David Brooks on the conservative future

It is an excellent column and here is one good bit:

Soft Libertarians. Some of the most influential bloggers on the right, like Tyler Cowen, Alex Tabarrok and Megan McArdle, start from broadly libertarian premises but do not apply them in a doctrinaire way.

Many of these market-oriented writers emphasize that being pro-market is not the same as being pro-business. Luigi Zingales of the University of Chicago published an influential book, “A Capitalism for the People,” that took aim at crony capitalism. Tim Carney of The Washington Examiner does muckraking reporting on corporate-federal collusion. Rising star Derek Khanna wrote a heralded paper on intellectual property rights for the House Republican Study Committee that was withdrawn by higher-ups in the party, presumably because it differed from the usual lobbyist-driven position.

There are additional shout outs to many other writers I admire (and like).  And this:

Most important, they matured intellectually within a far-reaching Web-based conversation. In contrast to many members of the conservative political-entertainment complex, they are data-driven, empirical and low-key in tone.

But do read the whole thing.

Addendum: Paul Krugman comments.


I'd say it's nearly impossible to be pro-free-market and pro-big-business, unless both are very shallow opinions.

Or you just have to believe in economies of scale.

Or believed, as was generally the case in the 50s and 60s, that the only other alternative was communism.

I think you can make the argument that the benefits gained from economies of scale outweigh the inevitable detriments of big business (such as seeking to use the government to create barriers to entry in their industry, or a continuing flow of subsidies), but I don't think you'd be arguing for a free market.


Brooks still doesn't address how the Republican party can keep everyone in the minority tent happy. The Evangelical and other social value conservatives look ready to bolt and all the libertarians in the country won't be enough to replace them. Brooks is still delusional as he has been for most of the election year. Demographics are working against the party in except for the near term in the Gerrymandered House districts.

"Brooks still doesn’t address how the Republican party can keep everyone in the minority tent happy. The Evangelical and other social value conservatives look ready to bolt and all the libertarians in the country won’t be enough to replace them."

I doubt this will happen. This is all just the normal post losing election grumbling you here. The exact same kind of grumbling happened after the 2004 election with Democrats and yet the party didn't implode.

And where are the democrats going to get the money for all their gifts?

The tax the rich thing will work a little longer. Then nothing will work.

and the gifts are???? Social Security has been around since the 1930s and Medicare since the 1960s. If you looked at the cross section of the voters in the recent election I suspect that both sides received equal amounts of gifts particularly when you throw all the tax preferences in which are in fact much bigger gifts to the plutocrat group than to the rest of the population. Anyone receiving preferential tax treatment on cap gains and dividends (yes I'm guilty here) is receiving a gift from the government. It cuts both ways and you have to admit this or be deemed a hypocrite.

You don't think Obama is spreading the wealth?

You brought it up, it's probably irrelevant, but I'll bite. Please point me to a good argument for the existence and rates of the dividend and capital gains taxes.

If Obama is "spreading the wealth", he is doing a very poor job of it, given that US inequality is at historically unprecedented levels.
The "redistribution" in the US that seems to concern conservatives so much in reality is redistributing wealth from everybody else to the top 0.1%. Which is why the Koch brothers and Adeleson had $600 million to spare that they could spend hoping to influence the election. Clearly they need a 20% tax break, too bad Romney was unable to give them that "gift".

Thankfully, the government doesn't control everything. They don't control all the factors that create inequality.

Obama does Obamacare to spread the wealth. He extended the Bush tax cuts, but even the Bush tax cuts didn't cause all the inequality.

And the inequality is the constant refrain as justification for increasing the spreading the wealth. He said he believed in spreading the wealth. He attempted to spread the wealth. He succeeded in spreading the wealth. Just because he doesn't offset the effects of globalization, tax cuts, the recession and everything else either because he's incompetent at it or it's just impossible is beside the point.

That was kind of a classic "please prove my argument for me," Andrew'. One would think that if you had a great, big, unambiguous example of an Obama "gift" you would have used it immediately.

