Sunday, March 12, 2017

A New Era?


I often disagree with David Brooks. But I read his columns in The New York Times because I find them interesting and occasionally intriguing. On Friday, he predicted that the Republican attempt to "reform" Obamacare would fail. But then he went on to suggest that its failure marked the dawn of a new era in American politics. It is an era, he writes, that has been presaged by three crises:

First, the crisis of opportunity. People with fewer skills were seeing their wages stagnate, the labor markets evaporate. Second, the crisis of solidarity. The social fabric, especially for those without a college degree, was disintegrating — marriage rates plummeting, opiate abuse rates rising. Third, the crisis of authority. Distrust in major institutions crossed some sort of threshold. People had so lost trust in government, the media, the leadership class in general, that they were willing to abandon truth and decorum and embrace authoritarian thuggery to blow it all up.

For Brooks, the Republican attempt to destroy Obamacare is a symptom, not a cause:

If President Obama had made these crises the center of his administration, instead of the A.C.A., Democrats wouldn’t have lost Congress and the White House. If the Tea Party had understood the first two of these crises, there would have been no opening for Donald Trump.

Trump came along and exploited these crises. But if his administration’s health care approach teaches us anything, it is that he has no positive agenda for addressing them. He can tap into working class anxiety negatively, by harnessing hostility toward immigrants, foreigners and the poor. But he can’t come up with a positive agenda to make working class life more secure.

For the last four decades we have operated on a thesis popularized by the Austrian professors and their acolyte, Milton Friedman. They believed that a strong market is preferable to a strong state. But Brooks suggests we need both:

The core of the new era is this: If you want to preserve the market, you have to have a strong state that enables people to thrive in it. If you are pro-market, you have to be pro-state. You can come up with innovative ways to deliver state services, like affordable health care, but you can’t just leave people on their own. The social fabric, the safety net and the human capital sources just aren’t strong enough.

Can we have both? I have not thought through Brooks' thesis. That will take time. But I'd be interested to know what readers think of it.

Over to you. 

Image: Amazon.com

25 comments:

thwap said...

Life is short. David Brooks is a stupid asshole. Don't waste your time reading the vapid, delusional, hypocritical, nonsense that this guy is paid too much to write.

US (and world) society is suffering because greedy, delusional psychopaths are in charge. Count Brooks as one of them. But only as a propagandist. He's an errand boy.

If he wants to look at distrust of the media, he should re-visit his own insane yammerings in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq. Or, at least, maybe read the criticisms from the NYT's readership of his stupid (often racist) current scribblings. (He's said that he doesn't.)

Kirby Evans said...

We are indeed reaching a watershed. And as I have said many times, the millennials are going to help lead that change, The biggest challenge now, I think, is not getting the millennials (and even the intellectuals) on board. The biggest challenge is that we live in a time of growing ignorance in our political and economic institutions, so we have to hope that the changing tide in attitudes can keep pace with the expanding ignorance about how things work and what to do about the problems.

Owen Gray said...

I'll be the first to acknowledge Brooks' misjudgments, thwap. But what about the basic thesis? Can we have both a strong state and a strong market?

Owen Gray said...

I agree that we live in an age where wilful ignorance is pandemic, Kirby. The question is: Will millenials accept the notion of strong states and strong markets? I honestly can't answer that question.

MikeAdamson said...

Depends what strong means I suppose. We're really looking for a balance where the state keeps the market honest and scaffolds the most vulnerable in society while the market rewards initiative and creativity and keeps us out of bureaucratic stagnation. The pendulum has swung so far in favour of "economic liberty" that it's hard to envision a meaningful role for the state anymore but I know I'm too cynical.

Anonymous said...

