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Friday, August 1, 2014

David Brooks, "The Character Factory": All That's Needed Is Willy Wonka

After writing a masterful opinion piece on Tuesday (see:, David Brooks is back to writing drivel. In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Character Factory" (, Brooks delves upon the issue of building "character." Brooks would have us know:

"Nearly every parent on earth operates on the assumption that character matters a lot to the life outcomes of their children. Nearly every government antipoverty program operates on the assumption that it doesn’t.

. . . .

Social research over the last decade or so has reinforced the point that would have been self-evident in any other era — that if you can’t help people become more resilient, conscientious or prudent, then all the cash transfers in the world will not produce permanent benefits."

Brooks concludes:

"Character development is an idiosyncratic, mysterious process. But if families, communities and the government can envelop lives with attachments and institutions, then that might reduce the alienation and distrust that retards mobility and ruins dreams."

Fascinating! With some 50 million Americans on food stamps, with almost half of first babies in the US born to unwed mothers, and with cheap heroin available in the nation's suburban schools, the US government should focus on building the character of disadvantaged youths.

Query: After Congress legislates the qualities of this elixir, which agency of America's bankrupt government ($17.6 trillion of national debt, growing by the second) is going to administer this program? Perhaps Kathleen Sebelius might be willing to take a stab at managing this "thing." Or maybe Obama should seek out Willy Wonka.

Am I only imagining things, or is David Brooks beginning to sound like Thomas Friedman?

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