This Is Interesting: Uncle Dave on ‘Experience Economy’
In today’s NYTimes, David Brooks has his mind-gears turning about trends. He likes to spot and dissect long-term trends in social behavior. He doesn’t always get it right, but he makes his readers think. See what he has to say today, and get the NYT if you want more.
6 Responses to This Is Interesting: Uncle Dave on ‘Experience Economy’
Brooks has a rather interesting take on reality. Here’s a paper from the Minneapolis Fed how how the country has actually seen a marked increase in the number of hours worked by the wealthiest Americans: http://www.minneapolisfed.org/research/SR/SR397bw.pdf (see especially the first graph on p.14 of the document/p.15 of the PDF)
This column is classic, condescending, power elite ass-kissing David Brooks. From high atop his beltway perch, Brooks is going to tell us all why America “has experienced slower growth, slower increases in median income, slower job creation, slower productivity gains, slower life-expectancy improvements and slower rates of technological change.”
Tell us why, Dave:
“Every few months, new gizmos come out. Jared [Brooks’ Gen-X archetype for this Tom Friedmanesque thought experiment] feels his life is getting better. Because he doesn’t fully grasp the increasingly important distinction between wealth and standard of living, he has the impression that he is also getting richer. As a result, he lives beyond his means.”
Brooks’ explanation essentially boils down to, “Kids today…” To him, people born after 1978 possess a spendthrift mindset and can’t tell the difference between real wealth and cool gadgets, unlike their forbears.
Leave it to Brooks to finger a social problem at the root of America’s economic woes over the last thirty years. No mention of skyrocketing health care costs, a scheme of wealth redistribution that increasingly favors the top 1% at the expense of everyone else, or wages that have been stagnant since about the very year Brooks’ “Jared” was born in terms of inflation-adjusted dollars. It may be true that Jared is spending beyond his means, but that is a symptom and not a cause of the economic problems we face today, which at bottom owe their existence to a political cause, not a social one. And that political cause is the doing of politicians who were born well before 1978—neoliberals who pursued and still pursue “free trade” at any and all costs, no matter how damaging to the domestic economy. The labor and capital barriers that have been gradually knocked down by one American presidential administration after another have led to massive amounts of jobs and money leaving the country. And why not? If workers in China, Indonesia Pakistan, etc. don’t enjoy decent wages or workplace safety standards, it’s going to be cheaper for American companies to have factories in those places.
But this isn’t how Brooks sees it. And he’s going to take one last potshot at younger Americans:
“[Jared] also worries that the Chinese and others have a material drive that he and his cohort lacks. But he’s not changing. For the past few decades, Americans have devoted more of their energies to postmaterial arenas and less and less, for better and worse, to the sheer production of wealth.”
Anecdotal hokum. Maybe Brooks and his neoliberal pals could bring some of our jobs back from to China to test his hypothesis about kids today being distracted to the point of under-productivity. Nah, better to lay the blame at their feet than real culprits in Washington.
What a jerk.
Michael: Good counterpoint. The NYT readers’ responses to Brooks’ columns are usually the better part of the feature. He’s been doing the “kids today” thing since his book “Bobos in Paradise,” but he still interests me as somebody who tries to explain big-picture activity. As I said above, he doesn’t always get it right.
Andew: thaks for the link. Very readable paper for anyone who is avoiding the link because a research paper from Fed sounds deadly. Is the same Fed whose boss says a key factor in US unemployment is the mismatch between skill sets and job openings?
Paul, yes, President Kocherlakota has been making that argument (as in here: http://www.minneapolisfed.org/news_events/pres/speech_display.cfm?id=4525). This position is what’s being called “hangover theory.” It actually has little relation to reality…demand has fallen across all sectors of the economy. The jobs don’t exist.
Paul, Brooks’ explanations of the big picture interest me as well. I always want to stay tuned into the latest propaganda being spewed forth by the power-worshpping beltway media corps. Brooks’s columns never fail to deliver on that front.