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September 23, 2014

David Brooks is to Assertions of the Self-Pronounced Elite's Right to Rule As Thomas Friedman is to Chinese Authoritarianism and Solar Panels

Just a few days ago, David Brooks said something remarkable.

People seem to have a harder time building friendships across class lines. As society becomes more unequal and segmented, invitations come to people on the basis of their job status....

So, in the fantasy world in which I have $500 million, I’d try to set up places that would cultivate friendships...


So I envision a string of adult camps or retreat centers (my oldest friendships were formed at summer camp, so I think in those terms). Groups of 20 or 30 would be brought together from all social and demographic groups, and secluded for two weeks. They’d prepare and clean up all their meals together, and eating the meals would go on for a while. In the morning, they would read about and discuss big topics. In the afternoons, they’d play sports, take hikes and build something complicated together. At night, there’d be a bar and music.

Hm, where on earth could the rich, eminent David Brooks possibly go to find people of other classes willing to talk to him over dinner?

Shorter David Brooks: I wish there were some well-funded, elite institution with the resources to introduce me to my doorman.

I don't mind that David Brooks is an elitist, exactly. It is common for people to stick to their own class. (And it is awkward as some old friends drop out of the class that a group belongs to.)

What bothers me is David Brooks bien pensant peacocking. If David Brooks really wanted to strike up a friendship with someone far less wealth and famous than he is, all he'd have to do is ask.

I mean, I think he has a very mediocre mind and is, as the British would say, a git (actually they'd say something worse but I don't want to use that word), but I'd hang out with him, just for the networking possibilities.

It's not like I can't half-assedly pretend to be interested in something a dolt is saying. I've done it enough times.

But he doesn't really want to do this. What he wants to do is to be seen as wanting to do this.

I wouldn't have brought that column up on the blog -- I noted it on twitter, but that was just a quickie attack -- except that just days later, David Brooks has penned the most astonishing assertion of the alleged elite's Right to Rule that I've read.

Via Mark Krikorian at NRO, and @jimgeraghty:

It's important in times like these to step back and get clarity. The truest thing to say is this: We are living in an amazingly fortunate time. But we also happen to be living during a leadership crisis, and a time when few people have faith in elites to govern from the top. We live in a vibrant society that is not being led.

We don’t suffer from an abuse of power as much as a nonuse of power. It's been years since a major piece of legislation was passed, and there’s little prospect that one will get passed in the next two.

This leadership crisis is eminently solvable. First, we need to get over the childish notion that we don’t need a responsible leadership class, that power can be wielded directly by the people. America was governed best when it was governed by a porous, self-conscious and responsible elite -- during the American revolution, for example, or during and after World War II. Karl Marx and Ted Cruz may believe that power can be wielded directly by the masses, but this has almost never happened historically.

Note the incredible claims Brooks makes -- that we are living in an "amazingly fortunate time." Compared to what? Compared to the 1840s, sure. But compared to the Reagan years? Compared to the Clinton years?

Even compared to the Bush years -- which were no picnic -- we're living in a decidedly poorer, more stressful, more scarifying time.

He seems to base this on the fact that in the city he lives in -- one of three official capitals of the US (DC, NYC, LA) -- there are plenty of good shops and restaurants to enjoy!

And yet later on he accuses other people of having a provincial outlook!

And apparently he is entirely unaware that during periods of depression, The Ruling Class tends to maintain its position or even advance. And so do the capital cities in which the Ruling Class lives.

(As a friend of mine once observed, a Depression isn't so bad if you have a job -- hell, everything's cheaper than it should be, isn't it?)

He then goes on to assert that the real problem with the leadership class is not that it has made all sorts of embarrassing errors (thus threatening its status as "elite leadership class"), but that it simply hasn't passed enough legislation to Fix Things.

Finally, he gets to the heart of it: The "Elite" leadership class is not to blame for all the terrible mistakes they've made, and the unfortunate position they've put America (and indeed the world) in.

No, the problem is that the Underclasses have not been doing a good enough job of trusting and believing in the leadership class.

We're letting them down, guys.

David Brooks went all-in on Obama. Obama's failures are therefore also David Brooks'.

Rather than confront these failures and deal rationally and honestly with them, David Brooks invents, get this, a self-pleasing mythology wherein the people at fault are the, well, People.

The problem is not that Obama, Brooks, and the rest of the stultifyingly mediocre yet viciously arrogant "Leadership Class" has failed.

No, the problem is You -- for noticing that they've failed.


Prince Obama I, Called "The Magnificent"

Have you considered how you might have disappointed His Worshipfulness today?


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posted by Ace at 01:07 PM

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