David Brooks believes in some form of conservatism which is hard to define. However, he believes that it includes some vision of a desirable society. Government plays a role in that society. It organizes itself around that vision. For most of his career David Brooks has been an opinion leader in the Republican Party. He now understands that Republicanism is not Conservatism. The Republican Party is only concerned about governing but it is not guided by a vision of a conservative society.
Brooks has come to the realization that there is a structural flaw in modern capitalism. The structural flaw has led to rising inequality which is tearing society apart. Donald Trump was elected to remedy the problem of rising inequality. He seems to have given up on the promises that he made to his supporters. He is the leader of a political party that has no social vision. It is wedded to a system of governance which accepts rising inequality and social decay. There are two conflicting governing divisions in the Republican Party which are somewhat aligned. One group is intent upon making the tax system less progressive and lowering the level of taxation. That plays well with those who want to diminish the role of government in society. Libertarians are happy with lower taxes because it blends in with their idea of a very limited government. The internal debate within the Republican Party over the healthcare bill reflects that division. Moderate Republicans and libertarians can't agree on the extent of government involvement in the healthcare system. They only seem to agree on eliminating the progressive tax in Obamacare. In either case, the GOP bill is a social disaster. It exacerbates the problem of rising income inequality.
Brooks attended a conference in Aspen that included representatives from the leading conservative think tanks. Brooks is more comfortable around conservative intellectuals because he believes that they share a vision of conservative society. They recognize the structural flaw in modern capitalism and they have come to accept income redistribution as one of the remedies. It is a conservative view of income redistribution that is decentralized and incorporates the market mechanism in its solutions. They would fix the healthcare system by using market mechanisms to redistribute income those who cannot afford to purchase healthcare. They have a vision of a consumer driven healthcare system that would offer near universal coverage, They would probably reject the best liberal inspired version of healthcare which would be a single payer system like Medicare for everyone that prevails in Canada. That system could solve two major problems in our healthcare system. Healthcare costs continue to rise faster than general inflation and faster than GDP. Conservative intellectuals can't really give up on the idea that healthcare is a commodity that responds well to market mechanisms. Kenneth Arrow, who is regarded as one of our greatest economists destroyed that idea many years ago, Conservatives have not come to grips with Arrow's argument. Consumers with limited funds can't purchase many desirable commodities which everyone would like. Those who are unable to afford insurance, or other means of obtaining healthcare, will get sick and die without access to healthcare. We accept the idea that everyone cannot own a Mercedes. Are we ready to accept that low income citizens in the world's richest nation should be left to get sick and die?
Tom Price, who Trump appointed to fix our healthcare system, presented at the Aspen conference. According to Brooks he was a flop. He had no real ideas and no vision of a better society. He spent most of his time trying the sell the Republican healthcare bill. Price is an example of the problem that Brooks would like to change. He would like more involvement by conservative intellectuals in government who share a social vision. What we have instead is Republican Party selling a healthcare bill that has no vision of how it relates to a social vision which Brooks would like to see in our government. I would go a step further than Brooks. Our government is being led by individuals who have no social vision but also reject intellectuals and the need for new ideas.
I always learn a lot by reading the comments that follow many of the op-eds written by David Brooks. There are a lot of smart people who read his articles and they raise good questions. I also read articles in the Washington Post written by smart people who raise good questions. The comments that appear after good articles in the Washington Post are nowhere near the comments that follow a typical article Brooks article in the NYT. It seems like the Post attracts a lot of readers who have no interest in debating ideas. Many seem to read them as trolls who want to expel liberal ideas from public discussion. That probably reflects the location of the Post that is also a local paper in an area which has little interest in intellectual debate.