Don Boudreaux completely missed the point - that Brooks was calling out conservative and libertarian social engineers and radicals as well as liberal ones. Boudreaux regularly advocates these huge imposed changes, derived from deduction from simple principles rather than real testing in the real world - precisely the sort of change that Burke and the Scottish Enlightenment were disposed against.
Greg Mankiw gets Brooks's point, and has this great anecdote:
"A couple years ago, I participated in a panel discussion on libertarianism in Mike Sandel's Justice class, along with my friend and colleague Jeff Miron. Jeff is a true libertarian, and he defended that position with gusto. By comparison to Jeff, I seemed lacking in conviction. I described myself as a "libertarian at the margin." By that, I meant that given our starting point today, I believe more reliance on individual liberty and less on governmental solutions is usually a step in the right direction, but I often recoil at more radical libertarian positions.
David Brooks's column yesterday offers a good explanation of skepticism about big radical ideas, such as pure libertarianism. It made me feel better about my watered-down variety."
"From the side of the object those who put forward the claims of reason have placed the universal higher than the individual; those who have held to perception have reversed the order. From the side of mind, one school has emphasized the synthetic action of conceptions. The other school has dwelt upon the fact that in sensation the mind does not interfere with action of objects in writing their own report. The opposition has extended to problems of conduct and society. On one hand, there is emphasis upon the necessity of control by rational standards; on the other hand, the dynamic quality of wants has been insisted upon together with the intimately personal character of their satisfaction as against the pure remoteness of pure thought. On the political side, there is a like division between the adherents of order and organization, those who feel that reason alone gives security, and those interested in freedom, innovation and progress, those who have used the claims of the individual and his desires as a philosophical basis."