Thursday, November 10, 2011

Rationale Conservative Columnist Week Continues with Intelligence and Insight from Ross Douthat

Why Can’t They Be This Good All the Time

Ross Douthat is a Conservative columnist in a long line of attempts by the New York Times to place an intelligent Conservative on its editorial pages.  Mr. Douthat has usually been far short of the standard the Times must want, but his most recent column does live up to what must have been great expectations by the Times when he was hired.

Mr. Douthat writes on the rise and fall of Jon Corzine, a man of humble beginnings who lost all humility as he rose from modest means to head of Goldman Sachs, become a U. S. Senator and New Jersey Governor and now a man whose management drove an old and successful financial firm, MF Global, into bankruptcy.  Mr. Douthat’s point

For decades, the United States has been opening paths to privilege for its brightest and most determined young people, culling the best and the brightest from Illinois and Mississippi and Montana and placing them in positions of power in Manhattan and Washington. By elevating the children of farmers and janitors as well as lawyers and stockbrokers, we’ve created what seems like the most capable, hardworking, high-I.Q. elite in all of human history.

But, and there is always a “but” with a story like this.  Mr. Douthat does not take the cheap shot at Mr. Corzine, the “failure of the liberal democrat” but instead observes this

And for the last 10 years, we’ve watched this same elite lead us off a cliff — mostly by being too smart for its own good.

Which in one sentence pretty much sums up the last decade or so.  Or even longer

Robert McNamara and the Vietnam-era whiz kids thought they had reduced war to an exact science. Alan Greenspan and Robert Rubin thought that they had done the same to global economics. The architects of the Iraq war thought that the American military could liberate the Middle East from the toils of history; the architects of the European Union thought that a common currency could do the same for Europe. And Jon Corzine thought that his investment acumen equipped him to turn a second-tier brokerage firm into the next Goldman Sachs, by leveraging big, betting big and waiting for the payoff.

The conclusion with respect to politics

What you see in today’s Republican primary campaign is a reaction to exactly these kinds of follies — a revolt against the ruling class that our meritocracy has forged, and a search for outsiders with thinner résumés but better instincts.

But from Michele Bachmann to Herman Cain, the outsiders haven’t risen to the challenge. It will do America no good to replace the arrogant with the ignorant, the overconfident with the incompetent.

In fact, one thinks after this that Mr. Douthat is setting us up for an endorsement of Mitt Romney, but he concludes this way

In place of reckless meritocrats, we don’t need feckless know-nothings. We need intelligent leaders with a sense of their own limits, experienced people whose lives have taught them caution. We still need the best and brightest, but we need them to have somehow learned humility along the way.

which in no way leads one to Mitt Romney.  So thanks Mr. Douthat for some intelligent observations that we did not think could come from a Conservative.

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