Tuesday, March 10, 2009

It's David Brooks Fisking Day!

"If one does not read enough economic illiteracy from Paul Krugman's Monday column in the New York Times, there always is David Brook's Tuesday column, which presents the neo-con (emphasis on 'con') view of the world. One must remember that the editorial writers at the Times actually believe that Brooks is a free-market guy."
-- Bill Anderson, LewRockwell.com
OK, here he is, the useless idiot who needs no introduction, David Brooks:
Republicans have decided to demand a rigid fiscal straitjacket at the one moment in the past 70 years when it is completely inappropriate. . . .
The G.O.P. leaders have adopted a posture that allows the Democrats to make all the proposals while all the Republicans can say is "no."
Republicans could offer the public a realistic appraisal of the health of capitalism. Global capitalism is an innovative force, they could argue, but we have been reminded of its shortcomings. When exogenous forces like the rise of China and a flood of easy money hit the global marketplace, they can throw the entire system of out of whack, leading to a cascade of imbalances: higher debt, a grossly enlarged financial sector and unsustainable bubbles.
If the free market party doesn’t offer the public an honest appraisal of capitalism’s weaknesses, the public will never trust it to address them. Power will inevitably slide over to those who believe this crisis is a repudiation of global capitalism as a whole.
Oh, my aching spleen! Where to start? How about a joke?

A recession is when your neighbor loses his job. A depression is when you lose your job. And a recovery begins when David Brooks loses his job.

The "weaknesses" of capitalism are not what this crisis is about. Economies expand, economies contract. Old businesses go bankrupt, new businesses are launched. "Economic stability" is (a) an impossible Keynesian fantasy that can never be achieved, and (b) arguably a bad thing. We don't want "stability," we want dynamism -- innovation, creativity, new businesses being launched, new technologies developed, new markets emerging, etc.

What Brooks cannot be made to see is the weaknesses of government -- the utter inability of the federal behemoth to competently manage or regulate the economy. To argue that "capitalism's weaknesses" require government intervention, one must first suppose that there is something useful or helpful that government can actually do that it is not already doing, or that it can do a better job of the job it has done so badly in recent years.

There is no evidence for the Brooksian view. We have no reason to believe that future government interventions will be more competent or effective than previous interventions -- It Won't Work -- and we have many reasons to believe that the severity of the current crisis is a direct consequence of misguided interventions in the past.

Brooks is not interested in evidence. He is interested in being thought clever. He knows even less about economics than he knows about politics, and he knows precious little about that. He is a menace, an enemy of common sense and sound policy. He must be fisked!

UPDATE 1 p.m.: He hasn't been fisked enough yet. Let me reiterate something that cannot be emphasized enough: Being articulate is not the same as being right.

No one can deny that David Brooks is a skillful writer. As a prose stylist, he is excellent. If the New York Times sent him to cover the infield scene at the Talladega 500, Brooks would come back with a brilliant, funny story -- and he would come back with fewer teeth, because some redneck would be unable to resist the urge to knock that arrogant smirk off his face.

Brooks is a classic example of The Writerly Delusion: The journalistic belief that one's aptitude for written articulation is the same thing as being knowledgeable about a subject. A truck driver might not be able to write a coherent narrative of how to drive a truck, but he can in fact drive it. David Brooks can write about economics without actually knowing anything useful about economics.

If Brooks were actually right about anything, his elegant prose would be a weapon on the side of truth. Because what he believes about economics and politics is wrong, however, his eloquence is a force for evil. He must be fisked, fisked brutally, and the fisking must be continued vigorously until he is converted to the cause of truth or shamed into silence.

UPDATE II: Linked by Dave at Point of a Gun, by Jimmie Bise at Sundries Shack and by Dan Riehl at Riehl World Views. Everybody join in and let's give Brooks the vicious gang-fisking he deserves.

UPDATE III: The question is asked, "What is an appropriate gift for David Brooks Fisking Day?" The answer, of course, is a Rule 2 FMJRA, such as this one from TrogloPundit.


  1. I thought fisking was supposed to involve valid arguments? Still waiting to see the fisking.

  2. The arguments are valid. Brooks knows nothing about economics. But he is in good company. Neither do Geithner and Obama. Only at the NYT could Brooks be considered a free-market conservative. He is anything but. He is decidedly to the left of where JFK was in the early 1960's. (Kennedy knew enough to champion tax cuts).

    Brooks parrots the leftist canard that the current crisis has something to do with the failings of free-market capitalsm. When, pray tell, have we allowed free-market capitalism in this country since the last, Great, Depression? I'll answer for you. "Never." Booms and busts are creatures of monetary policy. Turn on the printing press, and people spend like drunken sailors until the inevitable realization occurs that the money isn't real. Bust follows.

