Friday, June 08, 2007

Dumbness and the Fight Against It

Today's New York Times has a nice illustration of the battle for what's left of the middle-class mind. There's Paul Krugman fighting dumbness by showing how the media has turned politics into a beauty contest that prevents people from voting on the basis of issues. "listening to what candidates say about substantive issues offers a much better way to judge potential presidents than superficial character judgments. Mr. Bush's tax lies [in the 2000 campaign], not his surface amiability, were the true guide to how he would govern."

In the other corner, representing dumbness, is David "Schoolboy" Brooks, with another of his grandiloquent philosophical frameworks leading to Reaganite cliches. Painting himself as a "Hamilitonian" in an epic battle with "mainstream liberals" and populists, he concludes, "Government is really bad at rigging or softening competition. It can do some good when it helps people compete." This distinction rests on a Schoolboy contrast between job retraining, job protections, and jobs programs (where gov is bad), and portable pensions and health insurance and skill-based immigration and encouragement of marriage (where gov is good). In fact all Schoolboy does is slam programs for workers and praise programs for the middle-classes. Blue-collar is bad, white-collar is good. Programs that make blue-collar people like white-collar people are good. Schoolboy wants a world in which gated commuters are subsidized and nobody else is - a paradise of bobos, paid for by everybody else.

If we don't start catching on to this classic middle-class dumbness, were not going anywhere except down.

Which reminds me: in March I blogged about Pakistani lawyers in revolt; this past week the U.S. press has realized that the protests have spread widely enough to be threatening to the Musharraf regime.

No comments: