I think we have a winner.
It’s a bit early to call it, especially in such a competitive field, but right now I am really leaning towards this contribution from David Brooks:
He’d do it because this is the beating center of American life — the place where the trajectory of American politics is being determined.
—David Brooks, Midwest at Dusk, New York Times (November 4, 2010)
Keep in mind what an impressive achievement is just to be the stupidest sentence in a single Op-Ed column by a commentator who apparently cannot find the Midwest U.S. on a map. But while most of the column is just dumb, the notion that
the beating center of American life is simply identical with, or even has a good goddamn to do with,
the trajectory of American politics (meaning the state-by-state results of seasonal U.S. elections) or whether or not
the U.S. will remain a predominant power (!) is not only stupid, but immensely narrow-minded and pernicious, and a pretty good one-sentence illustration of everything that is wrong with David Brooks, as a commentator and as a human being.
(Via William Easterly, via Jesse Walker 2010-11-05.)
To-day, in the online edition of The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty, you’ll find the following column — in which I find myself in the unusual position of saying that David Brooks did say one true thing in his New York Times column:
health care reform
Credit where credit is due: David Brooks does say one true thing in his New York Times column
The Values Question (Nov. 24) on government health care reform:
The system after reform will look as it does today, only bigger and more expensive.
Brooks is certainly right that no
health care reform proposal with any chance in mainstream partisan politics promises any fundamental change to the status quo. What we have had is a system where pervasive government regulation, subsidy, and mandated captive markets corral workers into an industry driven by sky-high costs, managed by bureaucratic pencil-pushing and corporate economizing (often at the expense of innocent people’s health or lives), and owned by a handful of uncompetitive, well-entrenched incumbent corporations. No mainstream
reform proposal will change anything about that. The proposals mainly concerned themselves with introducing new government subsidies and new captive-market mandates to force yet more workers and money into the broken system.
But Brooks takes all this as a sign that the health care debate is about fundamental
values. I think it’s a sign that conventional political debate is a superficial squabble over meaningless details. The real debate is about grammar.
—Charles Johnson, The Freeman Online (2009-12-22): The Health Care Debate Has Been
Meaningful? It Just Ain’t So!
For more on why (although, if you’ve been here a while, you might be abe to guess), you can read the whole thing at the Freeman’s website. The column will also be appearing in print in the March 2010 magazine.