Owen, one of the problems with Brook's argument is that he doesn't define his terms, so his piece can mean anything he (and the reader) wants it to mean. What is a "strong state" and what would it look like? Does he mean federal state or is this a "states' rights" argument? The ACA could be seen as a "strong state" attempt to regulate the health insurance market. Yet Brooks is against it, saying that Obama should have focused his efforts elsewhere, without offering any evidence that Republicans would have supported him. For many Republicans a strong state consists of a strong military and police, and nothing else. Is this what Brooks means?

What is a "strong market" and what does it look like? We had a very strong market in the lead-up to the 2008 crash, is this what Brooks means? That market was based on wide-spread Wall St. fraud encouraged by deregulation - deregulation that was supported by David Brooks. Is he now recanting his previous views? If so, he should say so.

This is just another fake centrist article by David F. Brooks meant to paper over the horror show that his Republican party is inflicting and has always inflicted on the nation.

Cap

Owen Gray said...

With Trump in the driver's seat, I don't see the pendulum swinging back, Mike. But, if Trump crashes and burns, the state may wind up healthier than it is now.

Owen Gray said...

Excellent points, Cap. Any good debater defines his or her terms. The word "strong" can be defined in many different ways.

Dana said...

Then there's this. Removing the state altogether.

http://crooksandliars.com/2017/03/right-wing-billionaires-have-project-going

Steve said...

We have a strong market with a strong state that works on a global scale, its called Germany.

Steve said...

Quell suprise Trump has no workable solutions. Anti Hillary Deep State acoylites like me knew this from the start. Sometimes you have to burn down the village so the villagers understand the Emperour is naked.

Trumpcare is Obamacare but even less effiencent.

Owen Gray said...

Thanks for the link, Dana. "Citizens for Self Government." Catchy, isn't it? For the non-thinking -- and there are lots of these folks -- it doesn't sound like the fraud it is.

Owen Gray said...

Germany is an interesting case, Steve. From this distance, it looks like it has a pretty good safety net.

Owen Gray said...

Things may be be unrecognizable when Trump is finished, Steve. Burning it all down is not a solution.

Steve said...

Owen what is so great about the Anglo Saxon Empire that a solution can not be found in sacking it. Anglo Saxon empire your fired!

Owen Gray said...

Lots of empires have been sacked, Steve. Most of them haven't recovered.

Steve said...

well the worst one of all was the 6000 years of the Chinsese empire ruled through the use of eunechs and the control mechanism. They are on the upswing, strong enough to buy Canada and make us a nation of renters.

Dana said...

Steve is a Vandal, Owen. I see it all so clearly now. Once nothing works any more and people start rioting and looting and attacking one another for food and water Steve will step in, and like Might Mouse, save the day with impenetrable logic. Of course what's more likely is that he'll be among the first to fall because he'll have the hubris to boast about how this is what he wanted all along and then be beaten to death by an enraged mob.

You got to have a dream...

Owen Gray said...

I'm sure there are those who would argue that the Chinese have paid too high a price for their economic growth, Steve.

Owen Gray said...

I'll let Steve respond, Dana.

Steve said...

Hey Dana, be careful of projection. The phrase burn down the village to save it can directly be attributed to Vietnam, still a work in progress but is it not better than rule by the French or the Americans? I see Germany today as a great model for all, no need to do anything except change a few laws and perceptions. I go on at great length my blog It does not matter if the cat if black or white as long as it catches mice, not as self evident as it may seem, but what is really true is it does not matter about spelling an puntucation as long as the meaning is transmitted true.

The Mound of Sound said...


Owen, sorry to flog this horse again, but the fundamental precepts of progressivism are specifically intended to address the paramountcy of people over special interests and the private sector and to regulate the constant struggle between labour and capital.

Anonymous said...

!?

The Republican attempt to "reform" Obamacare is designed to make the program fail.

The Republicants have been undermining the A.C.A. since it was signed into law. There is no way they will allow any socialized coverage to continue; they have a long history smashing at any safety net.

Owen Gray said...

"Of the people, by the people and for the people," Mound. We keep forgetting.

Owen Gray said...

That's their definition of "freedom," !?