Friday, July 10, 2009

He Who Hath Learned Nothing

Not content to have given us a splendid specimen on vicious nonsense on Tuesday, David Brooks returns today with a column ostensibly about how to end inflation in health care. Brooks being Brooks, radical libertarian ideas -- abolishing Medicare and Medicaid, letting the geezers fend for themselves and letting the poor rely on charity -- are not even considered, much less advocated.

Brooks is too serious, too responsible -- the columnist as policy adviser, a journalistic courtier -- ever to think radically. His discussion of health care is therefore a critique of proposed legislation, limited by conceptions of the politically feasible. And then there is this:
To get our overall fiscal house in order, we’re going to need to raise taxes on the rich. . . . We’re going to have to tax people in the middle class more.
Note the three first-person plurals ("our . . . we're . . . we're") that evoke the old punchline about Tonto and the Lone Ranger: "What do you mean, 'we,' Kemosabe?" Brooks rhetorically includes himself in the policy-making circle, inviting his readers to do the same, and presents his tax-increase proposals as imperatives: We need to do this, we have to do that.

Unstated in this "we" stuff is the inevitable "them": The taxpayers, who are not to be consulted about the imperative need for them to cough up more of their earnings to finance the business of "get[ting] our fiscal house in order."

Jennifer Rubin takes her shots at Brooks today, addressing the specifics of his column in terms of the overall prospects for passage of a health-care bill. I would argue, however, that the specifics of Brooksian discourse are merely symptoms of the disease, namely the conception of the columnist as a participant in governance, who views the governing class as "we," and the citizenry as "them."

The fact that the governing class is now composed of liberal Democrats is irrelevant to this basic problem of Brooksism. His political philosophy is neither liberalism nor conservatism, but rather elitism -- the belief that ordinary citizens are untrustworthy, incapable of self-government, unfit even to decide what to do with their own money.

It's your money, and Brooks seems to forget that. I don't. You are free to do as you wish with your own money. If you choose to give to the David Brooks Fisking Fund, I will therefore be grateful. The elite, who think themselves fit to decide what to do with your money, know nothing of gratitude.

1 comment:

  1. Stacey:

    I suggest reading Mel Brooks - less heartburn, more sense.