It’s finally happened: somebody’s managed to penetrate David Brooks’s neutronium denial shield and impress upon him that the American economy isn’t so hot for the proles at the Applebee’s salad bar, and all that manages to come tumbling out is that Both Sides Do It.
Democrats claim America is threatened by the financial elite, who hog society’s resources. But that’s a distraction. The real social gap is between the top 20 percent and the lower 30 percent. The liberal members of the upper tribe latch onto this top 1 percent narrative because it excuses them from the central role they themselves are playing in driving inequality and unfairness.
It’s wrong to describe an America in which the salt of the earth common people are preyed upon by this or that nefarious elite. It’s wrong to tell the familiar underdog morality tale in which the problems of the masses are caused by the elites.
The truth is, members of the upper tribe have made themselves phenomenally productive. They may mimic bohemian manners, but they have returned to 1950s traditionalist values and practices. They have low divorce rates, arduous work ethics and strict codes to regulate their kids.
Members of the lower tribe work hard and dream big, but are more removed from traditional bourgeois norms. They live in disorganized, postmodern neighborhoods in which it is much harder to be self-disciplined and productive.
I doubt Murray would agree, but we need a National Service Program. We need a program that would force members of the upper tribe and the lower tribe to live together, if only for a few years. We need a program in which people from both tribes work together to spread out the values, practices and institutions that lead to achievement.
If we could jam the tribes together, we’d have a better elite and a better mass.
It’s like Brooks is some sort of Sisyphean device that has one purpose: to take any possible social paradigm observation, smash it with a sledgehammer, and reconstruct the bits in order to fit his god-awful worldview of bipartisanship, even if the pieces don’t fit and had nothing to do with the original observation in the first place, and he has to repeat that until the end of time. There are people that just don’t get it, people that don’t get it on purpose as satire, and then there’s David Brooks (who should be regularly harvested for the rich oil of contempt for anyone who makes less than six figures that he drips with) who somehow manages to make “not getting it” into an exciting new field of scientific endeavor. I’ve got a fiver that says if Brooks was jammed together with any actual American middle-class salt-of-the-earth family for more than 3 hours, there would be blood all over the carport and a Garden Weasel shoved in a very uncomfortable place upon his person.
And he would not get invited to Applebee’s. No sir. No riblets for him.
[UPDATE] Seriously, is this blame the victims week at the Village or what?
[UPDATE THE SECOND] Charles Pierce in the center square for the win.