I summarize Brooks' column today so that you need not subject yourself to reading it. His points:
1. It's a shame that all those smart people went into finance and consulting, instead of making things. That the money was so much better doing what they did, and all the incentives were to do that, and why, seem to have not made it into his column.
2. Harvard students mostly go into finance and consulting, rather than manufacturing. That Harvard Business School, amongst others, teaches downsizing, outsourcing, rightsizing, cheese-finding, financing everything on debt, holding minimal cash reserves, maintaining an insecure, poorly paid, non-unionized labor force and like that seem not to have made it into his column.
3. There's trouble in River City: social breakdown, crime, broken families, failing schools. That light manufacturing jobs have vanished like dry ice in Death Valley, unemployment approaches 20-40% in poor communities, that incarceration or parole cover astounding percentages of males in the communities, that school budgets get reduced and teachers entirely discredited as the sole reasons why students from such places fail, seem not to have made it into his column.
4. Economic historians point to non-economic causes for American social decline. That there are, er, social historians, political thinkers and others (I'll shill for Tony Judt's 'Ill Fares the Land' again) who have for years contested the near-exclusive predominance of economic thinking over all other ways to examine our lives, and that policies based largely on economics, and, at that, short-term exaltation of greed over any other consideration, have reigned for years, been imposed from the right, and seem, er, less than successful even economically, seem not to have made it into his column.
5. The British lost the bulldog determination that was the stuff of empire, and thereby declined. That they, too, sacrificed horribly in two world wars and a depression, and then lost said empire as the colonies insisted on liberating themselves while British resources weren't up to preserving the empire, seem not to have made it into his column.
A careful reader would, at this point, see the subtle signs of a trend emerging...