In the NY Times this weekend, columnist Brooks annoyingly takes social entrepreneurs to task for their “lack of faith in the political system”. As he writes:
They have little faith in the political process and believe that real change happens on the ground beneath it… That’s a delusion. You can cram all the nongovernmental organizations you want into a country, but if there is no rule of law and if the ruling class is predatory then your achievements won’t add up to much.
Unless there is a healthy political process to resolve disputes, the ensuing hatred and conflict will destroy everything the altruists are trying to build.
Instead, argues Brooks, these sharp, mostly young, folks should be a lot more like fictional detective Sam Spade. Willing to do whatever and work with whomever it takes to get the job done, Spade and other realists were able to coldly focus on the job at hand and put there feelings about things on the back burner.
Does Brooks mention any specific entrepreneurs? No. Any specific start ups? No. Any specific problems they are trying to solve? Again, no. Indeed, this ridiculous lumping of all social entrepreneurs (adherents to a “service religion” as he calls it) into this one-attitude-fits-all analysis, Brooks exposes his own penchant for employing the same old solution to solving new problems… the kind of magical idealistic thinking, perhaps, that led to his strong support for the Iraq invasion in 2003.
What Brooks misses, of course, is the dizzying array of personalities, ideas, approaches, and technologies being brought to bear on creating social good through entrepreneurship right now, including by young people coming out of many of the “certain universities” Brooks cites. And while many of these folks are dewey idealists, and even many are trying to solve social problems outside of the restrictive halls of public, private and independent sectors, many are working hand in hand with leading institutions in all three sectors.
Suggestion for David Brooks: instead of lobbing bombs at those who are trying to solve problems, how about joining them?