David Brooks, as usual, writes an interesting column, this one on Free Market Socialism.It’s clear why true conservatives look somewhat askance at Mr. Brooks. Viewing it in Lakoffian terms, we see Mr. Brooks straddling the divide between the conservative strict father methaphor and the liberal nurturant parent one. The column praises its subject, Maddie Parlier in “worthy person” terms, practicing the virtues that come from a conservative upbringing where obedience leads to self-discipline leads to success in a competitive world. Parlier has a good attitude and hustle, and a good work ethic.
The conservative mantra, as described by George Lakoff, or by Jonathan Haidt, or by others, is that those who succeed do so because they deserve success; those who deserve success end up succeeding. Good parenting, as Mr. Brooks described in his previous article on Mitt Romney, gives children the advantage they need to succeed.
But Maddie Parlier did not benefit from strong parenting, yet she has the right attitudes. Taking a nurturant parent view of life, Mr. Brooks has sympathy for Ms. Parlier; and as a liberal would, believes the government could do something to give her the opportunity she needs and deserves; and in doing so would strengthen the nation.
In an earlier column, Mr. Brooks attributed the success of the United States and of Germany to good habits nurtured by the culture and society. In this column, though, Mr. Brooks recognizes that success comes from an interplay of economic forces and social forces; economic forces require more skills to compete than Maddie Parlier has been able to acquire; social forces, a difficult upbringing and single parenthood, makes it more difficult for her to acquire those skills.
While conservative commentators generally decry the government’s involvement in society as destined to failure, Mr. Brooks, in a rather liberal swag, advocates government helping provide programs for job training, child care options, and better early childhood education, while at the same time advocating policies appealing to conservatives, cutting corporate tax rates, simplifying the tax code, streamlining regulations, and balancing the budget.
Decrying what might be called the stupidity of the Republicans (more capitalism, fewer taxes!) and the Democrats (tax the rich!), Mr. Brooks find an intersection between what they should be for, and which would benefit the country if we could get over our shouting matches.