The Party of Untrammeled Freedom and Maximum Individual Choice?!

David Brooks:

[I]f Republicans had learned the right lessons from the Westerns, or at least John Ford Westerns, they would not be the party of untrammeled freedom and maximum individual choice. They would once again be the party of community and civic order.

What in tarnation is this man talking about? Where is this Republican Party of “untrammeled freedom and maximum individual choice”? Did Ron Paul just become House minority leader or take Michael Steele’s job or something? Have the Republicans put up the white flag in the War on Drugs? Are GOP Senators stumping to end the legislation of morality? How did I miss this? It’s like Brooks was kidnapped by a Romulan and is sending us op-eds from an alternative timeline.

Author: Will Wilkinson

Vice President for Research at the Niskanen Center

46 thoughts

  1. Also, when was the republican party last the party of “community and civic order”? To me that sounds like code for “the party that keeps weird scary people away from your family.”

  2. I've long suspected that David Brooks lives in some sort of an alternate reality anyway … His recent column (…) discusses how, surprise, human achievement in the realm of what we call “Genius” is actually a product of both inherent intellectual abilities combined with specific environmental circumstances. Did he come to this revelation just recently? Has he heard the expression “10% inspiration 90% perspiration”, and its 200 variants? Do they really give people this dense Op-Ed's in the NYT? I'm also less inclined to take anything this man has to say seriously regarding conservatism since he labeled small-government types “nihilists”.

  3. Liz – New York – University of Rochester grad with a BA in history. Attending law school at Syracuse University. Politics, fitness, Calvin and Hobbes, dudes.
    Liz says:

    I'll have what he's smoking.

  4. teageegeepea – If you're willing to do a little legwork you can probably find out who I really am, and then be disappointed when you find I'm nobody.
    TGGP says:

    Haven't the “national greatness conservatives” always been saying that? And remember, John McCain thought there was a huge threat of “isolationism” taking over the party. Of course, none of them must ever question warmongering, it's them dang earmarks & freedom what done did it!

  5. “In these places (inner cities), Democrats have been able to establish themselves as the safe and orderly party. President Obama has made responsibility his core theme and has emerged as a calm, reassuring presence (even as he runs up the debt and intervenes rashly in sector after sector).” David BrooksSo according to Mr. Brooks, the Dems are the “safe and orderly party”. This while one of their favorite special interest groups, the American Bar Assoc. continues to show more interest in perps than victims. This while the Dems kowtow to the ACLU and worry more about terrorists than American citizens. This while the DEA dictates that the Dems shoot down vouchers. Isn't that the only hope for kids in our large cities to get any discipline and education? This while the Dems address everything but personal responsibility as the government grows and does everything for everybody.Brooks is smoking some good shit and washing it down with Obama koolaid.

  6. Brooks and Frum and their ilk are looking for a return of the Nixon Administration, fiscally somewhat conservative, 'realist' in foreign policy, but above all believers in government as the solution. Nixon buried us under alphabet agencies. Maybe this comes from just hanging around DC too much, when all you see every day is hammers then every problem starts to look like a nail. I think Frum's also continuing to try to justify his involvement in the Bush years and the Bush approach to big-government conservatism.

  7. What legislation of morality? That massive GOP morality crusade made massive inroads during the last eight years of having their sycophant in office, didn't it? This is just a bogeyman for people that really want to vote for the messiah and can't think of a reason other than the idea that Republicans are governed by religious zealots trying to bring us back to 14th century Europe. Vote for the savior all you want. At least be honest.

  8. “Also, when was the republican party last the party of “community and civic order”? To me that sounds like code for “the party that keeps weird scary people away from your family.””Community and civic order” is what legislating morality is all about. Unfortunately this political goal conflicts with “untrammeled freedom and maximum individual choice,” requiring the GOP to pick one, and they picked social order. And here they are, at the end of that road. The fact that Republicans as sharp as Brooks fails to grasp this conflict (here he argues the non-sequitur that one leads to the other) is why we need a new political party NOW. The Democrats are in a similar boat. Their conflict is the one between freedom and social justice. Their choice between the two has been for social justice, leaving freedom with no major party advocate in America. As such, freedom's days are numbered.

  9. What's scary is even alleged economic conservatives (or at least the 1 guy in the news room that once worked on the Goldwater campaign and is now the token conservative voice) are accepting this idea that private enterprise is to blame for the downturn and government is the solution. First off- downturns are part of the business cycle, artificially propping these companies up is not. Secondly, government was and is hip deep in this mess with quasi-government entities Freddie and Fanny distorting the marketplace, finally we now have a great picture of what the government big solutions are- break contracts at will, bully investors with threats or audits or media slime, hand things to favored constituents to run into the ground. Its a perfect solution, because unlike the private sector when government screws up the answer is always more government. Statists can't lose. How dare an impersonator like Brooks claim to be anything like a free market capitalist? Its a mad, mad world these days.

  10. *hawks up a big, black/brown chewed 'baccy wad, and effortlessly dispatches it to the murky bottom of the brass spittoon, with a emphatic !Ting!* Y'see he-ya. What you boys are all missing? This GOP he-ya? All tawk-n-no cattle. Sure they swag-ah like th' party of the cowboy … but they've allus been the party of th' farmer. All barbed wire, closed ranges, buggy an' pair t' the church on Sunday, oil drillin' leases, an' keep th' hired help in their bunks and outta the whore-houses an' th' saloon. It's somethin' that allus made th' ol' cow-pokes like me ske-ratch our heads an' take another slug-o-rot-gut. Why some of you fellas were so keen t' take th' hats off yer heads an' tug yer fore-lock whenever they didn't cross th' street t' avoid yer. Anyway – long trail ahead boys! Long trail, an' no whisky. *waves, hitches a bandana across his mouth, and rides away*

  11. Ah Communitarianism, a/k/a fascism lite. Brooks has been deranged by the beatings administered by Andrew Rosenthal. Trying to end the torture, Brooks threw himself on an altar covered with a photograph of BO, and started blubbering that he loved big brother.

