David Brooks's Friday column on the Haiti earthquake counts as his most reprehensible in recent memory, if not ever. On the strength of apparently having read one book and an essay on Haiti he feels licensed to charge millions of Haitian parents with systematically neglecting and then abusing their children. As bad is this is, the particulars are less important than what drives this sort of analysis—if one can call it that--which is Brooks’s commitment to a culturalist line that runs through all of his commentary and is itself is driven by a fundamental belief that poverty and economic inequality are never the causes of social ills but merely symptoms of deep-seated cultural or behavioral problems.
Despite all of his handwringing and reflective posturing, the bottom line for him is always the bottom line: Any proposal or policy that involves (or that could even open the door to) transferring wealth from those who have squirreled away an obscenely disproportionate amount of the world’s resources and goods to the world’s impoverished will receive strict scrutiny from Brooks and found wanting in one way or another. To give you an idea of the current state of affairs, the editor of the Left Business Observer reports that the Goldman Sachs bonus pool is approximately $20b while Haiti’s annual GDP is approximately $7b.
Of course, what burns me up is less Brooks himself than the “pass” he gets from many liberal types on the basis of having a Times column and being a regular on public television when his substantive politics are Fox News fare, minus the obvious demagoguery around issues like abortion, etc, and leavened by the fact that he’s got a reading list that overlaps with many of us in the educated classes. I could go on and on about what this says about the center of gravity of what purports to be progressive political discourse at the moment, but I’ll spare you that for now.