My son has become a Marxist. I’m not that concerned about it. I was one at that age, too.
He’s in college in Chicago and got hooked up with a group called the Midwest Workers’ Association, a division of the National Labor Federation. It’s one of those community-organizing groups that canvases door-to-door. It’s actually pretty good. They go out on the South Side of Chicago trying to get people to join food cooperatives and sign on to a health insurance program they’ve created. It’s very constructive. I thought it would be a great opportunity to get off campus and meet people in the real world.
But then his political interests started taking a turn for the worse. In true Marxist fashion, he decided it didn’t make sense anymore to help poor people improve their lives. It would actually be better if their lives got worse because then they would be better prepared to rise up and overthrow the system, etc. etc. So he quit.
Where to begin? I suggested maybe he read a little Dostoevsky. I told him I thought that any movement, no matter what its beliefs, starts going off in the wrong direction when it decides that ideas and ideals are more important than real people. I told him about a column I always remember as particularly gruesome — Anna Quindlen’s take on Kimberly Bergalis, the 22-year-old woman in Florida who was dying of AIDS after being infected by her dentist, who knew he had the disease but didn’t tell anyone.
Quindlen announced that in order to protect the rights of doctors with AIDS, we might have to “ask some parents to put their children at some risk, however small, for the sake of principle and fairness.” I remember thinking, “This is where totalitarianism begins, when we decide that principles are more important than other people’s lives.”
As I wrestled with all this, I tried to formulate in my mind why it is that I prefer conservatives to liberals. I finally hit upon it. Conservatives don’t make as many demands on the world. They are more attuned to the idea of working with the way things are rather than despairing that they don’t conform to some ideal. Of course there are conservatives who adopt this simple-minded approach as well: Government is always bad. Everything that goes wrong is the result of too much government. If the government would just leave us alone, we’d be living in a perfect world.
I don’t believe government is the cause of all the world’s problems, I believe the world is the cause of the world’s problems. It’s an imperfect place. There are things that have been wrong, things that are wrong now, and things that are probably always going to be wrong. Some will get more than others. People don’t always get what they deserve. If you don’t like things, work to change it. But don’t sit around blaming all this on other people — “the rich,” “the politicians,” or whoever happens to be the evil genius of the day.p> DAVID MAMET SUMMED all this up beautifully in his recent Village Voice confession, ” Why I Am No Longer a ‘Brain-Dead Liberal.’ ” Mamet describes his epiphany as follows: br> /p>
I recognized that I held those two views of America (politics, government, corporations, the military). One was of a state where everything was magically wrong and must be immediately corrected at any cost; and the other — the world in which I actually functioned day to day — was made up of people, most of whom were reasonably trying to maximize their comfort by getting along with each other (in the workplace, the marketplace, the jury room, on the freeway, even at the school-board meeting).
And I realized that the time had come for me to avow my participation in that America in which I chose to live, and that that country was not a schoolroom teaching values, but a marketplace.
I began reading not only the economics of Thomas Sowell (our greatest contemporary philosopher) but Milton Friedman, Paul Johnson, and Shelby Steele, and a host of conservative writers, and found that I agreed with them: a free-market understanding of the world meshes more perfectly with my experience than that idealistic vision I called liberalism.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?