David Brooks of the New York Times is one of my very favorite thinkers – he’s a calm and intellectual conservative who manages to maintain a great deal of respect for the reality of the sweeping political changes before us, but Brooks is wisely very cautious about the many pitfalls that come with the overwhelming power Americans have granted to the President Obama and the Democratic Party.
In my view Brooks, unlike “conservative” blowhards and political/media buffoons like Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, and Sean Hannity, articulates the kind of vision the founders of our American experiment would have appreciated very much. They understood how important it was to debate, discuss, consider and reconsider and then use democracy within a constitutional framework as the key tool to resolve disputes.
On Charlie Rose Brooks made a several of observations I thought were really, really interesting. The first is that Obama – so sharp and confident as President and chief manager – is at risk for overextending himself based on that level of self-confidence. Brooks seemed to suggest (and I’d certainly agree) that this overconfidence is reflected in the governmental and budget optimism that is used to support what I’d call our massively irresponsible spending plans for the post-recession economy. Almost every economist and politician now agrees that a large deficit is appropriate for a few years in an effort to stimulate the global economy, but there are huge differences of opinion about what to do after that stimulus … stimulates.
To me the answer is probably that we should return as soon as possible to the free marketeering mechanisms that got us to the incredible levels of prosperity we now enjoy, and should seek to reduce government … dramatically. However this “small government” view has become so unpopular now that I’m going to avoid the stress and just sit back and watch as the huge government view now so prevalent is tested on the grandest scale in all of human history. I still think we are pushing debts forward at massively unsustainable levels, but luckily we should have a good sense of how unsustainable within a few years as the projected benefits of massive spending fail to materialize.
Another point Brooks made was that Obama’s vision is that of a technocratic and effective government, bringing resources and people to bear on the host of regulatory, security, military, and economic problems Obama inherited from the past. Brooks agrees that unbridled Capitalism needs to be kept in check but worries about the government as the mechanism for that balance. Brooks prefers the ideas of UK Moderate Conservative party leader David Cameron who he suggested is trying to embed the necessary checks on capitalism’s potential for excess in non-governmental institutions such as competing sectors of the market, family, and community.
This “small governments, empowered communities” idea is very provocative and I’d guess very much in line with what the founders would have liked to see, though I think it will take some time to catch on as we’ve spawned a generation of voters who will simply assume that massive government is the status quo.
Capitalism did what it does so well and said “damn the torpedos full speed ahead”. From 1945 until 2008 the global economy dodged most of those torpedos and many – especially in the USA and Europe but also much of the developing world – enjoyed levels of prosperity unparalleled in all of human history. In 2008 the global economy suffered direct hits from a *lot* of the torpedos we’d been dodging so well. Governments failed to see them coming and I doubt they’ll succeed in restoring prosperity without torpedos (I’d argue that’s not even possible – the risks *created* much of all those rewards), but we’ll know soon enough.
In the meantime when you tuck your children into bed be sure to tell them “thank you”. “Thank you for taking on our families share of the USA debt of $473,000 … while you slept” . Source for 473,000 is USA Today.
David Brooks on Charlie Rose: