I won't bore you with a detailed recapitulation of David Brooks' column about some kind of Goldilocks government, but I do want to draw your attention to a single sentence that represents an often repeated sentiment:
The geniuses flock to finance, not industry.Other, perhaps, than these geniuses' own self-testimony, I can see exactly no reason to believe that this is true; indeed, I see every reason to believe the opposite. Thieves aren't geniuses, and though there are certainly some whizbang mathletes on Wall Street, it's not as if loudmouth asshole business-major twenty-somethings are actually building or programming the blackbox Culture Minds that make marginal trades on gazillions of shares every picosecond.
But you know, genius is a bit of a term of art, so maybe I'm being a little harsh here. Perhaps it is possible to be a genius at inventing acronyms for repackaged assets, and yet, no, Brooks' unoriginal thesis here is not that finance is full of savants but that it is full of Leonardan superminds who, if they were not busy stealing houses and wrecking pension funds and concocting pyramid schemes, would be curing cancer and building nanotube space elevators. Um, huh, wut? How are these transferable abilities? Do you sit in the concert hall and think to yourself, wow, that Hilary Hahn is a great young violinist; I bet she'd make an even better exotic particle physicist!
Google and Facebook and the Terminator-building department of Carnegie Mellon University and the Doctors Moreaux at Monsanto etc. do not actually seem to have trouble attracting young mad scientists; they do not seem to be chewing their nails in existential worry that either the next Einstein or the next Edison is pretending to work late at Goldman Sachs instead of inventing warp drive.
Why, it's almost as if this idea of all our native geniuses dashing to Wall Street were . . . oh, you know, proposed and promoted by Wall Street. More drivers are switching to Geico! Great taste, less filling! The ultimate driving machine! It's not delivery, it's DiGiorno!