You act as if Obama invented these things.

"and the gifts are????"

1) Transferring bond holder money to the UAW.
2) Free birth control, abortions, etc to women.
3) Allowing adults up to 26 to have a 'free' ride on their parent insurance.
4) No deportation of illegal immigrants under X age.
5) Blocking the Keystone XL pipeline.

The Obama administration has been explicitly targeting specific voting groups with largesse for four years.

1) if I cared, it would still be a one-off. 2) nickels and dimes. 3) a subset might free ride, but given that they'd largely be people with congenital illness, the alternative is pretty harsh. 4) nickels and dimes, again. 5) shoehorn anything into a "gift" why don't you.

5) Blocking the Keystone XL pipeline.

A great example of the distinction between being pro-business and being pro-market. The land for the Keystone XL pipeline was being procured almost entirely through eminent domain. It's typical of Republican incoherence that they want to claim to be champions of property rights while demanding that the government forcibly transfer the property of hundreds of individuals to a corporation in the pursuit of a centralized government industrial policy strategy.

Maybe the the same place some other party gets money for gifts to the old and gifts for defense contractors.

That's going away too. Care to bet which side kills their sacred cows first?

It all comes from the same place: leveraged anticipation of future tax receipts. Those future tax receipts will not come anywhere close to the combined liabilities of maintaining the Pax Americana and its aging, indebted population--this is social and mathematical certainty.

Austerity will happen, which means "Greece" will happen, whether the Republicans, the Democrats or even the libertarians want it or not.

"Those future tax receipts will not come anywhere close to the combined liabilities of maintaining the Pax Americana and its aging, indebted population–this is social and mathematical certainty."

+2, The US retirement age will have to go up, at least to age 70, probably more to cover Medicare and the increased amount of government disability payments. Many public pensions will have to be renegotiated to reflect reality. The vote buying political class can't change the underlying math. And the 'rich' don't have nearly enough money to make up the difference.

I disagree. We are coming out of a Kondratiev wave. Transportation usually is a factor in those and we are on the verge of a new commercial transportation system. SpaceX, which will soon have an IPO will soon be the first and only commercial company providing commercial rides to low earth orbit, or LEO. This has been state run monopolies since the space age started. There are a lot of strategic players entering this market.

Bigelow Aerospace, they will lease low cost facilities in LEO. Billionaire Robert Bigelow Founder.
Stratolauncher, they are building a two stage to orbit reusable system. Billionaire Paul Allen, founder
Planetary Resources, harvest asteroids for ice and Platinum group metals. (goto their site and check out the team .. a who's who of billionaires.

There is a longer list of other companies forming other suborbital transportation systems which will, by the end of the decade, create point to point global travel.

With 3 - 5 trillion (depending on who's numbers you look at) sititng on the sideline waiting to hear eureka it is not going to take much to trigger this. A netscape moment is waiting in the wings. Luna is a 9 billion acre unclaimed asset, and space rocks will create overnight trillionaires... then the real magic happens....

@Vladislaw - deus ex machina.

One thing that may pull us out of the doom loop: the Left drops its opposition to nuclear power.

I agree on Nuclear power. NASA is running short of plutonium for deep space probes, beacause the US shot down production. President Obama tried to provide funding for it but the republicans in the house ... voted it down.. not because they were against it .. because the president was for it.

We have to get the politics out of it. When the grandfather of the alternative energy movement says that nuclear has to be a major component .. time for the the loonie left and radical right to listen.


do you feel comfortable with Brook's labeling you "on the right"? The content of your writing on this blog has been almost entirely non-partisan in terms of politics, and pretty iconoclastic in terms of ideology (though perhaps more critical of Keynesian ideas, on the balance).

its nice to be flattered by a writer like Brooks, but is the label appropriate? do you even want a label at all?


Cowen supported the war in Iraq. Definitely on the right, many libertine libertarians are just Repubs afraid to say so,

Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton supported the war in Iraq. Republicans, too, are they?

Obama supported the war in Iraq... once he was president.

I was against the war going in- I was in the minority.

