Finally got around to reading the actual David Brooks column here:


Interesting stuff:

These are all stunningly fast cultural and demographic shifts. The world is moving in the same basic direction, from societies oriented around the two-parent family to cafeteria societies with many options…

Why is this happening? The report offers many explanations. People are less religious. People in many parts of the world are more pessimistic and feeling greater economic stress. Global capitalism also seems to be playing a role, especially, it seems, in Asia.

Many people are committed to their professional development and fear that if they don’t put in many hours at work they will fall behind or close off lifestyle options.

Toru Suzuki, a researcher at the National Institute of Population and Society Security Research in Japan, gave Kotkin’s team this explanation in its baldest form: “Under the social and economic systems of developed countries, the cost of a child outweighs the child’s usefulness.”

Some of the comments come to better analysis of the situation than Brooks does, such as:

  • J Young
  • Seattle
NYT Pick

Wow. Mr. Brooks is recommending social engineering as an antidote to an excess of personal choice, while at the same time suggesting it might be okay to investigate “emerging commitment devices.” No wonder he’s a Republican apostate.

Conservatives claim to be huge fans of individual liberty–but apparently that doesn’t apply to the liberty to live alone, childless, or churchless. If family values and social ties don’t come naturally any more, then let’s legislate ’em, dammit! Heaven forbid that we should keep our options open.

In reality, our increasingly diverse, mobile, wired, and atomized society is a direct result of the unfettered growth of capitalism. Emile Durkheim wrote on this over a century ago, positing that the “mechanical solidarity” of family-based societies is replaced by “organic solidarity” as population increases, the division of labor grows ever more complex, and we rely increasingly more on strangers than on kin. Durkheim didn’t necessarily see this as a bad thing–just a step in the evolution of cultures.

A complex economy demands and rewards individualism, not family ties. That’s the ultimate irony of combining economic and social conservatism: one works against the other. Which is why otherwise intelligent people like David Brooks twist themselves into these amazing contortions when they try to have it both ways.


  • Robert Henry Eller
  • Milan, Italy
NYT Pick

“Among a great number of 20 to 40 year old people I know there is indeed a diversity in lifestyles followed remarkably by a solid predominance of marriage and traditional hard work and climb the ladder of success lifestyle. They do vote Blue; then tend to change as they mature. There is a decent future ahead.”

Bryan, you live in Malvern, PA. I lived there for over twenty years myself, and not so long ago. It’s an upper-middle class to very-wealthy area, among the wealthiest in the US. My neighbors there were millionaires, even billionaires.

You’re sampling just like the Romney campaign did.

  • Sarahct
  • 06879
NYT Pick

Mr. Brooks seems to have problems imagining human species’ existence in any other way than the 20th century model.  Marriage with children may have worked well for mostly agricultural centuries of our recent history, but it seems to be not so efficient a system for a large portion of the newer generation.  Why should our public policy be skewed to favor an old and increasingly irrelevant institution such as marriage?  It would create a class of people unfairly advantaged over others.  
Given that we as a species have done a good job of adapting and surviving so far, any tidal waves of change are probably not merely for selfish reasons as Mr. Brooks seems to imply.  
And, don’t forget that the Earth is well and over populated and still growing in spite of the plummeting birth rate cited in this op-Ed.  Mr. Brooks has to introspect as to honestly face what his motives were for this rambling article.

These are just some of the first few I read through… they continued along the same vein.  There does seem to be a tidal wave of change of opinion on all this in favor of new ways of living that don’t necessarily center around marriage and children.