Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Brooks on Sachs ... I didn't come across this until now, but David Brooks' latest column is baffling. "Karl Rove has his theories about what separates liberals from conservatives and I have mine," he begins. "Mine include the differences between Jeffrey Sachs and George Bush." Thereafter he spends half his column lambasting Sachs for his philosophical influences before taking a belated -- and inaccurate -- look at how Sachs' plan for economic development differs from Bush's.

I've generally admired Brooks for the way he refrains from personal attacks, so the only way I can explain his column is that Sachs must have said something to or about Brooks that rubbed him the wrong way, perhaps for one of the columns he wrote after he made a recent visit to Africa.

But I find it hard to imagine that Sachs would have said something to sufficiently warrant Brooks' invective. Before Sachs left Harvard to take his post at Columbia -- and thereby be closer to the U.N., which he regularly advises -- he taught a Core class on the Economics of Development. I took it my senior year. Although I disagreed with a few of his positions, no one in the class could have doubted, let alone reproved, his sincerity: in his final lecture, as he challenged us to care about poverty, his voice began to crack, his eyes looked away, and -- for one remarkably poignant moment -- he openly wept.

David Brooks has every right to debate Sachs' positions, but not the integrity with which he has arrived at them.


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