A couple years later, I was against a cut-and-run policy. Again, I was in the minority.

I think this proves that a segment of the population was for the war, then changed their mind a couple years in.

I would not want to have the American people as my boss.

Grouping "invading a sovereign country" with "now that we've made that mistake, we can't just withdraw and leave a power vacuum for even worse despots to fill" under a single banner of "being for the war" is bullshit and I wish both sides would stop with these semantic games.

Obama did not support invasion, but he supported a gradual draw-down of American forces, just to make it crystal clear to the comprehension-deficient.

You can be pro-business without being pro-crony capitalism. Of course many people choose to define big-business as being crony by default, but that's not true in many if not most cases.

All the government would have to say is "no, thanks, not interested" to industry lobbyists. They don't.

Apocryphally, Microsoft tried to do it their way, they got the shaft, now they lobby. The government doesn't want you to be GDI.

Now what party was it?


If "pro-business" is contrasted with "pro-market", as it almost always is, then no you cannot. That is how the term is defined, however loosely. Pro-business politicians, pundits, and individuals want exemptions, handouts, tax breaks, subsidies, and general bending of the rules in favor of business. Stronger IP protection. Less free trade. And so on and so forth. This is the essence of crony capitalism.


Addendum: So much for even-handedness. Give me my ------- money, minus whatever you need to waste in order to justify the claim of public good, and then I won't care what kind of schooling you force on people. Or, just let states decide what goes into schools. You just can't bring yourself to do that, can you?

"Finally, it’s true that there are some Republican intellectuals and pundits who seem to be truly open-minded about both economic and social issues. But I worded that carefully: they “seem to be” open-minded; indeed, they’re professional seemers. When it matters, they can always be counted on — after making a big show of stroking their chins and agonizing — to follow the party line, and reject anything that doesn’t go along with the preacher-plutocrat agenda."

*cough*Megan McArdle*cough*

Open-minded like Paul Krugman? You do realize how ridiculous that is coming from him?

We are a day removed from the day that we should all mark on our calendars where he treated the guy who gets paid by the same people who pay him respectfully and everyone almost threw their panties at the guy.

I'm learning to let go. I haven't learned yet.

Andrew' now is probably a good time to 'get a grip' and not 'let go' (including undergarments). Krugman has been very clear about his self perceived duty to be blunt to the point of rudeness. I disagree but I am not surprised. Brooks gave a good list of interesting rightish folks that the typical NYTimes reader might not happen upon and Krugman chimes with a so what? There's a massive slog from having good ideas to becoming a policy advisor so maybe both op eds have their point. I do think Krugman went over the top saying these folks just 'seemed' open minded, but I just ignore him when he goes too far.

So.. all the time?

Nah, just ignore the character attacks. I do not always agree with him on substance, but I can't think of another economist with more rhetorical command over the blog format.

McArdle endorsed Obama in 2008.

+1 for inconvenient truth.

Oh yes indeed.

Megan is a poster child for Manhattan/DC mood affiliation. She snarks at conservatives even when she agrees with them:

I'm generally annoyed by conservatives who claim that Washington is full of pointy-headed wonks who have never held a "real job" . . . but I do think that the most dangerous weakness on the pro-reform side is a broad ignorance of how companies actually work.

How about the a party that is the smart party that wants to get rid of the stupid stuff, the rob Peter to pay Peter stuff. The stuff that does not work.

McArdle is on the right?!?!

Libertarians will always be on the right. Periodically they will kid themselves that they can mix with the liberals.

A physics professor once illustrated that a submerged beach ball doesn't so much float as it is squeezed out by the water.

Whatever the heck thats supposed to mean.

If libertarianidm us "right", then what exactly is the right? "left-libertarianism" has nothing to do with the right. Most variants of libertarianism completely defy left-right definitions.

Well, she's to the right of Brooks....

She's economically illiterate and mathematically innumerate. So it's hard to tell. The idea that McArdle has any influence over anyone gives me cold shivers.

Looks as if Brooks read your link to Dreher's Manzi list...

