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Monday, October 17, 2011

David Brooks, "The Great Restoration": Untelegenically, Americans Repair Their Economic Values

In yet another thoughtful New York Times opinion piece, "The Great Restoration" (, David Brooks informs us that notwithstanding the media attention being given to the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements, most of America is seeking to repair its economic values. Brooks writes:

"While the cameras surround the flamboyant fringes, the rest of the country is on a different mission. Quietly and untelegenically, Americans are trying to repair their economic values.

. . . .

The first norm is that you shouldn’t spend more than you take in. After an explosion of debt over the past few decades, Americans are now reacting strongly against the debt culture.

. . . .

Second, Americans are trying to re-establish the link between effort and reward.

. . . .

The third norm is that loyalty matters. A few years ago there was a celebration of Free Agent Nation. But now most people, even most young people, would rather work long-term for one company than move around in search of freedom and opportunity."

Sickened by the extremism of both the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements (the latter enthusiastically endorsed by New York Times columnists Kristof and Krugman), I find it gratifying to be informed by Brooks of this noiseless retrenchment of American values.

Forty years ago, I was contemptuous of President Nixon's reference to a "silent majority" and joined marches in the streets of Chicago in opposition to a senseless war in Vietnam. Today, I oppose American involvement in a senseless engagement in Afghanistan, but would like to believe that there indeed exists a "silent majority" which has come to acknowledge the inanity of this costly, prolonged conflict.

However, the Brooks op-ed is not so much about war, but rather about economics, and the resilience of Americans. It is a hopeful column, and I pray that Brooks is right. When, where and how will his theory be put to the test?

America today is governed by a telegenic president, who, by his own acknowledgement, has failed to improve the way in which Americans live during the course of his first term. "Change we can believe in" has crashed and burned.

Nevertheless, Obama is amassing a huge war chest to gain re-election. Although Obama failed to create jobs at Solyndra, in recent months he has opened campaign offices in 15 states, hired hundreds of staffers, and already spent $87 million to remain in the White House (see:

Will Americans provide the telegenic president with a second term, notwithstanding his economic and foreign policy failures? Obviously, the answer will in large part be determined by whether the Republicans are able to field a more reasonable candidate. Nevertheless, 2012 should prove something of an acid test for the Brooks sociological theory.

Partially deafened by prolonged proximity to artillery and rifle fire, I've grown to appreciate the virtues of quietude and hope David is correct in his assessment of predominant mainstream American values.

1 comment:

  1. Obama 2012 Campaign ads now hitting the internet.