14 September 2004

Blogging vacation over

    So I took an unexpected bloggin vacation for the last couple of week,
but it’s time for it to be over.  I’ll be back soon, with some
more of your favorite blend of religion and politics.

    If it weren’t so late, I would harp greviously on David Brooks’ column from last Friday
This was perhaps one of the most asinine examples of social “analysis”
that I have ever seen come from Brooks’ pen.  And I generally like
him, as I find much of what he has to say thoughtful and interesting
and informed.  “Theories” such as the following, unless he’s being
so subtly sarcastic that he doesn’t mean it, aren’t even worthy of the
twisted anti-rational logic of a candidate’s stump speech.

Why have the class alignments shaken out as they have? There are a
couple of theories. First there is the intellectual affiliation theory.
Numerate people take comfort in the false clarity that numbers imply,
and so also admire Bush’s speaking style. Paragraph people, meanwhile,
relate to the postmodern, post-Cartesian, deconstructionist,
co-directional ambiguity of Kerry’s Iraq policy.

I subscribe,
however, to the mondo-neo-Marxist theory of information-age class
conflict. According to this view, people who majored in liberal arts
subjects like English and history naturally loathe people who majored
in econ, business and the other “hard” fields. This loathing turns
political in adult life and explains just about everything you need to
know about political conflict today.

    This column, dividing the world between
“spreadsheet” people and “paragraph” people fundamentally
misunderstands the nature of contemporary academia, business, and
politics.  There are simpler explanations than Brooks’, and even
just one of them provide more explanatory power than Brooks’ tortured
scribbling.

    We know from public opinion and cross-sectional
surveys that as people gain more education, they tend to become more
politically liberal.  You can argue about the reasons this is the
case, if you like, but the empirics remain the same.  So we’d
expect our most highly educated people (college professors) to be on
average, more liberal.  And so we do.  CEOs have less
education that professors, and we’d expect them to be less
liberal.  Lo, and behold, that’s what Brooks points out.  But
instead of some gobbledegook about spreadsheet and paragraph people, we
have a simpler explanation that explains more.  And we can do this
with every example in Brooks’ article.

    But Brooks’ explanation has more rhetorical zing
than the better explanations.  It’s sad to see David go for flash
over substance, especially when it’s a fault he’s quick and insightful
at pointing out in political life, but that’s exactly what he
does.  The sin of spin.

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