Summary of The Populist Addiction by David Brooks

Noted New York Times columnist David Brooks makes a scathing criticism of the notion of populism in American political culture today. The crux of his argument is that populist politics divides the country when what is actually required is unity. He criticizes the leadership of both the Democratic Party as well as the Republican Party in pandering to the what their voter group wants at the cost of the wants of the other voter group. A good example of this situation is the opposing rhetoric of respective party members John Edwards and Sarah Palin. The author also points to the fact that irrespective of which side wins, it is the elite within that group which ultimately benefits and not their supporting contingency. This is illustrated by the fact that irrespective of whether those holding M.B.A degrees or those holding Ph.Ds come to power, the general population is generally left out of the equation. And the voting population is aware of the flaws in the system to not take populist rhetoric too seriously.

Brooks cites historical examples when political leaders espoused anti-populist views. Foremost among them are Alexander Hamilton and Abraham Lincoln, who had the foresight to see the folly in populist politics. Both these historic figures encouraged free-market economy and capitalist enterprise. They believed that such a framework is the best that a government can adopt to ensure growth, industrial development and job creation. In essence, Brooks is advocating moderation on part of those critics who attack investment banks such as Goldman Sachs while not criticizing the general public being ineffective exercising their franchise. Indeed, Brooks contends that populist politics will never work – it will only divide the people of the country and incite class war.

Work Cited:

David Brooks, The Populist Addiction, published 26th January, 2010 in New York Times