What the hell, I’ll take another shot at David Brooks

Yep, David Brooks, the man who thinks the current depression is good for morals and that the problem with American leadership is that we don’t shut up and obey them more is once again endorsing the joys of traditional lifestyles of a hundred years ago. The new column combines two favorite Brooks themes: We need the great leaders of the past in all their sexist, racist glory and Americans today aren’t moral enough. Oh, and conservatives apparently are the only people who care about America being great.
Back in the 1980s when he started writing, Brooks explains, conservatives included a)economic conservatives who “spent a lot of time worrying about the way government intrudes upon economic liberty. They upheld freedom as their highest political value” and b)traditional conservatives who “wanted to preserve a society that functioned as a harmonious ecosystem, in which the different layers were nestled upon each other: individual, family, company, neighborhood, religion, city government and national government … They believed that people should lead disciplined, orderly lives, but doubted that individuals have the ability to do this alone, unaided by social custom and by God. So they were intensely interested in creating the sort of social, economic and political order that would encourage people to work hard, finish school and postpone childbearing until marriage.”
As Echidne points out, by Brooks’ standard Saudi Arabia is a fabulous country. The leaders believe in discipline, God, social custom and work to preserve them all, albeit at the point of a gun.
And the America of a century ago, for which Brooks has repeatedly pined, was also pretty damn good at enforcing a social, economic and political order—one where if you weren’t a white, Anglo-Saxon, male Protestant, you went to the back of the line. Or you weren’t allowed in the line at all.
The point Brooks is trying to make is even weirder: Modern conservatives have dropped the traditionalist side and become completely economic: All they care about is shrinking government and slashing spending, instead of worrying about morality and social order.
To quote Charles Pierce on another Brooks piece (he weighs in on this latest column too), here’s where the magic mushrooms kick in. The Republican Party today is all about the social order, at least as far as it concerns shoving gays back into the closet and putting women into the kitchen all barefoot and pregnant (see this And column for more). Hell, even the idea of women getting health insurance to cover their birth control outrages them.
Nor are Republicans particularly interested in slashing spending or cutting government. The deficit rocketed upward under Reagan in the 1980s, and then again under Bush. The myth that Republicans are wise stewards of the government budget (“The economic conservatives were in charge of the daring ventures that produced economic growth.” in Brooks’ words) is just that, a myth. They spend government money like a drunken sailor in a whorehouse (a metaphor I wish I could take credit for).
And for that matter, even Brooks assertions—fairly standard ones—that conservatives value tradition and custom is a load of codswallop. We’ve had laws guaranteeing equal rights—to vote, to get hired, to stay in a hotel or an apartment regardless of race, color, sex or creed—for almost 50 years. We’ve had the New Deal for 80. Yet conservatives still kick and whine and scream about how much better everything was when business owner could fire women just for being women, refuse to let blacks stay in their hotels and when workers had no right to unionize or get a minimum wage (albeit they usually phrase it more obliquely).
I don’t think custom and tradition mean what Mr. Brooks apparently thinks they mean.


Filed under economics, Politics, Undead sexist cliches

12 responses to “What the hell, I’ll take another shot at David Brooks

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