s even a Republican and he agrees with me that both sides might be a little bit over the top! Do you disagree with David Brooks?”

      BLEGH

      1. He has created an entire breed of opinion columnist; the conservative scold. He exists to do nothing but slam on conservatives while pretending to be one himself. This allows liberals to do as you describe and say “see even one of your own thinks you are nuts” to any conservative argument.

        1. Now I see what you guys mean.

        2. The word “shill” comes to mind.

          1. Rolls of the keyboard a lot easier than sycophantic dickhead.

      2. See Kathleen Parker for another example. It was what Dave Weigel was trying to be before the unfortunate ratfucker e-mails.

    2. I encourage everyone to come up with their own tribal purity tests.

      Editor at The Weekly Standard…check.

      1. I encourage everyone to come up with their own tribal purity tests.

        Open carry at gay weddings.

        1. Noonan, Frum, that nice Conor boy, Parker. Don’t get me started on Huckabee.

    3. Of course he does. Tyler Cowen and Orin Kerr are cut from the same “reasonable, professorial” cloth. They can cloak their bullshit whatever they want, but don’t smother me in big government and tell me I can’t breath because I have principles.

    4. That is a good one. I’m going to have to think about wether he is better litmus paper than Mike Huckabee. But I suspect he is. I think a fair portion of Huckabee supporters are just ignorant, but they are also the kind of people who don’t have a problem admitting they are ignorant, so they can be reached. If you have a poster of David Brooks up in your house somewhere, it’s probably too late.

  7. In this atmosphere, we’re all less conscious of our severe mental shortcomings and less inclined to be skeptical of our own opinions. […] We have confirmation bias; we pick out evidence that supports our views.

    Holy projection, Irony Man!

    1. Brooks admits that people are susceptible to mistakes. But then he still is convinced everything will work great if we just get the right people in charge.

      1. And ignores the possibility that he’s wrong.

  8. We are cognitive misers; we try to think as little as possible. We are herd thinkers and conform our perceptions to fit in with the group.

    Who’s “we” Kemosabe?

    1. We are herd thinkers and conform our perceptions to fit in with the group.

      At least Brooks is honest about himself.

    2. How much do the media and the government try to force us into conformity? Do you think maybe we’d be a little less irresponsible and herd-minded if billions of dollars weren’t being spent to make us so? I’m not talking some vast conspiracy here; I’m just talking about net effects, regardless of the motives.

      1. Oh, there is a great deal of herd thinking out there, which is one reason why we have a binary choice political system, at best.

        I just find it a bit hard to take one of the High Priests of Conformity for Herd A criticizing the color of the drapery that Herd B has picked out for their living room.

  9. Oh, the Mighty Brooks. Sweeper of all peoples into one huge group. How ever did you obtain this unique wisdom of circumstantial ethics, you alone of all gods?

  10. I’ve got an idea guys. Let’s raise taxes(CO2 or VAT) you are free to pick either one! After we saved the financial system buy giving banks a lot of money, the people with the money bought a lot of governemnt bonds. We now need to make sure we can pay interest on those bonds so we HAVE to raise taxes….it is the only responsible thing to do!

    All these taxes might not make the economy “teh awesome” so I have an even better 2nd idea! Lets go to war with Iran. Those dirty muslims need to die! If you disagree then you are simply too close minded and racist to converse with.

  11. Well, at least it’s still OK to blame everything on capitalism. It’s the most resilient whipping-boy ever.

  12. A David Brooks sing-a-long would start out with us all holding hands – people of different tribes, creeds, colors, etc. who of course were drafted into the military so that we could achieve national greatness while being sent off to slaughter. The guy is a crypto-fascist, simply put.

  13. Just step back and people will figure it out on their own.

    Preposterous!

  14. There’s nothing so glorious as sending other people to be slaughtered to demonstrate one’s commitment to freedom.

  15. Remember the case in Denver where the cops beat the guy up for using his cell phone?

    Well, the cover up is apparently not going down well with the locals.

    Safety Manager Resigns Amid Police Video Anger

    http://cbs4denver.com/news/Mic…..74892.html

    1. Monitor Richard Rosenthal said in a report last week that he believes the police video of the incident clearly shows one officer doctored his account to keep the second officer from getting in trouble.

      I smell a promotion!

    2. if a mundane lied in that fashion, wouldn’t that be “obstruction of justice” or “making a false statement to the police” or one of those crimes they bust out when they know they have a bad guy but can’t actually prove he broke any other laws?

