David Brooks gets it right …

I was impressed by David Brooks’ NYT piece on the economy today for a couple reasons.
In “An Economy of Faith and Trust,” he begins:

Once there was just Newtonian physics and the world seemed neat and mechanical. Then quantum physics came along and revealed that deep down things are much weirder than they seem. Something similar is now happening with public policy.
Once, classical economics dominated policy thinking. The classical models presumed a certain sort of orderly human makeup. Inside each person, reason rides the passions the way a rider sits atop a horse. Sometimes people do stupid things, but generally the rider makes deliberative decisions, and the market rewards rational behavior

Those Newtonian/classical economics models have failed us. Reality is more complex, and we now have to face that fact. (One recalls Alan Greenspan’s statement a few months ago that there are flaws in his model – admirable honesty!) This wave of second thoughts in economics parallels the kind of theological shifts in thinking many of us are calling for. (This will be a main theme of my 2010 book … details TBA) What many people call “orthodoxy,” we’re suggesting, is actually a kind of Newtonian or Smithian model that has a lot to commend it, but can’t cope with the complexities of reality.
Brooks concludes,

Mechanistic thinkers on the right and left pose as rigorous empiricists. But empiricism built on an inaccurate view of human nature is just a prison.

I would add that mechanistic thinkers in theology on the right and left would do well to make a similar discovery.