I generally agree with the shout-outs, but have to say, McMegan may be "data-driven", but still needs a new calculator with which to tally that data.

Krugman: "So what should we call these new Republicans? I have a suggestion: why not call them “Democrats”?"

Quite a rhetorical flourish, that!

As a Democrat AND fan of marginal revolution, I was thinking the same thing while reading Brooks' column!

Krugman's response is every bit as belittling to and ignorant of the argument he's responding to as I've come to expect from him over the last few years. So disappointing.

Paul Krugman got one decent well balance article in a few days ago. That was his quota for the year. So now it's back to Mr. Team D Nobel-Prize.

Note: It wasn't balanced. It's just that for the guy who said, to paraphrase, it's too important to be even-handed, he has us conditioned such that it looked relatively balanced.

We heard you the other 50 times you said it.

He didn't mention Steve Sailer. Obviously he didn't want to upset breakfasting NYT readers.

Or he's not an idiot.

This by the way, is one of my favorite form of non-argument arguments. It is apparently not possible to simply find Steve Sailer to be wrong. No. If you don't like Steve Sailer it can only be because you're PC or genuflecting to the PC gods.

It's also possible that Steve Sailer isn't on everyone's radar - as should be the case: monotones quickly grow tiresome.

As opposed to the Krugman mantra, add money and stir.

I don't read Krugman either. He's too polemical.

"No. If you don’t like Steve Sailer it can only be because you’re PC or genuflecting to the PC gods."

or his facts and analysis chafe your leftoid hide.
keepin' it real.

Brooks wrote a column a few years ago mentioning some of the same names. Let the record show Will Wilkinson, Julian Sanchez, James Poulos and Matt Continetti have been bumped!

So Brooks thinks the soft libertarians are less delusion than the Republican Party. OK. That just means you can probably be trusted with scissors (unlike most of the Republican Party).

I have yet to see this online "center-right conversation" have any influence on the Republican party. Almost every sane observer has recognized that Republicans in Congress have become more ideological than ever before. They've utterly refused to compromise on anything. They've completely disregarded paying for anything, and certainly don't deserve the title of being "fiscally conservative." Dissenting voices within the Republican party are cast out. Republican congressmen echo the message pedaled by the dominant voices of the conservative entertainment complex.

So Brooks' punchline is, the ethnics are taking over.

"Hmmm, Brooks has an interesting case. So the Republicans are turning into good guys? Then they must be Democrats. Except they're not, of course, they're just pretending."

- Krugman on the possibility that his entire caricatured worldview is wrong. I LOLed so hard.

I see the rest of Krugman's life playing out as a prime example of the sunk cost fallacy. Keep on doubling down all the way to the old folks home PK!

You know something is wrong with your party when you are being called "the stupid party" by scott sumner.

Traditionally the republicans are "the stupid party" and democrats are "the evil party." It was common before Scott started using it.

"Traditionally the republicans are “the stupid party” and democrats are “the evil party.” "

No, you got it backwards.;)
Joe Biden = Stupid
Dick Cheney = Evil

Why do many of the commernters (and granted, to some extent the items by Brooks and Krugman that tee up the comments) see everything as a prism of D versus R? Is there not room for some public intellectuals to try to advance what they see as good ideas without trying to calculate how those ideas do or do not advance one of the two teams? For someone like myself (not a public intellectual by any means, but the rationale scales down to ordinary citizens and their lesser spheres of influence) whose views are a mixture of conservative on some issues, progressive on others, libertarian on still others, so off the wall on a few that probably no group would want to claim me, as well as (I would like to think) pragmatic and open-minded on most issues, there's is very litle point in trying to push for team D and team R when I disagree with elements of both creeds. Politicians, of whom I am not one and who most citizens need not emulate, can try to assemble their coalitions from whatever mixture of views they find citizens hold. I get that; good luck to them. But why shouldn't some people who don't care for that game try instead to affect what those views are. That will inevitably (well, likely anyway) have a good effect on what coalitions can be assembled, on which one wins, on the possibility of compromise, and perhaps even a healthy loosening of too polar character of our politics these days. The politicians can play their chess game, but there's room for others to try to change the pieces they have to use.