  16. David Brooks fits in with the recent Lindsey/Wilkinson sum up. Don’t look for an philosophical/political reality. Just understand they write to fit in with academic/political social circles that lean overwhelmingly Left.

    I think all these gentlemen are a cut above Andrew Sullivan, who is the poster blogger for ‘writing to fit in’ (whether in his right-wing or David Brock v2.0 phase). Still, it’s really not to Frums/Wilkinsons/etc. credit either. It’s a stillborn synthesis (“Liberaltarian”) that only the very naive or the very cynical enjoy. At it’s best it strikes me like Will Wilkinson’s blog; the impression of reasoned, intelligent commentary that at the end of the day mostly adds up to egotistical navel gazing.

    1. Wilkenson’s blog is a serious pile of stupid. His post on how libertarianism was like clean efficient modern architecture while conservatism was like an old Georgian mansion with a bear rug by the fire was beyond satire.

        1. Wilkinson is banging Howley? Really? My roommate from college went to grad school with Wilkinson. I am told on good authority he is a first rate douchebag in person. No wonder I always found Howley annoying despite her obvious charms.

          1. Their respective Wikipedia pages list them as “domestic partners”. I’m friends with Kerry on FB, and seem to remember seeing some hubbub about their engagement, but I can’t be sure.

          2. Huh, I thought that was just sexual frustration.

          3. That’s OK, John. We know it’s a different Reason staffer who gets you going.

        2. creative nonfiction

          Isnt that lying?

          1. +100. Sadly you probably just described the UI program.

          2. Just what we need, another Michael Bellsiles thread.

      1. While liberalism is a rotting concrete Soviet housing block, whose floor is used as a restroom because it’s public property.

        (true story dat)

  17. Of the problems that afflict the country, this is the underlying one.

    Besides being a tiresome scold, he’s a shit writer. My fifth grade teacher wouldn’t let me get away with a concluding sentence as lame as that.

    “Of all the things that were great about the ancient Incas, that is the greatest one.” BARF

    1. You and your standards!

      *shakes fist*

    2. Good catch. And how poorly does it reflect upon the Times that their editors have let their writers get that lazy?

  18. I view David Brooks the same as Donald Kaul. Unreadable.

  19. Ah yes, the good old days, when everyone lived in a small community with one newpaper that gave you the news a week after it happened. Now THOSE people were open-minded thinkers!

    1. In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri.

      1. And sheep were scared. Don’t go forgetting the fear of the sheep!

  20. The only reason Rosy Cheeks Dick Bag has a job is because the NY Times wants to give its readers meaningless bullshit packaged in a burlap sack with “Insight” stenciled on the side.

    1. Glad someone commented about the NYT in general. When you take in the whole Dowd, Friedman, Krugman-esque picture, it is clear that they are managing a product to fit into a demographic, not serious politics (like all of you fucking wonks).

      1. This reminds me of when Moynihan said(during the wikileaks hit peace) the NYT was a place for “real journalist”

      2. Hey now, the NYT has to give voice to both serious sides to every issue in its opinion section: the big government liberal side (Krugman, Friedman) and the big government conservative side (Brooks, Kristol).

      3. Creative non-fiction. Who knew it was employable? Probably Federal grant-worthy.

  21. I think he’s a very intelligent guy. I just think he’s most interested in: 1. Making you realize Will Wilkinson is a very intelligent guy 2. Spinning wheels as brilliantly as possible, distracting you from recognizing none of the ‘Liberaltarian’ stuff every really makes sense in a practical way.

    I’ll take it over Lindsey’s less refined high-handed condescension and Frum’s ‘Hope I get that party invite’ sop stories to the Lefty cocktail circuit. But at the end of the day all the ‘Liberaltarian/ Righty-cum-Lefty’ stuff is to me social, not political.

  22. I feel like I’ve been put through an arduous character-building regime every time I catch sight of that damn photo of Dave in that damn pink shirt and tie. I guess that’s why he wears them.

    1. Maybe he’s related to Alan Grayson.

      1. Or maybe Dick Grayson.

  23. Besides being a tiresome scold, he’s a shit writer.

    Skimming is your friend.

  24. I feel like I’ve been put through an arduous character-building regime

    Well keep working on it because so far you show no signs of having any character.

  25. none of the ‘Liberaltarian’ stuff every really makes sense in a practical way.

    Getting away from the cutesy title, its basically an oxymoron: Statist Libertarianism.

