Letter to David Brooks

David Brooks’ New York Times column, The Day After Tomorrow elicited this response from economist Arnold Kling and this response from economist Russ Roberts.

This is the Brooks paragraph Kling and Roberts responded to:

The social fabric is fraying. Human capital is being squandered. Society is segmenting. The labor markets are ill. Wages are lagging. Inequality is increasing. The nation is overconsuming and underinnovating. China and India are surging. Not all of these challenges can be addressed by the spontaneous healing powers of the market.

Kling and Roberts disagree with Brooks last sentence.

I’m much more selective about the columns I read anymore.  I find reading columns to be much like having one-sided conversations with arrogant, know-it-alls who are more interested in demonstrating their unique, and often absurd, insights to attract ego stroking.

Just when you’ve digested, picked apart and incorporated last week’s column, the columnist puts out another one on another topic.  It never seems the criticisms of the previous columns are addressed.  It never seems like the conversation advances.

Forbes magazine requires its investment columnists to write once a year about the performance of the stocks they picked versus an appropriate investment benchmark.  I would read more opinion columns if writers did something similar like writing about the criticisms their columns have received, what they have found out to be wrong and what caused them to change their mind.

In other words, I’d be interested if they wrote in a way where they seemed genuinely interested in advancing the conversation to the best answer, rather than just shoving their opinion out there as if it were the best.

I would be very interested to see how David Brooks would respond to Russ Roberts criticism.

Specifically, I would like David Brooks to answer these questions:

  1. Does he believe that government contributed to the problems he writes about (e.g. “labor markets are ill”)?
  2. Why or why not?
  3. What makes him believe that not all of these challenges can be “addressed by the spontaneous healing powers of the market”?
  4. Which ones specifically cannot and why?


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