  12. A long trail ahead and no whiskey? That is the bleakest outlook I have seen. We can always make our own whiskey, right?Oh yeah.

  13. Huh?Their messaging has been their own version of pie-in-the-sky nanny-statism for the most part. That said, Republicans are all for freedom – as long as you use it in ways of which they approve.Kinda like the Democrats really.

  14. >>>Democrats have been able to establish themselves as the safe and orderly partyI think he meant to write “ordure.”

  15. “Chance is the fool's name for fate”The true answer to the Brooks conundrum poped up in my inbox mere minutes after I posted the above. He has been assimilated to the Borg: “Axelrod on Brooks: ‘true public thinker’” by Michael Calderone on 27-Apr-09…Last night at the St. Regis, David Axelrod … introduced the New York Times David Brooks, * * *Axelrod was guest speaker at The Week's “Sixth Annual Opinion Awards,” where Brooks was being honored as columnist of the year. …Axelrod described Brooks as a “true public thinker,” and said that “there are days, sitting in the White House, when I wish I could trade places with David and the scribes in editorial suites and academic centers who are always generous with their advice.” …Margaret Carlson, The Week’s Washington editor-at-large, said as Brooks came on stage, that he’s the only columnist who can describe Obama in print as a “senior administration official.”

  16. Exactly. That's not anything like offering vision and leadership in service of stronger, freer, more stable and resilient communities. That's what Brooks is saying. Brooks believes people want really want better communities. He's saying the Republicans have failed to offer any picture of how that's achievable in present day America, merely trumpeting the virtues of low taxes and not allowing gay marriage and such and such as ends in themselves. There are no policy ideas, and there is no narrative, that connect the dots from stronger, more vibrant local communities to anything the Republicans push for. So the Dems get to be the only ones that seem at least remotely in touch with what people want. And we're all the wors off for it.

  17. >>>Democrats have been able to establish themselves as the safe and orderly partySure, as long as you give them a taste of the action, they'll allow you to enjoy some order over by dare.

  18. You must be thinking of a different Nixon administration than the one I remember. Nixon was no fiscal conservative. He drove the final nail in the coffin of the gold standard, instituted wage and price controls, and did precisely squat to slow down the expansion of the welfare state.The only decent thing he did was pursue a policy of detent with the Russians and the Chinese. When it comes to his domestic agenda, Nixon was goddamned Rockefeller Pinko.

  19. I'd rather count the wrinkles on my dog's balls that hear anything at all about David Brooks.*blinks*Yes Ma'am. But that …. that wouldn't be th' cowboy way now. Would it? *mumbles* Ahh thought them prairie oysters were a touch onna small side …

  20. You have to remember that Brooks is “Uncle Dave,” the tame “house” conservative who always wants to assure his liberal pals that he isn't one of those “uppity” conservatives. The Republican Party he wants is one that would poseposes no threat to Massa 'Bama's plantation plantation but contendedly sing spirituals as they hand over their taxes.

  21. Roger that. FWIW, I always have considered untrammeled freedom as being the best way of achieving civic and community order.

  22. Definitely a point that needs to be made. The country has been getting more socially free over the last time years while trending more economically unfree.libertarians of any stripe should be more concerned over the fiscal issues than the social ones. After all, you can always buy social freedom (drugs, prostitution, etc.) with enough money, but it's tough to summon up economic freedom with a magic wand.

  23. teageegeepea – If you're willing to do a little legwork you can probably find out who I really am, and then be disappointed when you find I'm nobody.
    TGGP says:

    Brooks & Frum are neoconservatives, not “realists”. “Realists” are concerned with national interest, not “national greatness”. Frum has specifically held up “realism” for ridicule.

  24. This while the DEA dictates that the Dems shoot down vouchers.The DEA? I'll have some of what he's smoking.

  25. These types love the words, “untrammeled,” and “unfettered.” The alternative to untrammeled, unfettered freedom, of course, is that the masses be put in fetters and trammeled from time to time at the whims of the opinion elite. Put that way, it doesn't sound very nice, so it's just awkwardly implied.

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  27. “legislation of morality”What is law but society's expression of its definition of good and bad behavior (i.e., morality)? You mean I am not allowed to murder whoever I want? You mean I am not allowed to appropriate any of your property that I desire? I can't beat my children? You are restricting my freedom with your laws expressing your petty morality!

  28. Brooks writes this same piece every 2 or 3 months. And every 4th piece will be a variation of the theme that involves “networks, decentralized x, human reason has been shown to be flawed, blah blah blah…”David is a great writer, but he really needs to get some new ideas.

  29. Wait a minute, I just saw the “legislation of morality” part Will wrote.Will, criminal law should only be about legislating morality. This is one of those bumper sticker comments that gets repeated because it sounds good., but its intent is exactly backwards and ironic.

  30. Oh.Come.On. Arguments like this are the major reason why I stopped taking social conservatives seriously.These are examples of threats to the public peace, not public morals.The purposes of just government are very nicely outlined by Jefferson, in the Declaration of Independence and elsewhere.

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