That post caption is a complete lie. I can issue as many reminders to myself as I like, but when the spirit doesn’t move me, you could look through my house with a magnifying glass and you still wouldn’t find any profundity. Heck, today I’m not even sure if I could come up with any decent banality, although this post is a good try.
I’m only grateful that I’m not a paid columnist on deadline. If I was, I’d suddenly find myself being a Tom Friedman or a David Brooks, mouthing less-than-sweet nothings to a paying audience. Worse, that audience, having paid and having invested many years in proclaiming its wisdom in reading these “great thinkers,” finds itself in the role the courtiers played in “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” Readers valiantly cheer these pundits’ ponderous prose, which is often quite poorly written, and that varies with pendulum-like rhythm between meaningless and dangerous.
And it’s not just me harshing on them (although I have been known to call Friedman an “idiot”). Matt Welch, at Reason Magazine, isn’t so thrilled either when he looks at these pundits, complete with large pulpits and small thoughts. His complaint is that the Friedmans and Brooks of the world (and they’re not the only pundits, of course, just the best known), have a “do something” attitude that demands an immediate government fix to any problem.
By doing this, the pundit crowd reveals so many things: it’s practical ignorance; it’s need to “make a statement” because each pundit is, after all, paid to do precisely that; and, of course, a world view that’s wedded to proactive government. The Founders would have been horrified by this last attitude. In a truly splendid article from National Review, Yuval Levin explains that the Founders, distrustful of both mobs and government, created a system that was intended to make “doing something” extremely difficult:
As the framers saw it, both populist and technocratic politics were expressions of a modern hubris about the capacity of human beings — be it of the experts or of the people as a whole — to make just the right governing decisions. The Constitution is built upon a profound skepticism about the ability of any political arrangement to overcome the limitations of human reason and human nature, and so establishes a system of checks to prevent sudden large mistakes while enabling gradual changes supported by a broad and longstanding consensus. Experts should not govern, nor should the people do so directly, but rather the people’s representatives should govern in a system filled with mediating institutions and opposing interests — a system designed to force us to see problems and proposed solutions from a variety of angles simultaneously and, as Alexander Hamilton puts it in Federalist 73, “to increase the chances in favor of the community against the passing of bad laws through haste, inadvertence, or design.”
All things considered, perhaps it’s a good thing that I’m not up to being profound today. My sluggish thoughts are right in line with the Founders’ goals.