Seriously, he did. But then it's David Brooks and we could dismiss it as his usual silliness, but the bad news, unfortunately, is that many in the GOP think like Brooks. This has been the cancer in the Republican Party -- Neo-Con, faux-Burkean, elitist, Moral Authoritarianism. They seem to think if government is not legislating morals, then America is immoral. What an odd political view in light of the current government scandals and endless lies.
Brooks writes as if his Centrist babble about a powerful but non-intrusive State is profound rather than pathetic. I once gave people like Brooks the benefit of the doubt and said they're misguided do-gooders who want a powerful government to help bring virtue and inspiration to the masses, but anyone over 20 who's studied government cannot say these things with a straight face -- they have to be deceptive, bent on securing a niche in a power structure they help form.
Brooks is like the intellectuals of old who pleased the King so that the King wouldn't cut off their heads. Brooks and his ilk are afraid a free market would cut off their heads, figuratively. I no longer accept that any educated grownup believes government can or should induce virtues. When Brooks quotes James Q. Wilson:
“In almost every area of public concern, we are seeking to induce persons to act virtuously, whether as schoolchildren, applicants for public assistance, would-be lawbreakers, or voters and public officials,”
his article becomes comedy gold. But Brooks isn't being funny -- he knows that neo-cons are needed to beat back the libertarians and conservative constitutionalists. Brooks is serious about his statist world view. Brooks knows that government can force morality, and he's okay with it -- Brooks even embarrasses George Will by praising something Will wrote called "Statecraft as Soulcraft" in which Will assures us that government has successfully legislated morals. Ouch. I bet Will wishes Brooks wouldn't bring this ugliness to light again.
Brooks serves the same hash as Democrats when he says that limited government Republicans want no government at all and that Republicans have hated welfare. First, limited government is good government, not no government at all, and, secondly, if Republicans have hated welfare, it's a hate that nourishes, because the welfare state has grown unimpeded through the reigns of both parties. Rather than rehash these tired memes, let's have a real conversation about private sector assistance and private education offerings. Let's allow the private sector to do everything the private sector can possibly do, then if there's some area outside law enforcement, national defense and courts that the private sector can't possibly handle, then have an intelligent debate about how government might help. Let's not start with the assumption that government knows best, can do everything, even induce virtues, legislate morals and such, and, please, let's not do anything with neo-cons in charge.