Careful, thoughtful and reasonable nonideological posts like this are blasphemy here. Pick a team, grab your helmet, and go fight!

Basically, Brooks is saying ditch the social conservatives and go with the libertarians. This is what the social conservatives were afraid of during the Reagan years. I don't think it's a winning formula. I know libertarians don't like to read accounts of libertarianism written from outside the cult, but this is a good recent expose on the foundations of libertarianism: http://www.nsfwcorp.com/dispatch/milton-friedman .Of course, for those old enough to remember, Conservatives in the 70's and 80's used to quote Adam Smith and MIlton Friedman, you don't see this much these days. Today's libertarian(business front types) quote reactionary Eastern European idealogues that espouse ideas that are certainly not American.

Even a cursory glance at the history of libertarianism shows what utter nonsense this pseudohistory attempts to convey.

Hilarious link. Mark Ames = prior_approval?

To think that such a worthy policy like rent control was undermined by such a cabal!

And Larry Summers is in on it too! Figures- the guy's a woman-hater right?

Was that "expose" written by Michael Moore?

Just a bunch of "guilt by association" crap, completely lacking any substance or logic. If that's what he thinks of as the "origin" of libertarianism, he clearly has no clue what libertarianism even is.

If you follow socionomics, it would fit that the Republicans will dump the social/evangelical base. There will be a period where the left will be in total control, as the Republicans split into two parties. The right-wing will then become reactionary as we know it, but it will actually become revolutionary in the sense that it will wipe away the current society after the collapse/WWIII. (Think in time scales of 50,100 or 200 years. There are almost no truly right wing politicians in America, you've got a few guys like Buchanan, but even he's been pushed out by the Republican establishment.) Golden Dawn (whatever form it takes in each nation) is the future of politics in the Western world, not the past.

Sometimes I think Krugman is a social experiment. He really can't be a real person. No one can be that smug and conceited and still be taken seriously by so many people. Is he capable of saying one nice thing about any Republican? Anyone?

I think Krugman has been nice about David Frum. :)

This David Brooks?


Couldn't find the column about how smitten he was with the crease in Barky's pants. That's even better.

David Brooks spends most of the column talking about people like himself -- pundits who spend their lives writing about their opinions. That's fine, but what does it necessarily have to do with the people actually in charge of the Republican Party? Brooks spends all of two sentences at the end of the column on them: "Since Nov. 6, the G.O.P. has experienced an epidemic of open-mindedness. The party may evolve quickly."

That isn't much of an argument. Krugman -- despite the Two Minutes Hate from some commenters here -- correctly criticizes Brooks for this. The Republican Party at the national level has been a party that advocates low(er) taxes, a small federal government, and a minimal welfare state since the 1920s. There isn't any evidence that this orientation is going to change anytime soon. When the bellyaching on the right and the victory laps on the left both stop, people will realize that Obama won the election with margins of a few percentage points in a few swing states. That isn't the kind of defeat that leads to seismic changes in the political landscape and it's easy enough to see how the election could have gone the other way -- for instance, had Europe imploded and caused a double-dip recession in the U.S.

The prospect for a shift on social issues (aside from ones like gay marriage where public opinion is reaching a tipping point) is even less promising. A lot of research shows that social issues matter a lot to high-income voters but not nearly as much to low-income voters. Romney won a majority of votes among people with incomes higher than $50,000 and there isn't any evidence that there is a high-income libertarian or liberal vote who will start voting for Republicans in large numbers if the party shifts its views. A future Republican candidate needs to do better among minorities and low-income people and leaning to the left on social issues will not deliver those votes.

No lie: I knew Krugman was going to say "call them Democrats" before I even clicked on the link.

Alex isn't an anarcho-capitalist, but I can't think of any other ground for calling him a "soft" libertarian. He doesn't seem to fit with Cowen/McArdle in that respect, even if he does blog with the former.

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