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The American Power Elite

Glenn Greenwald on David Brooks. Hat tip to David Heleniak.
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It has long been the supreme fantasy of establishment guardians in general, and David Brooks in particular, that American politics would be dominated by an incestuous, culturally homogeneous, superior elite “who live in [Washington] and who have often known each other since prep school.” And while these establishment guardians love to endlessly masquerade as spokespeople for the Ordinary American, what they most loathe is the interference by the dirty rabble in what should be their exclusive, harmonious club of political stewardship, where conflicts are amicably resolved by ladies and gentlemen of the highest breeding without any messy public conflict.

In the wake of the financial crisis of 2008, Brooks fondly recollected that “once, there was a financial elite in this country” — “middle-aged men with names like Mellon and McCloy led Wall Street firms, corporate boards and white-shoe law firms and occasionally emerged to serve in government” — but that glorious “cohesive financial elite began to fall apart” in the 1960s. The 2008 financial crisis, celebrated Brooks, would lead to a rejuvenation of political power of “the sort that used to be wielded by the Mellons and Rockefellers and other rich men in private clubs” — “unlimited authority to a small coterie of policy makers” that “does not rely on any system of checks and balances, but on the wisdom and public spiritedness of those in charge.” This would usher in “an era of the educated establishment.” “A new center and a new establishment is emerging,” he gushed, one that will be disliked by liberals and conservatives alike; in other words, once you get rid of the commoners and the rambunctious ideologues, the somber, Serious elites will impose, with top-down magnanimity, true centrist wisdom (which just coincidentally happens to match the specific centrist-right views of David Brooks).

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  1. Glenn Greenwald is one of the few good relatively mainstream liberal commentators out there and if there were more liberals like him out there, I would have a much higher opinion of the left in general.

    As for David Brooks, I think he is one the worst authoritarian assholes around and the kicker is that he writes for the New York Times. I have found that the views he expresses are very much mainstream and he is considered a centrist which says more to me about the contemporary political scene than anything else. I have only read some of his articles, but just those alone made me sick to my stomach, now I can barely stand to read even one line of his. I think that at least in some respects, people look Brooks are worse than the Phelps, Dukes, and Metzger’s of the world because unlike those groups, his views are actually taken seriously by a large majority of the population.

    One thing that really bothers me about Brooks and people like him is that he believes all societal problems like violence and social breakdown are because of individualism and freedom in society so people like him believe that human beings have to return to authoritarian forms of social organization. The thing is that if you actually look at the places in the world that are the most violent and chaotic (Iraq, middle east, parts of Africa) these places are not full of radical libertarian individualists and free spirited “hippie” types. On the contrary, these places are almost always areas where patriarchal familial relations dominate as well as extreme fundamentalist religious belief systems, and generally collectivist forms of society. In Somalia, which is the statist’s current favorite bogeyman, from what I understand, the vast majority of young girls are forced to undergo female genital mutilation, which does not sound very socially liberal to me and certainly not anarchistic in any sense of the term I would accept. I think that in that location, and in the others that people describe as “anarchy”, what is really going on is a battle between miniature proto-states that are vying for control of territory. I think the same analysis would apply to the violence perpetuated by street gangs closer to home.

  2. David Brooks, from what I’ve seen, goes right up to the edge of understanding the system and stops short. He then resorts to conventional, system-approved “wisdom.”

  3. “I think that at least in some respects, people look Brooks are worse than the Phelps, Dukes, and Metzger’s of the world because unlike those groups, his views are actually taken seriously by a large majority of the population.”

    I feel the same way about Ann Coulter.

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