(Elsewhere, Brooks's search for a special ingredient that will get a Republican elected president led him to write a book called The Conservative Heart, which purports to offer "a set of practical policies firmly grounded in the four 'institutions of meaning' -- family, faith, community, and meaningful work" that supposedly adds up to "a bold new vision for conservatism as a movement for happiness, unity, and social justice" -- in other words, the appearance of government compassion with as little actual government spending as possible. Yeah, maybe that'll gull the rubes.)
In the current column, Brooks makes the case for the value of optimism, but he can be a tad selective in his presentation of the facts; he writes this, for instance:
... recently, social science has shown a big advantage for optimistic leaders. In 2013, for example, Dutch researchers published a study in The Leadership Quarterly showing that a positive, happy leader is judged to be 132 percent more effective than a dour, negative one.That would be this paper by Victoria Visser of Erasmus University in Rotterdam and her colleagues, part of a longer work you can download at the first link here. In fact, Visser et al. say that happy leaders are perceived as more effective, but actually aren't more effective:
The results confirmed our prediction that a leader's happy displays enhance followers' creative performance compared to their analytical performance, while a leader's sad displays enhance followers' analytical performance compared to their creative performance. Thus, both leader happy and sad displays can benefit follower performance, depending on the type of task that needs to be performed. Moreover, our prediction that followers perceive a leader displaying happiness as more effective than a leader displaying sadness was confirmed. This indicates that objective (i.e., performance) and subjective (i.e., ratings) measures of leadership effectiveness do not refer to the same construct.People who work under happy leaders do better creative work, but people who work under sad leaders do better analytic work -- and even though people think happy leaders are better leaders, they're not.
Brooks also sneers at those arrogant Europeans for daring to question good old Yankee optimism:
The American attitude that all will be well often amazes our European friends -- and not always in a positive way. In The New York Times in 2003, a former adviser to the president of France derisively declared that, “The United States compensates for its shortsightedness, its tendency to improvise, with an altogether biblical self-assurance in its transcendent destiny.”Gosh, what brought that on? Well, the date should be a giveaway --the op-ed (by Regis DeBray) appeared on February 23, 2003, less than a month before the U.S. began bombing Iraq. You think maybe DeBray had a good reason to denounce America's "almost biblical self-assurance" at that moment? DeBray went on to say that "Puritan America ... regards itself as the predestined repository of Good, with a mission to strike down Evil." Yup -- and I think we know how that turned out.
This Arthur Brooks column isn't as hinky as, say, the last Times column by that other Brooks guy. (Go here for Yastreblyansky's fine debunking of Friday's David Brooks column.) But what is the Times's bizarre attraction to truth-massaging conservatives in moderates' clothing with this particular surname?