    1. Even cutsier: hispter progressivism.

      “Oh Justin, you’re soooo outre with your scandalous talk of legalizing pot!”

  26. Dear Dave,

    You’ve got some dignity on your chin; better wipe it off.

    Best wishes, et c

  27. Vote for me and I promise to have the government work overtime to protect your liberties.
    I will write law after law to protect your freedom.
    The bigger the government is the freer you are.

  28. I’m not unsympatheitic to the idea of raising taxes. It may be necessary to start addressing the massive liabilities that the Federal government has incurred.

    However, until someone says “we will raise taxes only after the federal budget has shrunk or at least stayed flat from one year to the next,” I will continue to dismiss any calls for a tax increase with extreme prejudice.

    1. Yep, until they get their house in order, they don’t need to be coming to me for a bailout. Because I know they’ll just keep making the situation worse, whether they get more of my money or not.

    2. Im unsympathetic because they currently collect about 18% of GDP in taxes. I see no reason spending couldnt EASILY be cut to say 15-16% of GDP (obviously, somewhere south of 5% would be the libertarian goal, but that wouldnt be “easy”). So, they have enough revenue, run a 2% surplus for a decade or so and then we can talk about bumping it up to 4%, but I think running a 2% surplus would be just fine long term.

    3. That’s my position. You want to “compromise”, you better make a fucking concession.

      1. It’s a problem dealing with people that think “compromise” means that you give them your money, and they won’t throw you in jail.

  29. However, until someone says “we will raise taxes only after the federal budget has shrunk or at least stayed flat from one year to the next,” I will continue to dismiss any calls for a tax increase with extreme prejudice.

    How can you be so irresponsible and unserious?

  30. Who the fuck is Will Wilkinson, and why am I just hearing this name, of which some of you are clearly familiar, just now? I already have the feeling though that he is one of those things that are just too inside the belt way J school refuge camp for those who live outside of it too give a rat’s squishy tush.

    1. He is some little dweeb who has a blog and up until last week worked for CATO. Thank you for your needed dose of reality. The truth is, he is no more important and in fact less interesting than the people who post on this blog.

      But we still talk about him because sometimes it is fun to pick on the retarded kid, even though we know we shouldn’t do it.

    2. He’s okay, but I hated his character on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

      1. FFS, that’s not him. It’s the guy from the movie.

        1. Kipling!

      2. Oh, I loved Data on that show! You know what the third Star Wars could have used more of, ewoks! Man, that Terry Brooks can really write. Much better than that snorefest Tolkien. You know another good writer, that David Weigel. Okay, now I’ve just gone from venal to evil.

        1. Data was more man than you’ll ever be, you wouldn’t last 5 minutes in a fight with Ewoks, and Con Air is fine family entertainment.

          1. Saying Con Air to Episiarch is like saying Beetlejuice three times.

            1. Of course, since ‘pisi is the archetypical art house geek elitist.

              1. There are a variety of pungently true negative statements one can make about Episiarch, but the adjective “art house” strikes me as inapt.

          2. Oh, yeah? Well, how do you explain the fine ewok fur carpet in my domicile or the actor, Will Wilkinson, who played Data, strapped down in my basement wearing a gimp suit?

            As for Con-Air, I don’t recall it for all my brain cells that year went into the processing of cocaine, giving me no time for ‘fine family entertainment.’

    3. He is an oxymoron: Intellectual Politics.

      Voters are much more interested in shiny objects, as I heard someone around here say the other day.

    4. Reason contributor and “fairness” obsessed liberal dipshit faux-libertarian academic twit.

  31. Getting away from the cutesy title, its basically an oxymoron: Statist Libertarianism.

    All libertarianism is statist. It’s just the least worst kind?except when it’s “left-libertarian” or “liberaltarian” or whatever. Then it’s the worst kind.

    Yes, the.

    1. I’m worse than Hitler and Stalin combined.

    2. Usually “statist” around these parts is a synonym for “authoritarian”. Most minarchists like myself would bristle at being called statists, even though we favor the existence of a state.

      1. Me too.

  32. “In 1811, the popular novelist Fanny Burney learned she had breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy without anesthesia.”

    Meh.

    In 2005 Aron Ralston amputated his ownn hand.

    So what?

  33. “…is more geared toward pleasuring consumers, not putting them on some arduous character-building regime.”

    Oh right, I’ll look to the likes of Brooks and journalism to get my character built. How freaking backwards is that view?

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