Although as a self-deluded Republican Party hack, David Brooks would never actually vote for Obama (Brooks’ long-standing delusion is to think of himself as a disinterested social analyst rather than an inveterate apologist for the ruling class), his Tuesday Times column on the mortgage crisis exemplifies the Obamista social vision to which I refer in the previous post, a vision in which moralist and market-driven accounts of social justice meet seamlessly to cloak the rapacity of those who have seized power. According to Brooks the current crisis is the result of a combination of deteriorating norms:
America once had a culture of thrift. But over the past decades, that unspoken code has been silently eroded.But more to the point, individuals share much of the blame for helping “degrade” these norms, because each decision by an individual to take on a high-risk loan, “reinforced a new definition of acceptable behavior for neighbors, family and friends. In a community, behavior sets off ripples. Every decision is a public contribution or a destructive act.” [Which, presumably, is also why, in a different context, one should treat an unwed mother like a social pariah—think of the damage to the social fabric if one doesn’t do so.]
Some of the toxins were economic. Rising house prices gave people the impression that they could take on more risk. Some were cultural. We entered a period of mass luxury, in which people down the income scale expect to own designer goods. Some were moral. Schools and other institutions used to talk the language of sin and temptation to alert people to the seductions that could ruin their lives.
In other words the real culprits in this meltdown are all the individual borrowers. And in Brooks’ view, the economic sector has already done what it can to fix the problem, which means that in rescuing the economy, the “important shifts will be private, as people and communities learn and adopt different social standards.”
This is the same ‘self-help” claptrap that Larry Bobo celebrates as the “next level of social justice” that will be inaugurated with Obama’s ascendancy to the Oval Office.
Debtors’ prisons and scarlet letters have never looked so good.