09/26/2014 10:40 am ET Updated Sep 26, 2014

New York Times Columnists Are Warring With Each Other Again

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The New York Times famously does not let its columnists attack each other by name, so the paper's pundits have developed the habit of rubbishing their colleagues' ideas with less than complete subtlety instead.

The past week has seen an explosion of intra-Timesian battle, all couched in the polite tones of middle-aged white men with 700 words to crank out.

First, there was David Brooks, who was clearly responding to Roger Cohen, who wrote a rather florid whole column about how the world was "unraveling." Brooks, in a column on Tuesday, wrote that there was, in fact, no unraveling, and that all we really needed was more responsible elites:

This leadership crisis is eminently solvable. First, we need to get over the childish notion that we don’t need a responsible leadership class, that power can be wielded directly by the people. America was governed best when it was governed by a porous, self-conscious and responsible elite — during the American revolution, for example, or during and after World War II. Karl Marx and Ted Cruz may believe that power can be wielded directly by the masses, but this has almost never happened historically.

Cue Paul Krugman, who has a long history of turning his nose up at Brooks. In his Friday column, he mentioned that he'd seen lots of discussion going around about how what the world really needs is responsible elites. (Where could he have seen that theory being pushed?) Krugman was not impressed:

The point is that while chiding the rich for their vulgarity may not be as offensive as lecturing the poor on their moral failings, it’s just as futile. Human nature being what it is, it’s silly to expect humility from a highly privileged elite. So if you think our society needs more humility, you should support policies that would reduce the elite’s privileges.

Up next, surely: Tom Friedman suddenly begins musing on what makes a leader a leader.



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