Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Prodigal Conservative.

There's a superb article in the Village Voice by the playwright David Mamet on why he is no longer a 'Brain Dead Liberal', normally I'd just stick a link to it in my 'topical links' list but it deserves more attention. The reasoning of thinkers who change their philosophical outlooks (not just their partisan alleigance) is often particularly interesting to consider because it so often involves articulating beliefs that are otherwise simply taken for granted:

I took the liberal view for many decades, but I believe I have changed my mind.

As a child of the '60s, I accepted as an article of faith that government is corrupt, that business is exploitative, and that people are generally good at heart.

These cherished precepts had, over the years, become ingrained as increasingly impracticable prejudices....
And, I wondered, how could I have spent decades thinking that I thought everything was always wrong at the same time that I thought I thought that people were basically good at heart? Which was it? I began to question what I actually thought and found that I do not think that people are basically good at heart; indeed, that view of human nature has both prompted and informed my writing for the last 40 years. I think that people, in circumstances of stress, can behave like swine
The failure to recognise that people are deeply flawed is the route of many of contemporary liberalisms contradictions. It is why granting power to a select group of people in the belief that as long as you choose the people wisely then they will be able to act in everyone's best interests inevitably leads to disaster. Or as Mamet puts it:
the abstract, we may envision an Olympian perfection of perfect beings in Washington doing the business of their employers, the people, but any of us who has ever been at a zoning meeting with our property at stake is aware of the urge to cut through all the pernicious bullshit and go straight to firearms.
Power corrupts.

I found not only that I didn't trust the current government (that, to me, was no surprise), but that an impartial review revealed that the faults of this president—whom I, a good liberal, considered a monster—were little different from those of a president whom I revered.

Bush got us into Iraq, JFK into Vietnam. Bush stole the election in Florida; Kennedy stole his in Chicago. Bush outed a CIA agent; Kennedy left hundreds of them to die in the surf at the Bay of Pigs. Bush lied about his military service; Kennedy accepted a Pulitzer Prize for a book written by Ted Sorenson. Bush was in bed with the Saudis, Kennedy with the Mafia. Oh.

This comparison doesn't go down well with

the Village Voice's readership. I would quote the whole article if it weren't a blatant infringement on copyright, as I can't do that I'll just say read the whole thing. Just one last excerpt though:
What about the role of government? Well, in the abstract, coming from my time and background, I thought it was a rather good thing, but tallying up the ledger in those things which affect me and in those things I observe, I am hard-pressed to see an instance where the intervention of the government led to much beyond sorrow.
Me too.

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