By Alan Bean
Like many people on the progressive side of the political continuum, I have a love-hate relationship with David Brooks. The New York Times columnist has a gift for reducing complicated arguments to their essentials. He likes books that swap the left vs. right divide for a fresh analysis that defies conventional categories. Brooks is a political conservative who cares about the common good. When the Republican side of his nature takes over, the results are as predictable and pedestrian as the next talking head; but when he rises above the culture war claptrap, Brooks is worth five minutes of your time.
“The Great Divorce” (a title he stole from C.S Lewis’s book about heaven and hell) is Brooks introduction to Charles Murray’s Coming Apart. Murray is the libertarian who reportedly convinced Bill Clinton to end “welfare as we know it.” He also co-authored the controversial The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class in American Life which argued that the different social and economic outcomes between whites and blacks couldn’t be attributed entirely to structural or cultural factors and must therefore reflect basic differences in intelligence. Murray thinks public assistance programs, though well-intentioned, have damaged America’s most vulnerable citizens. (more…)