Sunday, June 7, 2009

Capitalism without Capitalists: David Brooks Weighs In, Part V

Just when I was about to give up all hope that the pundocracy would recognize the basic problem with General Motors was with its culture, the urbane and articulate New York Times columnist David Brooks weighs in. His story was reprinted on Wednesday, June 3, 2009 in the Dallas Morning News:

Mr. Brooks (writing with the assurance that only attending the right schools, being invited to the right parties and a summer home in the Hamptons can convey) does an excellent job of explaining why the culture at General Motors led to its failure—the same point I have been making in my series of blogs. He is almost always worth reading.

Alas, however, rather than seeing hope in the changes now taking place, Mr. Brooks sees only the possibility of failure because it is the government that is forcing the changes. I am sure that the sense of frustration I am feeling is shining through. I’ve had the opportunity to hear and speak with Mr. Brooks and he is educated and intelligent beyond all measure. He is a person against whom you would lose any argument, whether you were right or wrong, simply because he is smarter than you.

I am frustrated because all this intelligence is wasted. Mr. Brooks makes his living articulating a moderate Republican point of view (he used to make his living articulating a conservative point of view, but apparently that has become less lucrative). Moreover, as a columnist, he feels no duty to propose solutions, only to criticize what is being done from his very studied, reasonable and moderate position. He is just as happy criticizing the Obama administration for government action to save GM as he would have been criticizing the Bush administration for letting GM fail. If only the

Reading Mr. Brooks is like watching a talented musician or ballplayer who refuses to do the hard work of learning their trade and instead gets by on their talent alone. I’m mesmerized by his talent, astounded by his intelligence and frustrated by his unwillingness to engage. At some point, I think you need to stop standing on the sidelines pointing out why failure is inevitable, and decide if the game is going on anyway that you might as well help try to win it.

Otherwise, you’re the intellectual equivalent of Gerald Green.

1 comment:

  1. I have also had the opportunity to meet and speak with him and I have a great deal of respect for David Brooks. But I understand the sensation you speak of. I've stood quite frustrated at times and listened to him tow a party line or act as devil's advocate seemingly just to get another point of view out there. While at times admirable I think he puts the energy into this exercise that would otherwise go into devising solutions. David Brooks has the charisma and intellect to have been a Lockian or Hobbesian type figure. Intellectual, reasoned, and philosophical, but accessible to those who create policy and live under it. Like too many of these people in our age, he instead opted to be a pundit for TV and Newspapers...