    It really is that simple. The present crisis, like all the others, is caused by government interference in the monetary system. Cheap money, loaned to banks, in an environment in which the Federal Government did everything possible to artificially encourage home buying, meant that the first evidence of the bubble's pop would be in the housing market. The "subprime lending crisis" (there is actually no such thing) no more caused what is going on than a toothache causes a cavity. Rather, banks that were drinking from a monetary fire hydrant miscalculated their real risks because their cost of funds was artificially cheap, thanks to Greenspan and Co. at the Fed.

    The banks overleveraged because they were defrauded by inflation. That's what bad monetary policy is: a fraud.

    But it didn't just fool banks. Every business in this country was given false information about values due to manipulation of the medium of value exchange. They all did things they wouldn't have done if they had known where reality lay. This is called "malinvestment." It's building houses no one needs; "investing" in infrastructure no one will use; building up employee ranks for the boom that never comes, etc., etc.

    Brooks is willing to blame free-market capitalism for this because he is a statist. He makes his living from the government as surely as does a GS-12 at the GAO. He associates with politicians, and he doles out publicity, negative and positive, to those in government. He knows not the first thing about how to grow a crop, produce any useful item, market it, sell it, etc. He is a chatterer who profits from the governing class. Naturally, he thinks the solutions to all things are to be found among chattering people like himself.

    So how about we all "just say no" and stop reading him? Life is too short to listen to the blathering of fools.

    I'm not a blogger. I don't know exactly what "fisking" means, but I would venture to reply to Anonymous that it has indeed begun.

  3. Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce "Bert," who is in fact a Samoan attorney otherwise known as Dr. Gonzo.

  4. Did you catch this by Athens & Jerusalem on Sunday?


    Mrs. P

  5. Did you even read to end, because Brooks' last two grafs read like something that frankly you yourself could have written?

    So to your overall point, Stacy, is it that capitalism has no shortcomings or weaknesses (as your sneer quotes suggest)?

    If not, then (1) why the sneer quotes; (2) what is bad or misleading about saying such things, including speculative bubbles, exist; and (3) what is wrong with Brooks' main point -- that a principled refusal to either deal with said shortcomings or weaknesses or even to acknowledge their existence will be used synechdochally by the anti-capitalist party to discredit capitalism per se.

    If so, is that because (1) capitalism in every example throughout human history has always measured up perfectly to some already-externally-existing standard of goodness or morality that it could, in principle, fail to meet or (2) the workings of capitalism are in and by themselves the arbiters and measuring-sticks of what is good or moral in every case. (Hint ... if you want empirically to ... ahem ... have a prayer, you'd better mean #2.)

    And is it your point, Stacy, that there is no difference between government's economic roles, competence and abilities in a depression and in a boom, between a time of frozen credit markets and a time of cheap credit, between attempts to affect the economy in aggregate and attempts to manage it in detail in the service of other social goals.

  6. Brooks:"That would mean supporting President Obama’s plan for global stimulus coordination, because right now most of the world is free-riding off our expenditures."

    What are the details of said global stimulus coordination?

    " That would mean eliminating all this populist talk about letting Citigroup fail"

    Does Brooks own stock in Citigroup?

    "because a cascade of insolvency"

    Why would there be a cascade of insolvency?

    " would inevitably lead to full-scale nationalization."

    So we should adopt pre-emptive nationaliztion?

    " It would mean coming up with a bold banking plan"

    What are the details of said bold banking plan?

    " rather than just whining about whatever the Democrats have on offer."

    We were told TARP should stabilize the banks. It didn't. Why will TARP + pork stabilize the banks?

  7. “So to your overall point, Stacy, is it that capitalism has no shortcomings or weaknesses (as your sneer quotes suggest)? “

    I am not Stacy but capitalism and the broader free market is simply people. People who do things not from force but from agreement. However since people are not perfect any free market will also not be perfect. They will make decisions that many will think are wrong and sometimes they themselves will think were wrong in hindsight. Sometime people will engage in force or fraud but that is why we have laws

    The self correcting feature of the free market is that when someone does the wrong things enough time or bad enough then they take the bad consequences of those actions. If you buy a house or houses you can’t afford, you get foreclosed on. If you are a bank and yes even a “too big to fail bank” you go out of business if you lend too much money to those who can’t pay it back. Or if you leverage yourself 10x, 20x, 30x your worth in good times and don’t have enough actual assets to pay up when the bad times hit then you lose.

    This is different from the government command economy since it is at best only marginally the will of the people and often the whim of the politician, bureaucracy and their politically connected friends and those decisions are backed up by government force whether you agreed with it or no.

    Where government is suppose to come in is when someone is engaged in force or fraud against the people. Instead with the Bush/Obama bailouts the government is rewarding those who are at best incompetent and at worse were engaged in the biggest fraud in history. Banks like Citigroup and Goldman Sachs should be not be getting bailouts they should be getting the Madof treatment, arranging their guilty pleas in front of a judge