David Brooks, also known here by the not so affectionate moniker of “Chunky Bobo”, has written a column so absurd that you just have to shake your head in stupefaction that this man still has a job-much less a respected position in American journalism. Like McMegan-it appears that Chunky Bobo has thrown in the towel on making democracy work-and has instead decided to go down the path that Lenin led the Russians down almost a 100 years ago.
According to Brooks, it is all the government’s fault-while the actual voters who are the machine that makes a good democracy work, are to be held guiltless:
It’s now clear that the end of the Soviet Union heralded an era of democratic complacency. Without a rival system to test them, democratic governments have decayed across the globe. In the U.S., Washington is polarized, stagnant and dysfunctional; a pathetic 26 percent of Americans trust their government to do the right thing. In Europe, elected officials have grown remote from voters, responding poorly to the euro crisis and contributing to massive unemployment.
According to measures by Freedom House, freedom has been in retreat around the world for the past eight years. New democracies like South Africa are decaying; the number of nations that the Bertelsmann Foundation now classifies as “defective democracies” (rigged elections and so on) has risen to 52. As John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge write in their book, “The Fourth Revolution,” “so far, the 21st century has been a rotten one for the Western model.”
Brooks’ solution. Send for the sycophants and call on the wisdom of Lee Kwan Yeu:
A new charismatic rival is gaining strength: the Guardian State. In their book, Micklethwait and Wooldridge do an outstanding job of describing Asia’s modernizing autocracies. In some ways, these governments look more progressive than the Western model; in some ways, more conservative.
In places like Singapore and China, the best students are ruthlessly culled for government service. The technocratic elites play a bigger role in designing economic life. The safety net is smaller and less forgiving. In Singapore, 90 percent of what you get out of the key pension is what you put in. Work is rewarded. People are expected to look after their own.
These Guardian States have some disadvantages compared with Western democracies. They are more corrupt. Because the systems are top-down, local government tends to be worse. But they have advantages. They are better at long-range thinking and can move fast because they limit democratic feedback and don’t face NIMBY-style impediments.
Really? China? A model for free people to follow? It is hard to believe Brooks actually wrote that line and believes it. Yet it would appear he does.
There is just one big problem with Brooks’ prescription-he has not examined all the side affects that come with the cure. While I am a believer that some of the Singaporean programs could be applied to good effect in the US- it is important to remember that Singapore is not, by any remote stretch of his Gaultian imagination a real democracy-or a place where equality and freedom of speech are thriving. There are more than a few facts that Brooks is leaving out of his narrative.
Specifically, Brooks slants his narrative to make it look like the Sinagaporean system does not have anything in place that he hates, such as universal access to health care. Or mandated ( and strongly enforced) mandates to pay in to both employers and employees. Ask yourself how that is going to go down with his teabagger friends. When Brooks makes the statement that 90% of Singapore’s pensions come from employees, he is either flat out lying, or showing his ignorance once again. ( A citizen is required to provide 20% of his income to his CPF fund, but he also gets an employer contribution of at least 5 and mostly 14%.). And it has to be looked at in context-Singapore provides services to its people that , based on Chunky Bobo’s other pronouncements, are an anathema to the true believer in Burkean Bells. Well financed and run public transportation for one.
And of course, either through ignorance or just plain deceitfulness-he ignores the fact that there is a tiered system of Singapore’s populations that would not welcome American ideas of equality of all under the law. Or put another way-a lot of Singapore’s progress is built on the backs of people who don’t enjoy the benefits of the government he suggests, and are in fact marginalized by the same government. Ask Filipinos and Bangladeshis how much of this Guardian State idea benefits them. This as they work for wages that are well below what their Chinese employers would ever see.
And you could also ask Mr. Brooks how much he enjoys a one party state, where criticism of the government is allowed, but only to a certain point. And folks who try to bring opposite view points are harassed and or sued out of existence. Kind of forgot that little detail, didn’t you David?
Brooks is wrong about what is broken. American Democracy is not broken-at least the model of it is not. The participants in that model however are badly broken-especially those residents of one political party, that to put it idly has gone completely insane. Our country used to get things done, now we have the most unproductive Congress in years. And its because of a collective freak out by people who ought to know better-over the election of a black man to the white house. As I have said before, I don't think it is necessarily racist-but it is part of an effort to marginalize one political party. It is crazy. And it happens because a certain percentage of the American population proves itself to be really stupid.
However, this is typical Bobo. He fancies himself as a member of the elite. He forgets that under Singaporean rules-he can't. He's not Chinese. But Bobo would never take the time to learn that.