"Know thyself"

David Mamet is a dramatist who says he switched from being a liberal to being a conservative. Here is an excerpt from a WSJ article on his transition:

“Mr. Mamet rattles off the works that affected him most: “White Guilt” by Shelby Steele, “Ethnic America” by Thomas Sowell, “The Instincts of the Herd in Peace and War” by Wilfred Trotter, “The Road to Serfdom” by Friedrich Hayek, “Capitalism and Freedom” by Milton Friedman, and “On Liberty” by John Stuart Mill.

Before he moved to California, Mr. Mamet had never met a self-described conservative or read one’s writings. He’d never heard of Messrs. Sowell or Steele. ‘No one on the left has,’ he tells me. ‘I realized I lived in this bubble.'”[Emphasis mine.]

First of all, most of those books are calculated to turn one into a libertarian, not a conservative proper. And I think that’s what happened to Mamet, but so completely was he “in the bubble” that he cannot tell the difference, even now.

Secondly, I like the assertion that “no-one on the left has heard of [Sowell and Steele]”. Well, I’m afraid I have heard of them, and I am no doubt on what Mamet would call the “left”. Perhaps I’m doing it wrong, but their books, though interesting, have not converted me. Nor has reading Friedman or Hayek made me a conservative, although that goes back to the fact that I don’t think what they believed has all that much relation to the policies of the present-day conservative party. Perhaps I’m simply too dense to understand them, but that is my view.

Thirdly, I should point out that I think most liberals have a tendency to be attracted by new and exotic viewpoints. (That’s how they got to be liberals.) So, if you take a person who is prone to liberalism and you surround him with liberals, and saturate him with liberalism, eventually he will realize that there exist opposing viewpoints to liberalism, and he may well be intrigued by them. A liberal among liberals may become a conservative purely out of a desire to be “different”.

Note that the above idea is just speculation on my part, and may well be wrong.

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