Last week I noted that David Brooks' columns can generally be broken down into four categories:
1) Making shit up: Patio Man used to go to the salad bar at Applebee's, but in this new economic paradigm, where social leveraging has broken down in the face of what I call the Blooming Onion Paradox, he stayed home and wondered why capital markets, usually so efficient, had failed to meet his needs. The problem, he suspected, actually lay with the inherent limitations of government.
2) Concern trolling: I'm going to keep an eye on President Obama. Every time he has the courage to resist the demands of angry liberal bloggers, or fulfills his promise to negotiate in good faith with Republicans, I'm going to lick my pencil and put a little check in the "plus" column of my ledger.
3) Writing something irrelevant, or indulging one of his pet social theories, because he either has nothing better to do or isn't equipped to tackle a complex issue.
4) Actually making sense.
His column today neatly fits into category No. 3. It also includes something else I mentioned last week -- his tendency to namedrop a 19-century scholar (in this case it's an 18th-century scholar, Edmund Burke) to lend his BS the appearance of gravitas.
Jim Newell of Wonkette took Brooks down a peg this morning, concluding by noting how irrelevant this column is to the pressing issues of the day: "David Brooks thanks you for listening. You are now free to return to Planet Earth, where the all of the biggest banks are insolvent and where serious people are trying to solve this."
What this really illustrates is the limits of education. Reading all the political philosophy in the world doesn't do you any good if your skull is filled with clanking, grinding gears and your political and intellectual instincts are inherently flawed. You don't have to have studied Michael Oakeshott or Friedrich Hayek to look at the facts of our economic morass and come up with a reasoned response. Brooks seems to hovers in no man's land. His conservatism won't allow him to voice full support for Obama's plan, but he's smart enough -- and, to his credit, independent enough of the Republican Party line -- to know that doing nothing isn't an alternative either. So he punts, which is that this column represents.