Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Center Of The Road


The more I read Matthew Yglesias* the more he resembles a David Brooks with training wheels. Yglesias is usually inoffensive and has a fine grasp of the obvious. Wherever society needs a Harvard graduate to step up to the lectern and pass on conventional wisdom, he is there.

Yglesias tells us that immigrantion can be a good thing, frozen vegetables are better than no vegetables, both Israel and Palestine have valid complaints, some people on the right believe untrue things, dual mandates are confusing, poor minorities do worse in school than middle class kids, and ideological purity is bad.

I'm not sure why we need someone around at all times to tell us what reasonable people think, or to find middle-of-the-road policies to solve conventionally accepted problems that achieve moderate solutions. But anything that keeps the Masters of the Universe occupied with busy work is probably a good thing.


*I've added him to my route.

24 comments:

Clever Pseudonym said...

I grew tired of him around the second time he had to mention daddy spent $60,000 a year to send him to Dalton. People who feel the need to constantly remind everyone of their expensive educations usually exhibit none of the traits that make them worth paying for.

Jack Crow said...

You are far nicer than I. I think the world needs a Commissar for the Useful Employment of Legacy Graduates, European Royalty, Paid Pundits, Reality Show Contestants, Fox News Personnel and Television News Personalities.

Lots of farms, mines, rigs and cleaning services staffed with poor and brown people who could use a vacation and some re-appropriation...

Susan of Texas said...

Compared to McArdle's selfish petulance and malicious lies, Yglesias seems almost harmless.

Aimai said...

Ow. That's gotta sting. In the Moomintroll books there is a muskrat, who represents the depressive qualities of philosophers, who is eternally writing a book called "On the Uselessness of Everything." I think Susan has hit on the modern Blogger-full-employment program that is Ezra and Yglesias which is an ongoing series of posts secretely entitled "What perfectly ordinary middle brow thinkers think." However, it must be said, that in the land of the blind the one eyed man is king. Yglesias and those of his ilk read so little up and down the social scale, and limit their vision to the left so sharply, that they are under the impression that their rightward tilt is mere sensible centrism.

aimai

aimai

bingol said...

I don't really understand this. He's got a fine grasp of things that are obvious *to you*.

But while there are people who can't distinguish between themselves and everyone else--some of them are even business and economics editors--that's not really a sensible approach.

Pat said...

"I'm not sure why we need someone around at all times to tell us what reasonable people think"

Not that Yglesias doesn't repeat himself sometimes, but still... I think we spend rather too much time listening to what unreasonable people think already.

Erik M. said...

I think Yglesias is as smart as they come, so I took this post as a challenge to think of three things I've learned from reading him that weren't obvious to me.

1) Reducing the size of unused front yards can lead to dense urban spaces even with no tall buildings

2) Free access to public roads creates shortages just like price caps on bread do

3) Democrats took their time nominating and confirming Fed appointees, and this has hurt their electoral chances more than any mishandled narrative or speech not given

I didn't think any of that before reading Yglesias's blog, I'm convinced now, and I could listen to David Brooks (or E. J. Dionne) for a long time without learning any of those things.

Anonymous said...

what is this I dont even

TLS said...

I don't understand your complaint. Most of the policies you listed do not have majority support in the electorate. What do you want in a policy blogger if not someone who make straightforward defense of well-justified policy positions that are (a) not the status quo and (b) not supported by the majority of Americans?

Further, you seem to ignore all of his more idiosyncratic policy positions in order to reach your simplistic conclusion. Which of the following policy positions are sufficiently common to be considered middle of the road?

*Eliminate most zoning restrictions in urban areas
*Eliminate most professional licensure requirements
*Use fiscal and monetary policy to raise inflation to 4% for the next two years.
* Eliminate minimum parking requirements for most new development
* Allow unlimited migration of foreigners to Detroit
* Increase cash transfer payments to the poor

Looking through your archives of utterly banal meta-blogging one might wonder what contribution YOU are making. Do you think you are really adding much value to the debate with another post saying nothing more profound than ‘Megan McArdle is a poopy-head?’ I mean, she IS a poopy head, but your constant ad hominem commentary is no substitute for well-reasoned advocacy of substantive policies.

Jaltcoh said...

I'm not sure why we need someone around at all times to tell us what reasonable people think, or to find middle-of-the-road policies to solve conventionally accepted problems that achieve moderate solutions. But anything that keeps the Masters of the Universe occupied with busy work is probably a good thing.

Actually, I think we need those things pretty badly.

KWillow said...

Eliminate most zoning restrictions in urban areas
*Eliminate most professional licensure requirements
*Use fiscal and monetary policy to raise inflation to 4% for the next two years.
* Eliminate minimum parking requirements for most new development
* Allow unlimited migration of foreigners to Detroit
* Increase cash transfer payments to the poor



These 'ideas' are the epitome of the constant simplistic and uninformed statements faux-Centrists like to pontificate about. YOU may consider them to be pushing-the-envelope, or whatever trendy euphemism you use for "smart', but they're ... banal, and mostly wrong.

A lot of Yglesias' opinions boil down to "both sides do it": the latest Brooksian popular talking-point/opinion.

Quicksand said...

