I don’t think you’ll find a more persuasive example of the difference between thoughtful and flippant conservatism.
Earlier this week, Rush Limbaugh seemed to suggest we should not send aid to Haiti in the wake of that country’s devastating earthquake because we’ve already sent them enough taxpayer money and that money never seems to do any good. To be clear, I’m not finding evidence that Limbaugh explicitly said “don’t help the victims of the earthquake.” But he leaves that impression by focusing on the failures of past aid and uttering the words “we’ve already donated.”
Today, David Brooks tackles the same subject, but leaves (at least in my reading) a much different impression. Brooks acknowledges President Obama’s promise to the people of Haiti — “You will not be forsaken; you will not be forgotten” — and then encourages the President to “use this tragedy as an occasion to rethink our approach to global poverty.” Brooks proceeds to walk through some of the realities of past failures and then suggests ways we might do better (by the people of Haiti and other poverty stricken-areas) in the future.
Net: Limbaugh stokes anger and (potentially) refusal to help in the midst of tragedy. Brooks stokes tough but thoughtful consideration of how to do better; of why we should not just provide aid during this moment of tragedy, but why we should also develop longer-term strategies that could make future aid more constructive and enduring.
Some of you might not agree with the particulars of Brooks’ assessment and recommendation, but I trust you will at least acknowledge the merits of his approach over Rush’s empty, drive-by, circus act.
For what it’s worth, I’m persuaded by Brooks, in part because his points on culture and “intrusive paternalism” seem very similar to Malcolm Gladwell’s well-documented discussion of culture and “concerted cultivation” in Outliers: The Story of Success. Net: If you balk at Brooks’ argument, read Gladwell. At the very least, it should make you think twice.