Babbling Spirit

The Social Animal
The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement
David Brooks
Random House, $27, 448 pp.

David Brooks has earned his reputation as a conservative whom liberals can like by appearing both more principled and more flexible than the Republican consensus. For example, he argues in support of gay marriage that it would shore up the unfashionable virtues of traditional marriage. Like President Barack Obama—with whose administration he is said to be on exceptionally good terms—Brooks thinks in broad strokes, loves a choice bit of data, and exhibits an irrepressible urge to transcend...

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