Tag Archives: weak arguments

Tribunals of the moribund

I'd call this column by David Brooks a complete waste of space.  He signals as much from the get-go:

When historians look back on the period between 2001 and 2011, they will be amazed that a nation that professed to hate bureaucracy produced so much of it.

Will they now.  I think he means historians will be unsurprised that a party that professed to hate government produced so much of it. That question, however, has already been answered–see Reagan, Ronald. 

It just gets dumber:

When historians look back on this period, they will see it as another progressive era. It is not a liberal era — when government intervenes to seize wealth and power and distribute it to the have-nots. It’s not a conservative era, when the governing class concedes that the world is too complicated to be managed from the center. It’s a progressive era, based on the faith in government experts and their ability to use social science analysis to manage complex systems.

This progressive era is being promulgated without much popular support. It’s being led by a large class of educated professionals, who have been trained to do technocratic analysis, who believe that more analysis and rule-writing is the solution to social breakdowns, and who have constructed ever-expanding networks of offices, schools and contracts.

I think that claim there–the central conceit of this piece–ought at least to gesture in the direction of evidence.  Sure, he's predicting the future, but his prediction would have some teeth if for instance he at least faked some kind of Rasmussen poll.  Besides, from where I sit, financial and health reform measures had significant popular support–if anything, people wanted even more from the reforms than politicians were willing to offer.

The real mystifying thing here is Brooks's straw-man alternative to popular support–a group of technocratic know-it-alls setting panels for the moribund and such.  It's just trivially the case that implementing anything will involve some degree of assessment and measurement.  And that will always involve nerds.  Historians will not be surprised by that.  Even the Egyptians had a class of nerds.