Friday, May 07, 2021

Distrust Doom Loop

Doom Loop: Richmond Mural Project 2014, by Onur and Wes21, photo by Brandon Bartoszek, 2019.

Breaking: On further consideration, Brooks ("Our Pathetic Herd Immunity Failure") thinks the New Deal may have been OK:

The New Deal was an act of social solidarity that created the national cohesion we needed to win World War II. I am not in the habit of supporting massive federal spending proposals. But in this specific context — in the midst of a distrust doom loop — this is our best shot of reversing the decline.

Not, to be sure, because it rescued millions of Americans from hunger, homelessness, and despair, but because it created "cohesion". Which prepared us for the Second World War. And probably would have prepared us for the Covid-19 pandemic too, if we'd only had a good Great Depression beforehand for an excuse. You don't want a New Deal every day, because that's awfully expensive, but it's just the thing to get you out of a Distrust Doom Loop (the phrase sounds a little like Tom Friedman in a panic attack, but is Brooks's own, premiered in an article in The Atlantic last October).

Maybe if Trump had offered people a little New Deal in 2019, he'd have saved us from the Distrust Doom Loop of 2020.

And if something had given David Brooks more of a social cohesion feeling he would have handled it better himself, almost exactly a year ago, as our friend reminds us:

Distrust Doom Loops are a hell of a thing. 

Of course on the other hand you don't know you're in a Distrust Doom Loop until the Doom shows up. It's amazing that Roosevelt and his Brain Trust seem to have realized that a war was around the corner and buckled down to work right away, creating social trust by the ton, in plenty of time to win the war when it showed up.

That hardly ever happens. The Obama administration, for example, may have made elaborate preparations for a pandemic, but did absolutely nothing to create social trust, other than trying to get the entire population access to affordable health care, in spite of David F. Brooks's frequent pleas to them to think more about the social trust issue and stop trying to solve everybody's problems with complicated and expensive government programs.

Or maybe, hear me out here, maybe Roosevelt and the Brain Trust weren't thinking about the coming war at all. Maybe they were actually thinking about rescuing millions of Americans from hunger, homelessness, and despair just because they thought that was their job. Maybe the trust in government that largely lasted for the next 40 or 50 years had to do with the fact that the government installed in 1933 actually was trustworthy

And maybe instead of deploying just enough New Deal to get you through the specific context of that Distrust Doom Loop you could use moderately massive government spending (the kind of thing the Lincoln administration meant by suggesting that the people should be governed by the people on behalf of the people and then proceeding to a massive expansion of public education and transportation infrastructure in the middle of a civil war) all the time, even when it seems inconvenient, with the idea that if the government was trustworthy all the time those unpredictable Distrust Doom Loops would never arise. Just a thought.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names

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