David Brooks occasionally writes something with which I agree. For example, in “Hey Mets! I Just Can’t Quit You” (The New York Times, March 8, 2012) he says:
There’s a core American debate between [Jack Kerouac’s] “On the Road” and [Frank Capra’s}“It’s a Wonderful Life.” “On the Road” suggests that happiness is to be found through freedom, wandering and autonomy. “It’s a Wonderful Life” suggests that happiness is found in the lifelong attachments that precede choice. It suggests that restraints can actually be blessings because they lead to connections that are deeper than temporary self-interest.
What Brooks didn’t say, but probably thought, is that “On the Road” is “liberal” and “It’s a Wonderful Life” is “conservative.” For, as Brooks observes in the next paragraph, “happiness research suggests that ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ is correct and ‘On the Road’ is an illusion.” That’s consistent with a point I make in “Intelligence, Personality, Politics, and Happiness,” namely, that persons of the right (which includes most libertarians) are happier than “liberals.”
But the happiness of persons of the right — and therefore most of the happiness that’s in the air — is threatened by the “liberal” agenda. And most conservatives are hard put to refute that agenda with reasoned argument. Maverick Philosopher explains, in “Why Are Conservatives Inarticulate?“:
Conservatives, by and large, are doers not thinkers, builders, not scribblers. They are at home on the terra firma of the concrete particular but at sea in the realm of abstraction. The know in their dumb inarticulate way that killing infants is a moral outrage but they cannot argue it out with sophistication and nuance in a manner to command the respect of their opponents. And that’s a serious problem.
To beat the Left we must out-argue them in the ivory towers and out-slug them in the trenches. Since by Converse Clausewitz politics is war conducted by other means, the trench-fighters need to employ the same tactics that lefties do: slanders, lies, smears, name-calling, shout-downs, pie-throwing, mockery, derision….
Politics is war and war is ugly. We could avoid a lot of this nastiness if we adopted federalism and voluntary Balkanization. But that is not likely to happen: the totalitarian Left won’t allow it. So I predict things are going to get hot in the coming years.
To paraphrase Barry Goldwater, inarticulateness in the defense of liberty is no virtue.
The intelligentsia of the right — a select group that includes George Will and does not include the likes of O’Reilly and Hannity — must arm themselves to do battle on the left’s terms. I would avoid slanders, lies, and smears, but name-calling, shout-downs, pie-throwing, mockery, and derision are certainly in order — as is the truth about the baneful effects of leftism on its supposed beneficiaries: the poor and (mostly imaginary) downtrodden. Their raison d’être, in the left’s scheme of things, has been to supply the votes that have enabled the left to exert its totalitarian will on all of us.
The Price of Government
Does the Minimum Wage Increase Unemployment?
The Real Burden of Government
The Illusion of Prosperity and Stability
Society and the State
I Want My Country Back
Estimating the Rahn Curve: Or, How Government Inhibits Economic Growth
Undermining the Free Society
Intelligence, Personality, Politics, and Happiness
“Intellectuals and Society”: A Review
Government vs. Community
The Stagnation Thesis
The Left’s Agenda
The Public-School Swindle
The Evil That Is Done with Good Intentions
The Left and Its Delusions
The Destruction of Society in the Name of “Society”
Externalities and Statism
Taxes: Theft or Duty?
Society and the State
The Spoiled Children of Capitalism
Politics, Sophistry, and the Academy
Subsidizing the Enemies of Liberty
Estimating the Rahn Curve: A Sequel
Are You in the Bubble?
Lay My (Regulatory) Burden Down