David Brooks is an excellent writer and formidable thinker. His books, Bobos in Paradise and On Paradise Drive, are both insightful and laugh-out-loud funny at times. And, while I do not always agree entirely with his opinion editorials in the New York Times, his take on things is honest. I get where he's coming from.

I have attached his latest column, which is entitled "The Government War". In it, Brooks outlines his center-right political philosophy and his frustration with the standard political debate in this country. Brooks styles his political philosophy as "progressive conservatism", which he explains as follows:

"It starts with the wisdom of Edmund Burke - the belief that the world is more complex than we can know and we should be skeptical of handing too much power to government planners. It layers in a dose of Hamiltonian optimism - the belief that limited but energetic government can nonetheless successfully enhance opportunity and social mobility. This general philosophy puts me to the left of where the Republican Party is now, and to the right of the Democratic Party. It puts me in that silly spot on the political map, the center, or a step to the right of it."

Brooks' philosophy closely mirrors my own, but I toss into the mix Teddy Roosevelt's policy of individual empowerment - the belief that we are the government ("The government is us; we are the government, you and I."). We are charged with protecting the virtues of free enterprise while simultaneously protecting ourselves from its vices. As such, I strongly believe that equity demands a system in which the mighty can be taken to task on a fair playing field for the inevitable wrongs that arise in a free enterprise system. My general philosophy puts me in the center or a step to the left of it (that being for responsibility and accountability places me left of center is for another post on another day).

That said, I share Brooks' frustration with the standard political debate. But, I think Brooks confuses political debate with political philosophy. The debate defaults to standard templates for a simple reason: You do what works. There are certain debates that each party knows it will always win. The art of politics is the ability to use these old standbys in a fashion that implements your philosophy. This is what makes Haley Barbour and Bill Clinton both so good.


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