Friday, January 20, 2012

Conservative Big Thinker looks for new challenge

Scene: Two men in comfortable arm-chairs facing each other across a wooden coffee table, in what appears to be an old-fashioned men's club with dark paneled wood walls and tall bookshelves full of books. The older man has his hands folded, gazing thoughtfully as though into the distance, though only the bookshelf opposite meets his gaze. The younger man holds an iPhone toward which he stares intently while listening via earplugs.

The older man signals to a passing waiter:
Charles, a third brandy, please.

CHARLES the waiter: Yes, sir, professor.

THE PROFESSOR, looking thoughtfully toward the ceiling: You know, Biff, back in the old days, we conservatives had Great Opponents. Marxists were everywhere, and their hell-spawn the New Deal and the Great Society. We were fighting a lonely battle, out there on the edge of the End of History. Then Reagan went to Berlin and told Gorbachev to tear down that wall. And he did. And the Iron Curtain fell.

BIFF, glancing up briefly: Oh, yeah, I heard them talking about that on FOX.

THE PROFESSOR, taking a brandy from the waiter: Then, we had won. Liberal democracy had triumphed. Everyone wanted to be like the United States. Everyone bought off on the idea that globalization and high tech meant we could roll back regulations and let speculators run wild. Then came 9/11 and everyone agreed that the US should run the world.

BIFF, glancing up more briefly: Uh, yeah. But aren't there some Communists still in China or somewhere?


THE PROFESSOR: Oh, yes, but they're really capitalists, and who really cares about the Chinese anyway? And there are probably some peasants out in India or the Andes or somewhere who make cranky complaints. But everyone loves the system because pretty much everybody's middle class and nobody cares that it's only the filthy rich that are really making out with this thing.

BIFF grunts.

THE PROFESSOR, warming to his subject: But look, Biff. Great Thinkers need Great Challenges. And we don't have any today. Sure, it's fun to sit around and say stuff about Marxists and liberals. It gets hard to remember the old arguments exactly, but nobody much notices when we change them around.

What we need is some new leftists around. Not for real of course, just for entertainment. And there are enough uneducated plebes out there still that could take them seriously. Of course, they need to stop talking about all this stuff about minority rights, we're all soooo tired of that. And this nonsense about women's needs and their rights to their icky bodies and all, nobody who matters takes that stuff seriously.

[Draining his glass:] And they need to forget about promoting unions and social security and health care and all that because we can't afford it any more. But they could complain that maybe sometimes the results of globalization aren't fair [chuckles]. And they could say we need better schools or something. Then we would have somebody new to argue with and we could produce Great Thoughts again.

BIFF [aside to audience]: Here I'm watching the best porno flick I've seen in months, and this old fart is trying to talk to me about politics or something? Why can't he just go back to sleep and ... Oh! Look at that!!

This is my dramatized summary version of Francis Fukuyama's article "The Future of History: Can Liberal Democracy Survive the Decline of the Middle Class?" in the Jan/Feb 2012 Foreign Affairs. And this guy is considered one of the conservative Big Thinkers around these days.

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