Thursday, October 06, 2005

My years in the wilderness

I just realized that I use a lot of what one commenter on my blog called conservative "buzzwords." The biggest villains in my posts are generally folks I call "leftists", "lefties", "liberals", "statists", and "socialists". First of all, I disagree that they are buzzwords. They are simply words that describe people I disagree with in terms of how I disagree with them. When I'm arguing against the proponents of over-reaching government, I call them statists, because in my opinion, they are too enamored with the promise and virtue of the state. When I argue against people who don't believe in the efficacy of markets, I call them socialist. That doesn't mean I think they are all communists, or even extreme socialists.

That said, I don't want my name-tossing to give any leftward readers the impression that I reject their kind of politics out of hand. In fact, I am very familiar with the very same pangs of social consciousness that can lead one down the path of moderate liberal holiness. You can't get much leftier than being appointed to a city commission by the most liberal city councilman in the most liberal city in California. But in 2001-2002, I served for Kriss Worthington on the Community Health Commission of the People's Republic of Berkeley. Back then, I was out there fighting the good fight: campaigning against the state school vouchers initiative, railing in the Daily Cal newspaper against big tobacco, and stridently berating the local hospital management company at Commission meetings. But then I stopped protesting, and I started reading and thinking and reading and thinking. And I grew to realize that the course of history has been one long argument for the efficacy of liberty, and the folly of the over-reaching state.

There is an old political adage that goes something like, "A young conservative has no heart. An old liberal has no brain." I'm fairly proud that my brain overtook my heart at the tender age of 23, long before I had a family, a mortgage, or a mugging to make me conservative. So, I don't think leftists are malevolent, any more than I think I was in back in college. And, if I ever sound like I'm yelling at leftists, I'm partially yelling at myself for my previous naivete, stridency, and intellectual laziness.

So, I implore you, progressives, social democrats, and advocates for the disenfranchised (see, I can use nice "buzzwords" for the political left), to take a step back and just entertain the idea that the bad guys might be right. What if free markets really are better at feeding hungry mouths than forced wealth redistribution? What if welfare and subsidized housing really are keeping the underclass poor? Then take a close look at history, keeping an eye out for actual results in the improvement of human livelihood instead of seeking evidence for "injustice" and inequality. Are you absolutely sure that the facts are on your side? What's more important, the actual prosperity of the populations you advocate for, or consistency with your worldview that profit-seeking is selfish, and people just need to give more? The sooner that more young liberals graduate to become old conservatives, the better it will be for the world's poor and underprivileged (and not to mention for the rest of us, too).


At 7:55 PM, Anonymous Daniel said...

Hey, great essay! Very interesting and well-written, I certainly enjoyed reading it.


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