David Brooks, "The Progressive Shift", NYT 3/18/2013:
There is a statue outside the Department of Labor of a powerful, rambunctious horse being reined in by an extremely muscular man. This used to be a metaphor for liberalism. The horse was capitalism. The man was government, which was needed sometimes to restrain capitalism’s excesses.
I recently claimed that
David Brooks has an unparalleled ability to shape an intellectually interesting idea into the rhetorical arc of an 800-word op-ed piece. The trouble is, a central part of his genius is choosing the little factoids that perfectly illustrate his points. No doubt he's happy enough to use a true fact if the right one comes to hand, but whenever I've checked, the details have turned out to be somewhere between mischaracterized and invented.
So I thought I'd put in a few minutes today as Mr. Brooks' metaphor-checker. I'll spare you the full "Ask Radio Yerevan" treatment, but here's the gist: Brooks originally wrote that the statue was outside the Department of Labor, and that the horse was capitalism and the man was government; but in fact the statue is outside the Federal Trade Commission, and according to the sculptor, the horse was trade and the man was, well, man. (Or, in these less gendered times, humanity.)
According to "Lantz", The New Yorker (Talk of the Town), 2/26/1942:
You may have read in the newspapers a couple of weeks ago that a young sculptor named Michael Lantz had been awarded a $45,600 commission to do two groups of statuary for the recently completed Federal Trade Commission Building in Washington. [...]
The figures which Lantz will do for the F.T.C. Building will be in two groups — one at each end of the building. In each group will be a man holding in check a powerful workhorse. "Man controls trade," he explains. "Trade is an enormous thing. But man, by his intelligence, controls the horses."
The Smithsonian's page on the sculpture confirms that it is called "Man Controlling Trade". Also, as Timothy Noah in the New Republic notes, and Bill W reminds us in the comments below, Mr. Brooks originally located the statue outside the Department of Labor rather than the Federal Trade Commission — the NYT correction notice reads
So, as expected, the convenient Brooksian factoid is sort of semi-true.