Tuesday, June 10, 2014

From nanny state to stay-at-home dad state

Adult strabismus. Via Kimberly Cockerham, M.D.
Today's Brooks report is about Room to Grow, a free online manifesto  by the New Right Conservative Reforming, and Sometimes Neo-, Conservatism that offers, according to the made-to-order blurb by no less a reformed figure than Jennifer Rubin (the conservative publicist burrowed in the Washington Post, not the movie star),
"…[A] forward-looking message that can energize the base and reconnect with a broad electorate."
Which suggests a little bit of a marketing problem, which is that they're not actually addressing either the base or a broad electorate, but just talking to each other, so that message may not be looking forward after all. Indeed it may be suffering from strabismus and looking primarily at its nose.

But I digress. And I just got started, too.

My favorite moment in the Brooks column is:
Second, conservatives should not be naïve about sin.
I'm not sure what came first—I think it was the line about how we should replace the nanny state with local paternalism, perhaps we could call it a butler county or a chauffeur tract—but it hardly matters.

My other favorite is the proposal that the Overton Window should baffle the Nonreforming Conservatives by moving simultaneously in two different directions:
the government would address middle-class economic security by devolving power down to households and local governments. This is both to the left of the current Tea Party agenda (more public activism) and also to the right (more fundamental reform). The agenda is a great start but underestimates a few realities.
Oh, that's where the first thing came in, at the end of the paragraph:
First, the authors underestimate the consequences of declining social capital.
I guess I didn't notice because I was reading it backwards.

The authors are the authors of Room to Grow. The decline in social capital is how
millions of Americans are behaving in ways that make no economic sense: dropping out of school, having children out of wedlock. They do so because the social guardrails that used to guide behavior have dissolved. 
The national high school dropout rate has been declining steadily from 1970, when it stood at 15%, to 2011, when it reached 7%. Over a third of Hispanic students dropped out in 1972 (that's more than 33%, David) compared to 13.6% today. The rate for black students in 1967 was 29%, and now it is 7%, the same as the number for students overall. This is not a problem that requires any special new solutions.

The rate of childbirth in women ages 15 to 19 has fallen to historic lows from 89 births per 1000 teens in 1960 to 31 per 1000 by 2011 (in spite of an upward trend from 1986 to 1991). The overall rate of childbirth to unmarried women hasn't particularly gone down, but their ages have gone way up, as has their tendency to be living in cohabiting couples, married in all but the license. There may be a problem here, but it isn't the problem he thinks it is.
Via New York Daily News.
Most likely it just keeps getting harder to imagine yourself married as you fall farther and farther behind the position your parents were in when they were your age in a time of affordable college and labor unions and a progressive tax system. Just the way we can no longer afford a nanny state because we can no longer afford the nanny. Indeed, the state had to cut its housekeeper down to one day a week and send its kids to public school. Effectively, what the end of big government has given us is a stay-at-home dad state.

So people put off the wedding, but we keep forming families anyway, if maybe less stable ones, because nature. Better than "dissolving guardrails" (what the hell kind of metaphor is that? They went under water and turned out to be made of spun sugar or something?) might be the old-fashioned but meaningful "unraveling safety net".

The sin part is not necessarily sin in any conventional sense but rather something very complicated:
We are moving from a world dominated by big cross-class organizations, like public bureaucracies, corporations and unions, toward a world dominated by clusters of networked power. These clusters — Wall Street, Washington, big agriculture, big energy, big universities — are dominated by interlocking elites who create self-serving arrangements for themselves. Society is split between those bred into these networks and those who are not.
I have no idea what he thinks he's talking about here, like there was some time in the recent past where there wasn't any networked power or self-serving elites; it seems to be a reference to something he's read and not understood very clearly, if at all, but I'm not getting to what it is—although there may be a clue in a rather unsatisfactory Wikipedia stub claiming that
cross class alliance is a term for an organization that bypasses social-economic classes in pursuit of its aim. It is often used by Trotskyists as a term of abuse towards popular fronts as they prefer working class united fronts, however some also accuse some supposed united fronts as being cross class alliances.
Here's a hypothesis: the famous public intellectual Irving Kristol was famously a follower of Leon Trotsky himself before he became a conservative and fathered the famous comedian and Weekly Standard editor (a magazine for which David Brooks worked for many years) Billy Kristol. Could the famous conversion of the Kristol crowd to conservatism (reformed or otherwise) be a tactical deception, a feint to cover some deeper, sinister development? Are these people, Brooks among them, really taking over the reformed, and sometimes neo-, conservative movement from underground, in an effort to spark world revolution? Why they hate Piketty and Krugman and the rest, because of that bourgeois-liberal focus on avoiding revolution: "No, no, it's all got to burn!" I'm just asking.

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