Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The perils of political overthink

From my latest American Spectator column:
. . . The self-interest of intellectuals demands that they portray every election as fraught with existential significance, an honest-to-goodness Hegelian shift in the zeitgeist. Divining the zeitgeist and integrating the latest paradigm shift into our weltanschauung is the stock-in-trade of intellectuals, and if all that elevated cogitation could produce an extra 207,000 Republican votes in Ohio, maybe I would give a damn. But it can't and I don't.
The economy sucks, the war in Iraq is costing us about $5 billion a week, the deficit's out of control, and every time you turn on the TV, another giant corporation is either declaring bankruptcy or getting a bailout from the taxpayers. You don't need an
intellectual to tell you why this was a tough year to be a Republican, but that's not going to stop the pointy-heads from explaining What It Really Means. . . .
Please read the whole thing. It's a mocking attack on David Brooks, but more than that, it's an argument against the entire genre of over-intellectualized analysis which Brooks has made a specialty. To pretend that political trends are so complex -- nuanced! -- that only an intellectual can explain them is a sort of scam that serves mainly to justify the intellectual's function in politics.

Liberalism for decades has suffered from the influence of "big picture" thinkers (John Kenneth Galbraith comes to mind) whose business was/is to make the intellectual case for unpopular policies. No matter how often the American people reject higher taxes at the ballot box, you can always find some liberal intellectual to write a newspaper op-ed column arguing for higher taxes, so that Democrats feel comforted in continuing to pursue policies that lead directly to lost elections. If Obama and the Democrats in Congress pass a tax increase, you can be sure that they will do so to a chorus of cheering Washington Post columns. You can also be sure that the tax increase will hurt the economy and cost Democrats votes at the next election. But some politicians would rather be praised in the newspapers than to win elections.

Now we're seeing how this tendency toward intellectualism has infested conservatism. For a decade or more, David Brooks has pushed his "national greatness" idiocy on the GOP, denouncing Republican advocates of limited government, and warning of the baleful influence of "populism." But that pointy-head son of a bitch can't deliver a single vote in Ohio or Florida, and following his advice has brought nothing but disaster to the Republican Party.

Airdrop him on Jalalabad, I say.


  1. It is a shame to see the phrase "National greatness" redefined by such as Brooks to ephemera and baubles like architecture when those are the consequence and byproduct of greatness.

    The other day I was reading in Maccabees 1 (yeah, I'm a Papist) where the Jews were discussing an alliance with the Republic of Rome. In there is a fine discussion of republican greatness, I'll paraphrase: They are loyal to their allies and accept as friends all who would apply - fierce to their enemies defeating them by planning and persistence. None of them wears the purple of a king, but they deliberate on important questions in a senate and select one among them to rule for a year whom the others follow loyally. They are not envious or jealous of one another.

    That is a formula for greatness. The fancy buildings and the ambitious plans are secondary and optional.

  2. Forget Florida or Ohio, Brooks could not even deliver votes in his own family. His wife and kids were keen on Obama way before Sarah Palin was nominated for VP.

    But that's metrocons for you: live Left but demand to lead the RIght.

  3. Some of these guys can not leave the Democrat mindset behind when they become "conservatives". That is why these people have no problem with big government. The problem is that when a moderate Republican runs as one that can simply run the government more responsibly than the Dems, the Dem wins. Ask Chris Shays. I have no problem with moderates. It is just what they are moderates on. That is why they lose.