Tuesday, November 09, 2004


I thought I'd let David Brooks off the hook for awhile. Didn't want to beat a dead horse. But he keeps goading me. And he really did it today with his editorial in the Times.

Brooks discusses the importance of "exurbia," by which he means suburbs that have taken on a life of their own and have little to do with the central cities they originally were built around. He extols their virtues and then wonders why his book about them didn't sell.

Mr. Brooks--you're book didn't sell because someone smarter than you already wrote about it. Perhaps you have forgotten about Joel Garreau's Edge City. Though I haven't read your book, I have my doubts that it says much Garreau didn't say and he didn't attach the political and moral values to these suburbs that I'm sure you did.

Brooks describes these cities as "towns with ample living space, intact families, child-friendly public culture, and intensely enforced social equality." In other words, white.

Any smart discussion of these cities needs to admit their faults while also discussing their virtues. You can talk about these being a good place to live while also admitting that ample living space means environmental destruction (particularly in the I-4 corridor in Florida that he seems so fond of) and that intensely enforced social equality means that social diversity is not highly valued. And that brown people aren't always welcome.

But rather than intelligently discuss these places, Brooks sees them for what he wants to see--Republican paradise. White people with big houses and women who would still rather take valium than divorce their cheating husbands. Brooks seems to like these places because it is there that people are still trying to live a 1955 stereotype. And they're white.

Again, to Mr. Brooks. I've already identified why academics and people on the left didn't read your book. You couldn't tap into market of the people who live in these places for the precise reason you like them. They're white suburban Republicans. Not exactly the most self-reflective or intellectual people. If you really want to reach these people, write a Harlequin romance or Tom Clancy book. It couldn't be worse than this column.