Completely disagree. The Unix philosophy is right when it comes to layout: you want to be simple, fast, and predictable.
This attitude is also why we are in a situation where the Web is slow compared to native platforms. Simple things tend to be fast things. Complex things tend to be slow things.
Your implications that table layout can be "well defined" or "heavily optimized" are both false. The problem is that table layout is ill-defined: it's really a pile of hacks upon hacks that were invented at Netscape a long time ago and still not standardized or consistent between browsers. And, speaking as someone who optimizes layout engines for a living, complexity is the #1 enemy of "heavy optimization". Spec complexity is the #1 reason why layout is so slow, because it makes layout engines large, complex, and brittle.