Friday, July 25, 2008

Sleeper on Brooks

Over at TPM Cafe Jim Sleeper, hardly a doctrinaire liberal, eviscerates a recent David Brooks column, accusing the New York Times columnist of "intellectual usury." This summation of Brooks' ouevre capture pretty well what I feel about the man and his output:
His pseudo-scholarly ruminations flatter some readers and make others deferential, but they are always suspiciously easy to follow. They're the intellectual equivalent of "cash back" on an easy loan of false knowledge that leaves you feeling "had," empty-handed,and politically paralyzed. That is how Brooks makes his living: He charms you up the garden path toward a politics that is nowhere.

That about seems to capture it.


Anonymous said...

I agree with the assessment that Brooks is not a rigorous thinker. I await the post making relative judgments between Brooks, Krugman, Herbert and Dowd. Looking at this line-up, my first thought is not that Brooks is a loose thinker, but "How did the NYTimes come to this and why don't we have something better? The NYTimes decline is a national tragedy." (Snarky aside - Herbert can't distinguish between the Washington Monument and the Victory Column in Berlin; google it.)

I'm a securities lawyer who works with a lot of banks (i.e., I've been following the credit crunch very closely, including the subset that is the housing debacle). There is a LOT of blame to go around. ALMOST EVERYONE got greedy with respect to the housing bubble. In my mind, this is not a partisan issue. Folks dropped the ball in the C-Suites, folks dropped the ball on Main Street. Politicians on the left whored themselves out; politicians on the right whored themselves out (a la the frog and the scorpion, it's in their nature).

With that said, read up on Fannie and Freddie. They're at the root of a lot of our current problems and are horribly, horribly mis-managed companies operating with your money as their backstop, due to the fact that they're extremely, extremely well-run political machines. And while, as amoral businesses, they grease whatever skids they come across, Fannie and Freddie are objectively considered to be solidly aligned with the Democratic party.

That makes sense, in that they depend on government largesse and re-distribution of wealth on pain of exercise of government force, which is more of a Democrat kinda maneuver (although Republicans suck too).

With best regards.

dcat said...
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dcat said...

Thanks for writing. You make some good points and bring some insight on the holistic nature of the credit and housing crises.

That said, while I'm not unfamiliar with the situation with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but they also are not the whole sum of the housing crisis, and it is reductionist, indeed silly, to make this into a Democrat-Republican thing. It is equally silly to make generalizations such as "they depend on government largesse and re-distribution of wealth on pain of exercise of government force, which is more of a Democrat kinda maneuver" when the GOP is not exactly immune from embracing the nanny state itself. I'd argue that the GOP is every bit as equally inclined toward the use of government force when it suits them, as anyone watching the post 9/11 political climate ought to recognize.

While I think the decline of the New York Times is overstated in some circles (for its flaws it is still easily one of the finest newspapers in the US -- it also has to withstand a far higher level of scrutiny than any other paper in the country) I do not regularly read most of the columnsits you mentioned, though I actually think herbert is ok when he plays to his strengths. The screwup the other day that you advise me to Google (what, do you think I don't pay attention to current politics? You've sort of snottily asked me to look up the Herbert WashMon snafu and the Fannie Mae situation) is really not especially relevant, truth be told, and is more of a gotcha moment. Admittedly, a pretty embarassing one, but a gotcha moment nonetheless that has little to do with his columns.

Thanks for reading and do continue to contribute to the comments (if you can control the tendency to advise me to look up things that anyone who pays attention to politics has seen dozens of times).