Arnold Kling  

Northern Evangelicalism

Highlights from The Rationa... Against High-IQ Misanthropy...
The social fabric is fraying. Human capital is being squandered. Society is segmenting. The labor markets are ill. Wages are lagging. Inequality is increasing. The nation is overconsuming and underinnovating. China and India are surging. Not all of these challenges can be addressed by the spontaneous healing powers of the market.
That is David Brooks, clearly no relation to Arthur Brooks.

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COMMENTS (11 to date)
Matt writes:

As usual, the market is judged by someone's notion of what it "does" or what it is supposed to do rather than what it is. The market is not good or bad because of its outcomes. The market or a market is good to the extent it represents consensual actions taken by autonomous human beings concerning their labor and their property.

David R. Henderson writes:

Interesting that David Brooks sees a surge in China and India as a "challenge."

guthrie writes:

Sounds like someone needs to read 'Rational Optimist'!

English Professor writes:

David Brooks is the one conservative that most of my liberal friends approve of. You can see why from his article. He is generally accepting of well-intentioned government action, even if that action has proved counterproductive. He tells us that the social fabric is fraying, but he seems oblivious to the arguments that government policies have contributed greatly to this problem. The labor markets are ill, he says, but he fails to mention that increases in the minimum wage, the uncertainty imposed on businesses by the new health-care mandates, and the extension of unemployment benefits all distort those markets. What does it mean to "overconsume"--who defines this term, and what is the evidence that it is truly a problem? And does anyone--and I mean ANYONE--truly believe that government can spur innovation? If anything, government is a persistent drag on innovation. Yes, my liberal friends love Mr. Brooks because for the most part he sees that world the same way they do.

Bill writes:

See Russ Robert's reaction to Brooks at

Joseph Sunde writes:

"Not all of these challenges can be addressed by the spontaneous healing powers of the market."

Certainly not ALL challenges can be addressed by the market, but goodness me, of the ones that Brooks lists in the above quote, certainly all of THOSE challenges can be addressed by the market.

Kurbla writes:

Matt, what should we do with your cell phone waves trespassing my property?

R Richard Schweitzer writes:

To be taken seriously, any such spouting should first describe "The Social Fabric."

That should be no great problem for David Brooks, the wordsmith trying for qualification as "intellectual."

Elvin writes:

I consider David Brooks closer to Mel Brooks.

Tariq Scherer writes:

"Not all of these challenges can be addressed by the spontaneous healing powers of the market."

I think David has misunderstood the role of a free market: it isn't the 'market' that addresses challenges but the agents within it. What a free and liberalised market does provide are incentives for these agents to perform optimal economic actions.

The converse of the 'market' being free and open is a government-led regulatory push to constrain and guide economic agents into action. But there is a core flaw here: we as humans respond to incentives but we almost always tend to rebel against punishment.

I think even David Brooks would agree with the power of incentives over that of the stick. I hope he does understand that his statement, that may be framed within the article's topic of misguided political priorities, is still unfair on the roles of markets.

Yes, as humans we can be frail, but an environment that suports our rational actions is one that will strengthen us, and when an economy is wounded, in need of healing, then that added strength can only be a positive goal.

Tariq Scherer
Twenty Four Something

fundamentalist writes:
Not all of these challenges can be addressed by the spontaneous healing powers of the market.

How would Brooks know? We haven't seen a free market in this country for about a century. However, he is right that the existing market, having been shot, bludgeoned and chained by the state, can't do much of anything.

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