David Brooks Still Living in 1999 by mattsteinglass
May 22, 2007, 1:16 pm
Filed under: Economics, United States

In the cab on the way to the airport out of Singapore last week, my hilariously voluble Sikh cab driver Mr. Singh explained to me why neither he nor any of his friends wants to emigrate to the US anymore. His brother has been living in Sacramento since the early ’80s, driving a cab, but is about to come back to Singapore with his family; gradually, since 9/11, he’s come to feel unwelcome and unsafe. (And the value of his exurban home, bought 6 years ago, is crashing.) “People think in 10 or 15 years, America is going to have big problems,” said Mr. Singh. “You are borrowing all this money from Asia, from us over here. And what are you doing with it all? Okay, so you want to be a big superpower, so does it mean you should borrow all this money to fight wars?”

David Brooks today writes: “The United States is the Harvard of the world. Millions long to get in.” Wrong. Yes, millions long to get in — just as they long to get into France, Britain, Singapore, Germany, or anywhere else with high wages and at least some openness to immigration. But they only want to get in from poor countries — Africa, South Asia, South America. Europeans and East Asians are increasingly uninterested. The United States used to be the Harvard of the world. Now we’re a safety school — Michigan, maybe, or UCLA.


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Finally caught up to your blog, Matt, and enjoy it. You may feel the power of your mighty words – this is my first-ever comment posted to *any* blog.

My comment is on the cliche of the journalist quoting his/her taxi drive, which is well-documented (See: HERE and HERE and HERE )

Well, you and I both know why we journalists love to interview our cabbies: it’s an easy, captive (and if lucky, air-conditioned) interview, and the driver is by definition “working class” and may indeed (or not) have everyman-type opinions.

I’m certainly not against it in principle – I in fact found your cabbie’s insights quite interesting – except to say that we reporters talking to our taxi-men (and women) might heed to the same principle about using a quote as a lead, or about using explanation points: you can do it — but limit it to once a year…

Last thought: If I were, say, running an authoritarian regime in SE Asia that is trying to make the case for one-party rule, I think my first priority would be to train up an elite cadre of propagandists driving taxis whose sole job is to seek out journalists on assignment and plant quotes!

Comment by Kay Johnson

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