David Brooks: Who Let the Dogmatists Out?


Did the sun come up this morning? Then David Brooks has written a column about the "dangerous implications" of limited-government "dogmatism." Today's platitudinal effort:

If the current Republican Party regards every new bit of government action as a step on the road to serfdom, then the party will be taking this long, mainstream American tradition [of using government as a means for "making America virtuous, dynamic and great"] and exiling it from the G.O.P. […]

It would be a fiscal tragedy. Over the next decade there will have to be spending cuts and tax increases. If Republicans decide that even the smallest tax increases put us on the road to serfdom, then there will never be a deal, and the country will careen toward bankruptcy.

It would also be a policy tragedy. Republicans are right to oppose the current concentration of power in Washington. But once that is halted, America faces a series of problems that can't be addressed simply by getting government out of the way.

The social fabric is fraying. Human capital is being squandered. Society is segmenting. The labor markets are ill. Wages are lagging. Inequality is increasing. The nation is overconsuming and underinnovating. China and India are surging. Not all of these challenges can be addressed by the spontaneous healing powers of the market.

Most important, it would be an intellectual tragedy. Conservatism is supposed to be nonideological and context-driven. If all government action is automatically dismissed as quasi socialist, then there is no need to think. A pall of dogmatism will settle over the right.

Whole ball of non-sequiturial anxiety over the non-extinction of limited-government conservatism here.

Wanna talk dogmatism? Go re-read an anti-anti-TARP column from two years ago this month by a cat named David Brooks. The whole anti-"nihilist," pro-intervention screech is worth reading in full (you can see real-time critiques of it from me and Jesse Walker), but I'll just highlight here the content-less, do-something appeals to what can accurately be described as authoritarianism:

In 1933, Franklin Roosevelt inherited an economic crisis. He understood that his first job was to restore confidence, to give people a sense that somebody was in charge, that something was going to be done.

This generation of political leaders is confronting a similar situation, and, so far, they have failed utterly and catastrophically to project any sense of authority, to give the world any reason to believe that this country is being governed. Instead, by rejecting the rescue package on Monday, they have made the psychological climate much worse. […]

[L]et us recognize above all the 228 who voted no — the authors of this revolt of the nihilists. They showed the world how much they detest their own leaders and the collected expertise of the Treasury and Fed. They did the momentarily popular thing, and if the country slides into a deep recession, they will have the time and leisure to watch public opinion shift against them. […]

If this economy slides, they will go down in history as the Smoot-Hawleys of the 21st century. […]

I've spoken with several House Republicans over the past few days and most admirably believe in free-market principles. What's sad is that they still think it's 1984. They still think the biggest threat comes from socialism and Walter Mondale liberalism. […]

What we need in this situation is authority.

What is more "dogmatic" than asserting that action–any action, specifics don't matter–must be taken to assert authority? I'll tell you what's more dogmatic: Insisting two years later, in the face of evidence that the economy did indeed slide "into a deep recession" after your policy preferences were adopted, that the real threat remains that same largely powerless but growing minority that believes 10 years of hysterical government intervention is the problem, not the solution. How many more years of Brooksian governance can we withstand before the great man shakes his ideological certainty that the biggest threat to "national cohesion" is the limited-government philosophy espoused by approximately nobody in power?