Tuesday, March 02, 2004

David Brooks takes a bold intellectual stand today, arguing that the seemingly commonsense belief that poor people need money to eat is in fact an illusion, borne out of discredited Marxist theory:

[Senator] Edwards talks about poverty in economic terms. He vows to bring jobs back to poor areas and restrict trade to protect industries. He suggests that if we could take money from the rich and special interests, there'd be more for the underprivileged.

This kind of talk is descended from Marxist theory, which holds that we live in the thrall of economic conditions. What the poor primarily need is more money, the theory goes. ...

Conservatives, on the other hand, believe that liberals have it backward. In reality, culture shapes economics. A person's behavior determines his or her economic destiny. If people live in an environment that fosters industriousness, sobriety, fidelity, punctuality and dependability, they will thrive. But the Great Society welfare system encouraged or enabled bad behavior, and popular culture glamorizes irresponsibility.

So if food banks in the suburbs can't handle the demand from laid-off executives, it must be because those laid-off executives don't live in an environment that fosters industriousness, sobriety, fidelity, punctuality, and dependability. If they did, they would thrive.

Just look at former telecom analyst Jack Grubman, who is under a lifetime ban on working in the securities industry, and paid a $15 million fine to settle a case arising from his strong buy recommendations for companies that quickly went broke, but hasn't let that get him down. He has just been hired as a strategic consultant for a telecom firm. Clearly this reflects his superior culture.

Or heck, look at Paris Hilton. If the culture of industriousness, sobriety, fidelity, punctuality and dependability in which she was raised does not explain how she has thrived, then what does?

Brooks is particularly hard on Senator John Edwards, who in his campaign speeches has been talking about finding jobs for the poor. If they had the right culture, the jobs would appear as if by magic. And how would we know when they had the right culture? Why, when they had jobs.

And don't envy the rich. Rockefeller said, "G-d gave me my money". Know your place.

Economics has nothing to do with it.

For a Jew, Brooks makes one hell of a Calvinist...


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