In a column last week, David Brooks urged wealthy Americans to “strike a blow for social cohesion” by avoiding displays of ostentatious consumption. In his column today, Paul Krugman argues with conservatives who urge rich people to avoid displays of ostentatious consumption. Who does Krugman have in mind with his critique? Let’s see:
Running through much recent conservative writing is the theme that America’s elite has also fallen down on the job, that it has lost the seriousness and restraint of an earlier era. Peggy Noonan writes about our “decadent elites,” who make jokes about how they are profiting at the expense of the little people. Charles Murray, whose book “Coming Apart” is mainly about the alleged decay of values among the white working class, also denounces the “unseemliness” of the very rich, with their lavish lifestyles and gigantic houses.
A third example would have really sealed the case here. Sadly, Krugman is only able to muster two.
Krugman is definitely aware of Brooks’s column. He wrote about it on his blog. But the decorous rules of the Times op-ed page require that columnists not engage each other in something so undecorous as a public debate over their ideas. And so confused Times op-ed-page devotees once again find themselves as guests at a dinner party where one of the hosts asks them to please tell the other host to pass him the butter because they can’t speak to each other directly.