David BrooksImage via Wikipedia

Sorry to focus so much attention on the Times, but NYT had a great conversation piece yesterday between David Brooks and Gail Collins dubbed "The Propeller Head's Dilemna." Apparently the big O has a special name for his economic advisers: “the propeller heads.” David Brooks:

This is going to unleash the familiar debate on what should be the
role of policy intellectuals in the White House. Some dumb Republicans
are going to get some mileage by attacking the idea of a White House
run by geeks. Some smug Democrats are going to claim that of course
they have intellectuals since they are the party of reason and

The correct position is the one held by self-loathing intellectuals,
like Isaiah Berlin, Edmund Burke, James Madison, Michael Oakeshott and
others. These were pointy heads who understood the limits of what
pointy heads can know…

The idea is that the world is too complex for us to know, and
therefore policies should be designed that take account of our
ignorance. Whether the Obama administration understands this is an open

There’s nothing more dangerous than a propeller head who doesn’t know his limitations.

And this, for as a much as you will hear me bitch and moan about NYT's poor business strategy and failure to adapt, this is why I love the institution and want to see it survive.

We need a fundamental rethinking of our infrastructure policies, but
instead we just throw fast money into obsolete and useless programs
(see Popular Mechanics’ reporting on this). Instead of carefully
planning a new Head Start, we’re going to try to throw together a bunch
of programs in a rushed stimulus fashion. The evidence shows that good
Head Start really works but bad Head Start is terrible. We’re going to
get the latter.


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