Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Brooks: Liberals Are Emotionless Automatons

Or whatever the hell he's blathering on about in his latest. It's a bit unfocused.

See, what he's trying to tell us is that liberals have no emotional core to their economics. It's all dry logic and drier models. Which is a bit weird, since his beef appears to be with economists. That's ridiculously misplaced: most economists aren't terribly liberal, and most liberals aren't any more fond of economists' assumptions or dry modelling than Brooks is purporting to be. It's a bizarre strawman, and while Brooks has practically built his CAREER on erecting strawmen, this one's support is a bit more rickety than most.

But that's not what he's really talking about. It's not that liberalism and liberal economists don't have emotions, it's that they have a basis for their emotions. That's what Brooks is railing against. He's trying to repeat the worn-out Republican shibboleths about how business is avoiding investing because they're afraid of Obama, about how all America needs to do is "pay off its debts" and everything will be okay, and about how the continuing recession proves that stimulus didn't work.

All of those assertions are ridiculous. We KNOW that they're ridiculous. We know that business isn't investing because demand is weak, and because the banks are happier getting free money from the government than lending to, say, small business owners. We know that the stimulus had an effect, but was too small and too focused on tax cuts to be able to seriously make a difference for an economy as large and as troubled as the economy of the United States. And we know that not everybody can pay off their debts at the same time, because every debt is somebody else's assets: so either the people with the assets have to cut down a LOT on their assets, spending more than they're inclined, or the economy needs to completely collapse so as to make the debts functionally worthless through widespread default.

And I think that Brooks knows that they're ridiculous, too. I'm sure he's had this explained to him. I'm equally sure that he couldn't even begin to seriously rebut his colleague Paul Krugman's debunking of these notions. It's an argument he can't win. So he's trying to avoid it, by saying that "facts are irrelevant!" while appealing to a superficially convincing mantra preaching "high savings and low debt", which denies the reality that that's literally impossible.

What's maddening—hello, emotion!—is that it's Brooks that is the amoral one. There is no morality in letting the wealthiest 1% get away with acting like robber barons, or in apologizing for what they've done to the economy. Yet, again, that's what Brooks is doing. Liberals are trying to stimulate the economy because THEY WANT PEOPLE TO GET BACK TO WORK, and get decent-paying jobs that can support themselves and their families at that. They're trying to rescue the middle class that Brook's 1% buddies are working so hard to destroy. Does Brooks? I doubt it. If he were, he would have said something about how the banks are once again leveraged to the hilt, just to try to truly get himself on the side of the Middle Americans that he pretends to advocate for.

It's just another way of pushing his conservative, 1%-serving ideology that destroyed America's middle class, turned the working class against itself, and continues to damage profoundly America's culture, economy and society. An ideology that ultimately destroys itself whenever it gains traction, because it's unimaginably self-defeating and destructive.

It's profoundly immoral. And utterly irrational.

Guess those two things fit together after all.

Edit: Oh, and Brooks? Liberals are absolutely cognizant of economics that takes psychology into account. That's why so many liberals are enormously interested in the work that behavioral economists like Dan Ariely are doing. And guess what they're finding out? Your solutions DON'T WORK. Your assumptions are wrong, your morality is suspect, and your frameworks are broken.

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