Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Brooks Proves that People Who Disagree with Him Don't Think

In this morning's New York Times, David Brooks reports on "The Materialist Fallacy," according to which the  (presumably well-settled) conclusion that Americans are less socially cohesive (whatever that means) than they used to be (as proven by the out-of-wedlock birthrate - surely no child born to unmarried parents could grow up well-adjusted) stems exclusively from the decline of well-paid and secure manufacturing jobs. Brooks cites several authors for the proposition that the reality of social decline is more complex than Liberals believe, and worryingly self-perpetuating. And he sagely observes that dropping out of high school is a bad idea even if there are no good manufacturing jobs (which hardly explains the actual motivations of dropouts). He claims we need new theories to explain the phenomenon of social disintegration, but we cannot expect any useful theories to come from Liberals because they "stopped thinking in 1975." Nothing like a dismissive ad hominem attack to polish off an argument built like a house of cards.

I actually like a lot of what David Brooks writes. He is smart and not dogmatic (at least, not very often). He actually reads books. Unlike too many Conservatives, he is capable of holding complex and nuanced positions and adjusting his position based on learning. But his job is to help the New York Times sell newspapers, and the job of columnist requires writing with an edge to catch the attention of readers, even if that means sometimes compromising your own tendencies to moderation and due consideration.

I'm looking forward to reading Paul Krugman's (no doubt equally immoderate and inconsiderate) response to Brooks' attack - surely he will not be able to resist the invitation provided in the column's final sentence.

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