Brooks: More Elites Please
by Deacon Blues
The New York Times’ David Brooks has mastered the art of writing a lot of paragraphs on something while missing the elephant sitting on the couch across the room from him. Today, Brooks wants to convince us that democracy may be in decline since the end of the Cold War (which it definitely is), and perhaps cannot compete with the “Guardian State” alternative models we see in China, Singapore, and elsewhere in Asia. To combat this, Brooks says with a straight face that the best way to reinvigorate our institutions is to let commissions of elites tackle our problems for us to proscribe market-based solutions.
The quickest way around all this is to use elite Simpson-Bowles-type commissions to push populist reforms.
The process of change would be unapologetically elitist. Gather small groups of the great and the good together to hammer out bipartisan reforms — on immigration, entitlement reform, a social mobility agenda, etc. — and then rally establishment opinion to browbeat the plans through. But the substance would be anything but elitist. Democracy’s great advantage over autocratic states is that information and change flow more freely from the bottom up. Those with local knowledge have more responsibility.
If the Guardian State’s big advantage is speed at the top, democracy’s is speed at the bottom. So, obviously, the elite commissions should push proposals that magnify that advantage: which push control over poverty programs to local charities; which push educational diversity through charter schools; which introduce more market mechanisms into public provision of, say, health care, to spread power to consumers.
At no point in Brooks’ analysis of our current problems does he mention campaign financing. But it's a cynical solution: let corporate and right-wing money destroy our governmental institutions and then call for the same people to come to our rescue.
It’s already bad enough that the elites and Corporate America have outsized control over our governmental institutions, but Brooks now wants them to be in charge of proposing the solutions to the problems they have largely created themselves. His solution is to let the unfettered takeover continue while these allegedly well-meaning elites finish rigging the system and wiring the ATM. I'm sure this will work even better when the Koch Brothers and other billionaires have finished buying up all the local governments and school boards.
The decline of this country can be traced to moment when corporations were considered people and money was considered speech. From that point on, this country was finished.