Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The Alfred E. Neumann Award for Stupidest "Conservative" Columnist

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What, he worry?

If this life is driving you to drink
You sit around and wondering

Just what to think

Well I got some consolation

I'll give it to you if I might

Well I don't worry 'bout a thing

'Cause I know nothing's gonna be all right.

Mose Allison
"I Don't Worry About a Thing"


And the winner is … David Brooks!
Brooks is the New York Times's neutered token "conservative."

Do not include his column when you sort your garbage for recycling. Brooks's economy of mind cannot be processed into anything useful.

Today he's assuring us: "Relax, We'll Be Fine."
This column is a great luscious orgy of optimism. Because the fact is, despite all the problems, America’s future is exceedingly bright.
And what balm does Brooks offer our worried heads?
Over the next 40 years, demographers estimate that the U.S. population will surge by an additional 100 million people, to 400 million over all. The population will be enterprising and relatively young.
Gee whiz, am I ever looking forward to another 100 million people to share the country with, in case I have another 40 years on my odometer. Especially as most of them will be Third World colonists and their spawn. The population may well be relatively young — why not, since our New New Left masters will encourage overbreeding among the colonists so that they can replace the indigenes, ensuring a permanent servile class for our corporate and political overlords.

Enterprising? Yes, invest in taco futures now.
In his book, “The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050,” über-geographer Joel Kotkin sketches out how this growth will change the national landscape. Extrapolating from current trends, he describes an archipelago of vibrant suburban town centers, villages and urban cores.
Translated from Times-speak: There will be no place to escape to if you're not keen on living in an über-vibrant environment.
Over the next 40 years, Kotkin argues, urban downtowns will continue their modest (and perpetually overhyped) revival, but the real action will be out in the compact, self-sufficient suburban villages. Many of these places will be in the sunbelt — the drive to move there remains strong — but Kotkin also points to surging low-cost hubs on the Plains, like Fargo, Dubuque, Iowa City, Sioux Falls, and Boise.
Right. Somehow I don't believe Brooks is planning to shift house to Sioux Falls. But Sioux Falls et al. are ripe for vibrancy conversion. Because, after all — you knew this was coming:
… the U.S. remains a magnet for immigrants. Global attitudes about immigration are diverging, and the U.S. is among the best at assimilating them (while China is exceptionally poor). As a result, half the world’s skilled immigrants come to the U.S. As Kotkin notes, between 1990 and 2005, immigrants started a quarter of the new venture-backed public companies.
To Brooks and people like him, the country's indigenous population is incapable of inventing or managing anything on their own; only by magnetizing itself to attract immigrants will America thrive. Funny, though: we have quite a few, some might say a surplus, of immigrants now, and it doesn't seem to have helped our 17 percent real-world unemployment rate. Possibly a fair portion of that consists of the vibrantly unemployed.

It's true that we could limit immigrants to those with money, skills, and high IQ. If Brooks suggested that, his keepers at the Times would boot him off the page starting last week.

Our Man in the Moon believes he has solid grounds for confidence.
As the world gets richer, demand will rise for the sorts of products Americans are great at providing — emotional experiences. Educated Americans grow up in a culture of moral materialism; they have their sensibilities honed by complicated shows like “The Sopranos,” “The Wire” and “Mad Men,” and they go on to create companies like Apple, with identities coated in moral and psychological meaning, which affluent consumers crave.
There are dedicated psychiatrists who analyze the statements of the mad to try to understand their patients better. Without benefit of specialized training, let us see what we can make of the paragraph above.

"As the world gets richer … ." The world Brooks inhabits, of third-rate public intellectuals, may be getting richer. Not the world as in, uh, world. Some specific countries with natural resources, or their ruling classes, are cashing in. Meanwhile the number of failed states, including proto–failed states in Europe, expands.

But our creative factories are working day and night forging "emotional experiences." Like, you know, The Sopranos, which I gather (I've never watched it) portrays a gang-infested New Jersey, and The Wire, which portrays a gang-infested Baltimore. A light unto the nations, an inspiration to all. Hone your sensibilities, and go on to start the next Apple …
… with identities coated in moral and psychological meaning
Coated identities? Coated in meaning (moral and psychological)? Does anyone who reads the New York Times ask what he means, morally and psychologically or not? Unlikely. It sounds good, what else do you want? That's enough to get you elected president.

As long as David Brooks is performing his trained "conservative" act, I won't worry about a thing.

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3 comments:

David said...

I actually think DB often writes some useful & insightful stuff, but he's wrong about several things here:

"The U.S. now accounts for a third of the world’s research-and-development spending. Partly as a result, the average American worker is nearly 10 times more productive than the average Chinese worker, a gap that will close but not go away in our lifetimes."

There is nothing that prevents a robotics system or a machine tool developed & made in the U.S. from being purchased & used in a Chinese factory. But more importantly, with the growth of manufacturing in China, the machine tools & robotics will increasingly be developed & made in China in the first place. Practical innovation is *not* just a matter of R&D spending; it works much better when you are close to the people who actually use your products.

Productivity is of course not just a matter of technology but also of management: it would be very unwise as well as ethnocentric to assume that Chinese cannot master "lean" production methods, for example.

The major advantage that the US *has* had over countries like China is a stable legal environment and a relatively unrestricted field for entrepreneurs, but Obama and his friends seem set on liquidating that. See the post on the proposed new venture capital rules, at my blog.

Martin B said...

"David said...

I actually think DB often writes some useful & insightful stuff, but he's wrong about several things here:

"The U.S. now accounts for a third of the world’s research-and-development spending. Partly as a result, the average American worker is nearly 10 times more productive than the average Chinese worker, a gap that will close but not go away in our lifetimes."

Brooks is wrong even here. A great deal of "research and development" spending is flat out wasted. And productivity is simply a matter of GDP per person, i.e. money changing hands per pair of hands doing the changing. This country has a lot of money changers. We also have a lot of divorce lawyers, tattoo parlors, video-game stores, fast-food outlets, and sex-toy emporia. All of those places go into the calculation of GDP, and hence, "productivity".

We are a hollow giant. It should be Admiral Potemkin, not Andrew Jackson, on the $20 bill.

Matt said...

"As the world gets richer, demand will rise for the sorts of products Americans are great at providing — emotional experiences. Educated Americans grow up in a culture of moral materialism; they have their sensibilities honed by complicated shows like “The Sopranos,” “The Wire” and “Mad Men,” and they go on to create companies like Apple, with identities coated in moral and psychological meaning, which affluent consumers crave."

This sounds like satire. Are we sure he was being serious?