Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Brooks Is Wrong

David Brooks today in the Times has a column on the American public's ambivalence--we don't want the government involved in lots of stuff but when there's a crisis, like the Deep Horizon blowout, we want the President to be front and center.

Here's the sentence I disagree with: "At some point somebody’s going to have to reach a national consensus on the role of government." And closing with"
"We should be able to build from cases like this one and establish a set of concrete understandings about what government should and shouldn’t do. We should be able to have a grounded conversation based on principles 95 percent of Americans support. Yet that isn’t happening. So the period of stagnations begins."
My bottom line is it's an intellectual's fantasy.  We never, in all of American history, have had such a consensus by 95 percent of the American people.  What we've had in the past, and will have in the future, is a tug of war among our various principles and viewpoints, with the balance sometimes one way and sometimes another.  It would be too easy to say we never go all to one side.  We actually do: we decided over time that slavery was wrong, that hierarchical customs were wrong, that segregation was mostly wrong, etc.  But on the role of government we've gone back and forth.  And thus it will be in days ahead.

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