17 February 2012

The David Brooks Fallacy

David Brooks, in an article titled “The Materialist Fallacy,” comes to this hilarious conclusion:

The American social fabric is now so depleted that even if manufacturing jobs miraculously came back we still would not be producing enough stable, skilled workers to fill them. It’s not enough just to have economic growth policies. The country also needs to rebuild orderly communities.

So now the theory is not that Americans won't do these jobs, it's that they can't do these jobs because they're so messed up.  If only someone had thought to test this theory.  Oh wait, someone did.  Alabama decided to crack down on illegal immigrants and miraculously their unemployment rate went down. Funny how that works.

The larger issue with Brooks’ fallacy is that, in my opinion, he gets causality wrong.  Communities don’t have unemployment because they’re disorderly; if anything, it’s high unemployment that begets disorderliness.  If orderliness were the issue (and it presumably is, seeing as how Brooks is implying that foreign labor have more orderly communities), then you would expect productivity, not wages to be the deciding factor.  But, for the most part, foreign labor competes primarily on price, not productivity.  As such, the issue of community “orderliness” is quite irrelevant, and appears to be nothing more than a pretty lie that the pro-immigration crowd needs in order to feel good about making life more difficult for their fellow citizens.*

* On a tangentially related note, how come free traders and free laborers argue more fervently on behalf of foreign business and labor interests than domestic business and labor interests?  Couldn’t they channel all the energy and righteous indignation into arguing for deregulation of domestic businesses and labor, which would benefit their fellow citizens?


  1. Thank you. When I read this column I was thinking along the same lines. Bring back the work and the workers will get in line with the necessary skills pronto.

    I am also troubled by the ever-present idea that "the country" must fix communities and every other social ill. But what I am really hearing is "government" even though it's not said outright. Does anyone have enough knowledge of history to recognize that communities have been built from the ground up and regulated internally since humans appeared on Earth?

  2. Agreed. But our ruling elite don't just want cheap wages. They want slaves - recent article about Apple and their Chinese factory. The "workers" live in company dorms, are roused at midnight due to an emergency product change order and given a cup of tea and a cracker before being herded to the assembly line. I would not blame any American man if he didn't want a job like that - I wouldn't want it either. I supposed they could beat our lower class into starvation so they will be desperate to take such "jobs".

  3. "Communities don’t have unemployment because they’re disorderly; if anything, it’s high unemployment that begets disorderliness."

    Stuff Black People Don't Like has been chronicling the collapse of Detroit for some time, and, although it's only anecdotal evidence, the experience of Detroit agrees with Brooks' claim. White flight from Detroit began in the late 60s, and then as the social order broke down, businesses began to flee.

    Brooks problem isn't in the diagnosis, it is in the cure. He wants to use a modernist government to rebuild our social institutions, when it is that same modernist mindset that has decimated our social institutions to begin with.