Wednesday, June 3, 2009

David Brooks and the pantheon of pundits

David Brooks has e-mailed Greg Mankiw noting that "many of [the] best sources on the crisis teach at B schools, not Econ Departments. I've also found that a rising number of people I learn from also teach at B-Schools." I was about to post a note about how this does not surprise me at all, and not just because my experience as a MBA student and my working with MA Econ graduates in the Finance Department (although the economists at Finance Canada are more practical than those at the Bank of Canada, the working level experience in the central bank being pretty close to that of a pure research lab).

But I couldn't resist making an aside about Brooks that should probably be separate for length and readability, and that is that David Brooks is probably my favorite pundit these days (Andrew Coyne is always good but has not been updated in more than a year). Pat Buchanan? I've already discussed at length what I called the "necessary enigma of Pat Buchanan". Charles Krauthammer is probably the best arguer out there, and if you really need someone to bash a left wing argument to pieces, Krauthammer is the go-to guy. But Krauthammer has that oppositional, pugilistic style that is more suited to down-market "on the left, we have some poor sap, and on the right, Charles Krauthammer!" talk shows than, say, a deliberative PBS forum (which, not coincidentally, is where Brooks can be found Friday nights). The memo to Krauthammer on dialing down the stridency should be CCed to the entire gang at the National Review. What about David Frum over at Paleo-con Jerry Pournelle calls him "the egregious Frum", which presumptively puts Frum on the wrong side of the neo-/non-neo conservative divide. Having acknowledged that, Frum has done yeoman's work in advocating for consumption taxation in lieu of taxes that stifle investment and free enterprise in his latest book. Mark Steyn, of course, is the wittiest pundit out there but in many respects he is a postmodern culture critic. Unlike Brooks, Steyn doesn't get me thinking so much as laughing. My old high school classmate and fellow Albertan Colby Cosh is also a bemused observer of life but is even more detached than Steyn. George F. Will? Solid. His indictment of denim, in which he works in quotes from Edmund Burke, is typically quality work. Fareed Zakeria? Always good for a good sense editorial, and his latest is a must read. But neither Will nor Zakeria have Brooks' philosophical temperament. Note in particular Brooks' reference to whom he is learning from in his e-mail to Mankiw. This is someone who has the humility and self-doubt befitting an examiner of life.

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