December 29, 2003

"How to Explain Conservatism to Your Squishy Liberal Friends:

Individualism 'R' Us"---an essay by P. J. O'Rourke

"The individual is the wellspring of conservatism. The purpose of conservative politics is to defend the liberty of the individual and - lest individualism run riot - insist upon individual responsibility."

..."That we are individuals - unique, disparate and willful - is something we understand instinctively from an early age. No child ever wrote to Santa: "Bring me - and a bunch of kids I've never met - a pony, and we'll share.""

..."The first question of political science is - or should be: "What is good for everyone?" And, by "everyone" we must mean "all individuals.""

"The question can't be: "What is good for a single individual?" That's megalomania, which is, like a New Hampshire presidential primary, the art of politics, not political science."

"And the question can't be: "What is good for some individuals?" Or even: "What is good for the majority of individuals?" That's partisan politics, which, at best, leads to Newt Gingrich or Pat Schroeder and, at worst, leads to Lebanon or Rwanda."

"Finally, the question can't be: "What is good for individuals as a whole?" There's no such thing. Individuals are only available individually."

"By observing the progress of mankind, we can see that the things that are good for everyone are the things that have increased the accountability of the individual, the respect for the individual and the power of the individual to master his own fate. Judaism gave us laws before which all men, no matter their rank, stood as equals. Christianity taught us that each person has intrinsic worth, Newt Gingrich and Pat Schroeder included. The rise of private enterprise and trade provided a means of achieving wealth and autonomy other than by killing people with broadswords. And the industrial revolution allowed millions of ordinary folks an opportunity to obtain decent houses, food and clothes (albeit with some unfortunate side effects, such as environmental damage and Albert Gore)."

Read it all here.

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