David Brooks: The Sloppy Hamiltonian

There is a huge contradiction at the heart of David Brooks' column this morning, although I got so caught up in his straw-man caricatures of political philosophies and his welter of small-bore policy proposals that I nearly missed it.

Early in the column, Brooks tries to explain why he isn't a "mainstream liberal." Liberal social programs, he asserts, haven't worked (let's debunk that one another time), and what's more, high taxes are needed to pay for them. High taxes are bad because "a pile of evidence" shows they lead to reduced working hours. And "in the face of Chinese and Indian competition, we don't need Americans working less." Let's let that stand and take him at his word: Brooks is not a mainstream liberal.

But Brooks is also not what he calls a "populist" because he doesn't believe that globalization is what's leading to the stagnant wages and vast inequality the nation is experiencing. So, Mr. Brooks, tell me again why we can't afford social programs? Something about competition with China and India?

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