I live in a world where free and open trade has allowed an infinite flow of information. People all over the world are plugging in and are figuring things out for themselves. In the past, it was always about just barely making it in. Making ends meet, making friends, making it home in time. Always just barely in time. Now, we drive around in our "wired" SUV's sipping lattes and I think to myself "what happened?"
Indeed, what happened?
I would like to think there is a more clear cut explanation than the one I am offering, so I will try to scale back before I really get out there.
Brooks seems to tie everything to the advent of the bobo. I think I can go with him on that and I think it a helpful way to approach this question. Though not perfect, the bobo is as good as any platform to understand the undulations and fluctuations of the political world.
For Brooks, it all comes back to the bobos. And, why shouldn't it? They, after all, represent the birth of the new political/virtual kingmakers.
Brooks explains the bobo as a recent phenomenon. In my opinion, it seems an expedient but perhaps short-sighted decision to cut off the bobo distinction as being specifically recent. I think we can do better than that. We can certainly dig a little deeper.
And, I was thinking about that all day today. That is, I was thinking about the bobo. They are maybe not so recent.
Let's turn back the clock 60 years. Let's take a quick glance at Franklin Roosevelt's personal and intellectual background. Pulling back the curtain you get a very nuanced sense of a man who everyone seems to label as one, maybe two things.
We pull back the curtain and what we get is the "brain trust." The brain trust was a formidable group of economic advisers who helped Roosevelt move the country out of the abyss of depression through restoring confidence in markets.
Their argument was that without confidence the populace would never be able to recreate the cycle of supply and demand.
What this all culminated in was the creation of the much hailed New Deal, turning around the economy in its tracks.
Certainly, nobody can deny that FDR and, most likely, his brain trust were great men, and true patriots. But the question that begs to be answered is who were these men. These elites who made policy behind those giant mahogany doors?
And so here I suggest that maybe the bobo is not so recent a phenomenon. The brain trust wore fine suits and drank coffee, now the bobos sip lattes and drive "hybrid" SUV's. There are certainly differences and simiarities, but they are all superficial. Totally superficial. What they do truly share, in fact, is a commitment to inhabiting fully the economic and cultural possibilities of their time.
If you deny yourself the right be a man complete in your own time then you are denying the times that complete man. The brain trust was a group of elites, raised in fine clothes and accustomed to fine fair. They were well trained and happy to serve their country in that time of such dire need. They were perhaps privileged, but that is what they knew.
And perhaps the bobos are servicing the country now in just the same way. They are what the times have churned out. It is the bobo who makes the economy crank. It is their tastes, purchases and predilection for the digital age that allows this prosperity. To dispute that is to dispute the very logic of the times.
When you lose step with those around you. When you begin to fashion yourself outside of your own time, you are mistaken.
Take the story of Raymond Moley. A renowned brain trust advisor and economist, Moley went on to dispute the grounds of the New Deal, touting the realization he soon made that "he was playing ninepins with the skulls and thighbones of economic orthodoxy." He stepped outside the New Deal, the depression and stepped clean off the face of the earth as far as I'm concerned.
Moley missed the boat. He rejected his place in the times. He was arbitrarily throwing his proverbial latte out the window and curling up under the sheets just like Lou Dobbs. Indeed, in all certainty, Moley missed the boat.
So free and open trade may be like "playing ninepins with the skulls and thighbones of economic orthodoxy," but it works.
It works just fine.
- Ben Hoffstraugh
- I was located outside of Berlin in a small enclave, which was really quite nice. I lived in a two bedroom flat above a kneipe, which is German for bar. I had a membership to the New York Times Select service, which gave me access to the columnists and the archives. I am a big fan of David Brooks.