Learn before you Lead
Ilana Mercer tutors young conservatives
To judge by their writing, the youngsters who’ve been given the run of the conservative op-ed pages, pixelated and printed, know little about how socialism differs from capitalism. To their credit, they’ve chosen a side—the right side—but are incapable of arguing the morality of capitalism and its efficacy, which stems from its morality. Their employers are failing to demand that their young, conservative charges methodically and creatively motivate for the right—and the Right—side.
Endeavoring to explain the oft-repeated banality that, “Colleges are turning young people [into] socialists,” one such prototypical writer says this in her dog’s breakfast of a column, for the Washington Examiner:
“Students are gullible and moldable because they have little conviction and no foundation. Too often, public universities teach students to accept basic, shallow ‘knowledge’ at face value. They are not trained to ask why this knowledge matters or how it influences the rest of their education or how it relates to higher principles.”
The writer at once, and incoherently, condemns “shallow knowledge” (whatever that is) yet laments that students are not taught to relate “shallow knowledge” to higher principles. What does this even mean? Such bafflegab is published absent the telltale signs of editorial oversight. Or, perhaps the editors of the Examiner and publications like it think that voicing an opinion is the same as advancing an argument.
However, meandering assertions, circular arguments, non sequiturs and assorted banal utterances don’t belong on editorial pages. Agile argument does. The piece continues in this puerile vain, conjuring the catchphrase that currently precedes every sentence spoken by a millennial: “I feel like.” “I feel like” columns and essays are a dime a dozen; their purveyors having procured plum positions in the conservative press. That “students are not learning” in schools and are thus gravitating to socialism is beyond trite—it’s also a non sequitur. For one would have to argue that lack of learning leads to socialism, and not merely assert it.
In showcasing amateurish, intern-quality material in national forums, conservatives are letting the liberal credo guide them. Leftists live by the folly that kids must be allowed to carry forth, talent and scholarship be damned. Lefties reject the hierarchical notion that youngsters must bide their time and learn from their betters before spouting off.
Young conservative columnists, by-and-large, are a product of this same mindset. Remember: conservative kids are being subjected to the same system of miseducation they single out in their socialist peers. Indeed, to go by their impoverished field of reference, too many conservative young “writers” know close to nothing and can barely formulate a coherent thought in writing. After all, they too are a product of the very same pedagogic system that has, allegedly, mired their leftist peers in the sludge of socialism. Watching Fox News doesn’t count as “learning.”
In their low-watt rambling one can find no evidence that young conservatives have imbibed foundational literature that might equip them to write rationally and inspiringly about capitalism—and freedom. Ayn Rand and Mencken, Murray Rothbard and Robert Nozick, Mises, Hazlitt, Hayek, Frederic Bastiat, Frank Chodorov, John Flynn, Felix Morley, Lysander Spooner and Garet Garrett: nothing in the pablum disgorged by these young, cocky scribblers would indicate that they’ve assimilated these and other towering texts, like those of the brilliant Russell Kirk.
Again, the only difference between the conservative youth who’ve been given the run of conservative editorial pages and their socialist peers is that conservative kids are on the right side. They mean well; they simply can’t get it out. And that won’t do in desperate times. Superficial, cliched, barely grammatical, largely irrational utterances do not cut it in defending capitalism—a defense that demands the power and the passion to reason for freedom. The point was underscored by economist Milton Friedman in the introduction to F.A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom: “The argument for collectivism is simple if false; it is an immediate emotional argument. The argument for individualism is subtle and sophisticated; it is an indirect rational argument.”
As epistolary arrows, “subtle, sophisticated and rational” are not carried in the quivers of up-and-coming young conservatives. The hallmark of the ignorance here decried is to settle the question of socialism with crass pragmatism: “Socialism doesn’t work,” these poor youngsters are wont to parrot (much like their elders, actually, who’re often unequal to the job).
The rights-violating underpinnings of socialism are what makes socialism and its attendant political platform both an economic wrecking ball and plain wicked. To confine the argument against socialism to a utilitarian assertion—for “it doesn’t work” is not an argument—is, moreover, to imply that if socialism’s command economy worked, it would be worth considering. What a dreadful deduction! Nevertheless, a deduction that follows logically from a dreadful “argument.”
So, dismissing socialism as no more than unworkable is worse than useless. Young conservative columnists must learn how to inveigh against socialism as a rights-infringing, tyrannical, aberrant ideology that subjugates individual to state.
Before they can lead, the kids must learn. What a revolutionary concept in the Age of the Idiot. Conservatives are supposed to be principled defenders of the natural rights to life, liberty and property. Alas, we’ve left the kids in charge. And they’re as untutored as their socialist contemporaries, except that the latter have easier arguments to make: simple, false, and emotional, to paraphrase Dr. Friedman.
Ilana Mercer has been writing a weekly, paleolibertarian column since 1999. She is the author of Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America From Post-Apartheid South Africa (2011) & The Trump Revolution: The Donald’s Creative Destruction Deconstructed” (June, 2016). She’s on Twitter, Facebook& Gab. Latest on YouTube: “How Democracy Made Us Dumb.”