David Brooks Loves to Capitalize Nouns

The New York Times columnist is wrong about sequestration, and he's somewhat admitted as much. But we can diagnose his wrongness as a compulsive desire to Arbitrarily Capitalize Things. Here are 34 examples from the past 365 days.

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The New York Times' David Brooks has diagnosed the problem of the sequester stalemate as a problem of elaborate political choreography, in which neither side offers a real plan, in which President Obama does the "Permanent Campaign Shimmy" while Republicans do the "Suicide Stage Dive." Unfortunately, Brooks is wrong: both sides have offered real plans.

However, we can diagnose the problem of Brooks's wrongness as a problem of his compulsive desire to Arbitrarily Capitalize Nouns. The columnist has long employed this method to pinpoint a social phenomenon while gently mocking it. Organization Kid was the corps of elite technocrats-in-training in 2001; Patio Man was the middle class suburban dude adjusting to social change in 2002 and 2008. While this trick can be fun and clever, it can also be simplistic and silly, as when he suggested that Obama displayed an ESPN-style masculinity in his post-feminism. Since Brooks's dance column was posted last night, he has somewhat admitted as much, saying in an amended postscript today that he was wrong about Obama's plan because he let his frustration with Washington "get the better of me." Here's a year in David Brooks's Arbitrarily Capitalized Nouns.

Encroachment Story. January 29, 2013Context: In calling for the GOP to split in two, Brooks writes, "Since Barry Goldwater, the central Republican narrative has been what you might call the Encroachment Story: the core problem of American life is that voracious government has been steadily encroaching upon individuals and local communities."

Grand Bargain. January 18, 2013.

semi-Grand Bargains. January 18, 2013.

Learning to Crawl. January 18, 2013Context: "[T]he strategy I'd prefer might be called Learning to Crawl. It would be based on the notion that you have to learn to crawl before you can run."

Promised Land. December 4, 2012.

Grand Bargain. December 4, 2012.

Paleoconservatives. November 19, 2012Context: The groups who will and will not shape the future of the GOP. This was in the will not category.

Lower-Middle Reformists. November 19, 2012.

Soft Libertarians. November 19, 2012.

Burkean Revivalists. November 19, 2012.

Big Government. November 9, 2012.

Small Government. November 9, 2012.

Team of Rivals. November 2, 2012.

Grand Bargain. October 30, 2012.

Craftsmen. October 16, 2012Context: Granted, this one was only capitalized in the headline. In fact, it's a case of Brooks arbitrarily not capitalizing something, because he clearly meant it to be one of his archetypes. "The craftsman" appears in the piece 13 times. Such as: "The craftsman has to accept the hard reality that the other side also believes these things. It is extremely unlikely that one side will convince the other, or the country. The craftsman can hope for some final ideological victory, but he can't realistically expect one."

Economy I. September 14, 2012.

Economy II. September 14, 2012Context: "Modern nations have two economies, which exist side by side. Economy I is the tradable sector… Economy II is made up of organizations that do not face such intense global competition…"

Ayn Randian SupermanAugust 3, 2012. "In your 20s, for example, you should regard yourself as an Ayn Randian Superman who is the architect of the wonder that is you."

New Democrat. July 31, 2012.

Compassionate Conservative. July 31, 2012.

Protestant Establishment. July 13, 2012.

Little Prince Hal. July 6, 2012Context: Imagine if Henry V went to a modern elementary school.

Good Person Construct. June 8, 2012Context: "People who live by the Good Person Construct try to balance their virtuous self-image with their selfish desires."

Depraved Sinners. June 8, 2012.

Sugar Daddy. May 18, 2012.

ESPN Man. May 15, 2012Context: "Obama has displayed a kind of ESPN masculinity: postfeminist in his values, but also thoroughly traditional in style — hypercompetitive, restrained, not given to self-doubt, rarely self-indulgent."

Economy I. April 10, 2012.

Economy II. April 10, 2012.

Mr. Authenticity. April 6, 2012.

All In. March 16, 2012Context: This pre-dates the Love Pentagon scandal. "Obama has talked vaguely about tax reform. He has acknowledged the need for entitlement reform and major deficit reduction. But he has never thrown himself All In."

Rick Blaine Illusion. March 9, 2012Context: "...I was suffering from the Rick Blaine Illusion (named for the character in ''Casablanca''): the illusion that we are autonomous individuals who have the ability to shed and form our attachments at will."

Rhino Republicans. February 28, 2012.

Opossum Republicans. February 28, 2012.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.