The new role David Brooks has taken in his most recent columns is drumming for the return to something that almost sounds like fascism:
Psychologists joke that two sorts of people need therapy: those who need to be loosened up and those who need to be tightened up. Now, in the political world, we're moving from what you might call loose conservatism to tight conservatism. We're seeing a conservatism that emphasizes freedom give way to a conservatism that emphasizes authority. Many of George Bush's problems come from the fact that he's awkwardly straddling the transition point between the two.
In the 1970's and 80's, conservatives felt the primary threat was the overweening nanny state. Ronald Reagan tried to loosen the structures that restricted individual initiative and led to national sclerosis. He and Margaret Thatcher deregulated, privatized, cut tax rates in order to liberate entrepreneurs. The dominant formula was simple: less government equals more freedom. "Government is the problem," Reagan declared, expressing the organizing conservative principle of the day.
Times change. Now the chief problem is not sclerosis but disorder. The biggest threats come not from nanny states but from failed states and rogue states. There is less popular fear of bureaucrats possessing too much control than of ungoverned forces surging out of control: immigration, the federal debt, Iraqi sectarianism, Islamic radicalism, Chinese mercantilism, domestic rage and polarization.
The chief challenge these days is to restore legitimate centers of authority.
A political age built around authority rather than freedom will elevate different sorts of disputes, of which the N.S.A. flap is only a precursor. Elections will revolve around the question: Who can best maintain order — in the home, neighborhood, culture and around the globe?
For a hundred years we debated the economic reach of the state, but that debate's basically done. The next one will be over where the state should erect guardrails in a mobile and fragmented world.
Reading all this made my hair stand up, then start moving around in snakelike circles. Does Brooks know what his babbling means? Or is he just trying to be contrarian?
In either case, what the words actually mean is frightening. Note that the first paragraph above lists all sorts of thing as being "out of control", including domestic polarization and rage. Brooks's authoritarian recommendation implies that the government should forcibly end the expression of this polarization and rage. The only way I can imagine that happening is by some form of censure and punishment of those who dare to express an angry opinion. Is Brooks truly advocating this?
Or think about what he is saying in that cute little sentence:
Who can best maintain order — in the home, neighborhood, culture and around the globe?
Do I smell the advocating of male dominance at home and wingnut dominance abroad? Some sort of theocracy, perhaps? Or fascism, really.
What an odd post. If it is a response to the NSA spying scandal it seems to say that this scandal wasn't enough, that what we need is more surveillance, more control, less freedom. Maybe a database on everyone's political opinions, and re-education camps for liberals. Little cameras in the bedrooms, and so on.
You know, I think that David Brooks needs to take a deep breath and then seek the services of one of those psychological professionals he mentions at the beginning of his column. A dominatrix, preferably.