Yeah, frozen vegetables better are indeed better than no vegetables, I have no quarrel with that.

But Matt lost me when he said that microwaved frozen brussels sprouts are an acceptable meal substitute for an italian sub from the deli.

What?

What?

No.

Glad you lost 60 pounds, buddy, but... have a little dignity!

Roast them, sautee them, grate a little Parmagiano-Reggiano on them.

This from a guy who contributes to a food blog. Ugh.

Is he bucking for a job at Slate?

Susan of Texas said...

Welcome, Yglesias twitter fans!

While I deeply admire a man who wants some regulation but not too much and some freedom but not too much, I remain unconvinced of the unconventional nature of his philosophy.

Of course I do not expect unanimous accord and will be happy to coexist with those who find more wisdom in Yglesias' words than I do myself.

TLS said...

KWillow opined...
These 'ideas' are the epitome of the constant simplistic and uninformed statements faux-Centrists like to pontificate about. YOU may consider them to be pushing-the-envelope, or whatever trendy euphemism you use for "smart', but they're ... banal, and mostly wrong.

I am not passing judgment on the merits of these specific ideas. But you are clearly operating under some unusual definitions of "middle-of-the-road" or "banal" if you consider these positions to be either. There are many substantive critiques of individuals positions held by Matt Y but "middle-of-the-road" is neither an accurate description nor a substantive critique.

Discounting policy analysis because it is "centrist" (or even faux-centrist, whatever that means) is narrow-minded. It is doubly foolish when the "centrist" in question is considerably more liberal than the electorate or either major party platform. He may not meet your personal definition of a liberal, but that is not ipso facto evidence against the merits of his proposed policies.

bingol said...

Hey! I'm not a Yglesias twitter fan. I've posted here in a bunch in the last week as Anonymous, first saying how much I like the blog, though I wasn't sure if that was because the blog is so good or McArdle is such a rewarding target.

I don't use Twitter. That's just wrong.

I just think that complaining about pundits who state the obvious is like complaining about politicians with principles. Yeah, they oughtta be the bare minimum. But it's not.

sherifffruitfly said...

His basic problem is that he knows absolutely nothing, but he thinks he does.

He's a posterchild for why philosophy should not be allowed as an undergraduate major. First learn something as an undergrad - then get a doctorate in philosophy, if you're so inclined.

Freddie said...

Far worse is his absolute refusal to cite responsible evidence. A great sin in combination with his insistence that anyone to his left is a hippie who must be pushed out of the tent of the Reasonable.

cmholm said...

Regarding the quality of Matt's (or anyone's) daily blogging, he has a great number of more and less insightful posts. When he's on, he's on, and I keep reading him for the sort in insights initially demonstrated to me here, regarding the Bush Social Security ripoff^h^h^h^h^h^h...plan.

Anonymous said...

I've got to defend the guy. He's not just uncommonly smart, but he's clearly blessed with a conscience. It's true that he's perhaps more concerned with being correct than unconventional (though sometimes he certainly takes an unconventional stance with regard to democratic orthodoxy), but isn't that good? I mean, is he wrong that there are two sides to the conflicts in Palestine? I think you find him unsatisfying in that he doesn't really try to preach to the choir, but that doesn't mean he's not, on balance, a force for better.

apulrang said...

I think this is more of a personality difference. People often have similar philosophies, but can't stand each other because one likes confidence and assertion, while another likes cool deliberation and analysis.

My take is that we already have enough confidence and assertion in our political dialog, so Matt Y's analytical approach and tone ... generally on the side of the Left ... is most welcomed and needed.

The difference between Matt Y and, say, David Brooks is that while both are analytical in tone, Brooks is more apt to pretend he's without ideology, while Matt will state right out that he's a Progressive / Liberal.

Also, of course, most of Matt's ideas are right, while most of Brooks' are wrong.

Anonymous said...

uncommonly smart?
blessed with a conscience?

Yglesias was a big advocate for the Iraq war and has gone on to declare the end of liberalism.

If you are an upwardly mobile, neoliberal policy analyst, politico or lawyer living in metro DC I can certainly see the appeal. For everyone else there might be one insightful post per day.

Anonymous said...

"Yglesias was a big advocate for the Iraq war"

Yep, and a lot of people still call him smart.
Why?
Because they're dumber than a bag of wet hair.

brad said...

Matty fails two important tests I know of. He got the Iraq War wrong, and is still glad he wasn't a dirty hippie about it, and he went to Megan's wedding.
Which is to say that he's a careerist, so fuck him. It ain't about the truth, it's about staying in the "mainstream" and seeming clever to the Villagers around and above him.
That he can be informatively wonky at times means jack shit to me. He's prone to sloppy little errors of fact, but he gets off on being an expert in the field of expertise. Good bloggers/pundits/journalists know they have ideological blinders and work to overcome them, insofar as it's possible. Lazy hacks celebrate their biases as showing how "reasonable" they are.

I'm mystified how he has any bearing on majoring in philosophy as an undergrad, tho. I was one, and he doesn't remind me of anyone I've known pre- or post-grad in the field. Philosophy students make poor wonks.

Anonymous said...

I would like to exchange links with your site agonyin8fits.blogspot.com
Is this possible?