Archive for the ‘David Brooks’ tag
I really appreciated David Brooks recent column about how — especially as the recent “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign for those abducted schoolgirls of Nigeria filters through the American media — the outside world still has Africa as a whole quite wrong.
In 2011, roughly 60 million African households earned at least $3,000 a year. By next year, more than 100 million households will make that much. Trade between Africa and the rest of the world has increased by 200 percent since 2000. Since 1996, the poverty rate has fallen by 1 percent per year. Life expectancies are shooting up.
Only about a third of this new wealth is because of commodities. Nations like Ethiopia and Rwanda, which have no oil wealth, are growing phenomenally. The bulk is because of economic reforms, increased productivity, increased urbanization and the fact that in many countries political systems are becoming marginally less dysfunctional.
Almost all rational people the world over agree the America’s system of funding political campaigns is, at best, bad. But it wasn’t ‘til I read this recent column from David Brooks I felt like I maybe understood quite why:
But campaign finance laws weren’t merely designed to take money out of politics; they were designed to protect incumbents from political defeat. In this regard, the laws have been fantastically successful.
The laws rigged the system to make it harder for challengers to raise money. In 1972, at about the time the Federal Election Campaign Act was first passed, incumbents had a campaign spending advantage over challengers of about 3 to 2. These days, incumbents have a spending advantage of at least 4 to 1. In some election years, 98 percent of the incumbents are swept back into office.
I enjoyed this column from David Brooks. His points about the abilities that humans have that machines don’t and likely won’t:
Second, the era seems to reward people with extended time horizons and strategic discipline. When Garry Kasparov was teaming with a computer to play freestyle chess (in which a human and machine join up to play against another human and machine), he reported that his machine partner possessed greater “tactical acuity,” but he possessed greater “strategic guidance.”
This David Brooks editorial is by now a little old — as editorials go — but it’s really quite good and I’d be sad if it never got here. He touches on the essential thing I wish more people understood about life:
In whatever field you go into, you will face greed, frustration and failure. You may find your life challenged by depression, alcoholism, infidelity, your own stupidity and self-indulgence. So how should you structure your soul to prepare for this? Simply working at Amnesty International instead of McKinsey is not necessarily going to help you with these primal character tests.
It’s worth noting that you can devote your life to community service and be a total schmuck. You can spend your life on Wall Street and be a hero. Understanding heroism and schmuckdom requires fewer Excel spreadsheets, more Dostoyevsky and the Book of Job.
By all accounts I’ve seen Charles Murray’s new book is important. David Brooks offers a pretty succinct summary of why:
His story starts in 1963. There was a gap between rich and poor then, but it wasn’t that big. A house in an upper-crust suburb cost only twice as much as the average new American home. The tippy-top luxury car, the Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz, cost about $47,000 in 2010 dollars. That’s pricey, but nowhere near the price of the top luxury cars today.
Have I ever told you how much I love David Brooks? (Yes, yes I have.) It’s because he says sensible things like this:
In sum, in the progressive era, the country was young and vibrant. The job was to impose economic order. Today, the country is middle-aged but self-indulgent. Bad habits have accumulated. Interest groups have emerged to protect the status quo. The job is to restore old disciplines, strip away decaying structures and reform the welfare state. The country needs a productive midlife crisis.
David Brooks does a thing most years I like: he saves a bunch of long magazine pieces and puts them together in a few columns. The ones four years ago were one of the reasons I started this site. The first part of this is the title link, the here’s the second. The few piece I’d not read before but did like:
I’ve only been mildly attentive to the West’s plan in the intervention in Libya. It seems like even the attentive weren’t sure what the plan was. But David Brooks lays it out pretty clearly:
There are three plausible ways he might go, which inside the administration are sometimes known as the Three Ds. They are, in ascending order of likelihood: Defeat — the ragtag rebel army vanquishes his army on the battlefield; Departure — Qaddafi is persuaded to flee the country and move to a villa somewhere; and Defection — the people around Qaddafi decide there is no future hitching their wagon to his, and, as a result, the regime falls apart or is overthrown.
I’d heard about the defection of Musa Kusa, but I didn’t realize it had anything to do with wider strategy.
Also, if you missed it this piece from last weeks NYT Magazine is a good premier on the whys and hows of the rebel capital of Benghazi.
An interesting idea from David Brooks:
If you look at America from this perspective, you do see something akin to the “British disease.” After decades of affluence, the U.S. has drifted away from the hardheaded practical mentality that built the nation’s wealth in the first place.
The shift is evident at all levels of society. First, the elites. America’s brightest minds have been abandoning industry and technical enterprise in favor of more prestigious but less productive fields like law, finance, consulting and nonprofit activism.
I think there’s great utility in the distinction David Brooks draws between the “well-planned life” and the “summoned life.”
The person leading the Well-Planned Life emphasizes individual agency, and asks, “What should I do?” The person leading the Summoned Life emphasizes the context, and asks, “What are my circumstances asking me to do?”