November 25, 2003

I’m Not Interested

First things first: we need a new conservative columnist for 2004. Anyone who holds conservative views and can write 600 words per week on a chosen topic (or 14 chosen topics) should apply. This is a paid position, and you get your picture published every week. Money, glory, notoriety. What’s not to like?

Why am I devoting space to something that’s already being said in space filler all throughout the paper? Because I want to make sure that the Vermilion gets the best possible person for the job. People of all views read this space and several have expressed to me the desire to write against me. And I know at least some of them could do a good job. Sure, I could make jokes and hope the editors select someone profoundly stupid to make me look good, but that’s not what’s best for the paper. Both sides of the opinion page deserve to be of high quality. My self-interest is not the top priority here.

When was the last time you heard that last statement anywhere? Sincerely, I mean. The more you look around, the more everything these days seems to be done entirely out of self-interest. Nowhere is this more apparent than in current conservative thought. The Republican Party has been able to get by on self-interest because they tell the richest groups in America exactly what they want to hear. And both sides deliver on their promises, which should horrify any regular American. These alliances are formed not to better society, but to “better” the pockets and beliefs of the people involved.

This self-interest shows in every letter to the editor that urges the people and Congress to support the policies of the Bush administration. These letters usually call for the support of “the conservative agenda.” Notice that they never say “this is what’s best for the country;” even the writers themselves seem to know that it it’s not. But that doesn’t matter: they have interests to protect.

The difference between conservatives and liberals was never more dramatic than it was during the 2000 presidential election. This was obvious anytime I asked someone why they chose someone for president. People who voted for Gore or Nader would give reasons such as, “We need to save the environment” or, “I like his system of fairer taxation” or, “Everyone needs better access to healthcare.” Bush voters always told me things like, “I want my tax money back” or, “I hate Clinton” or even the hilarious, “Bush will be good for my stocks.” The Supreme Court certainly showed its self-interest when they installed Bush into office.

Of course, liberals have self-interest as well. At some pro-marijuana rallies, for example, a protester will advocate the issue because, well, he has a big stash at home. He wants to be able to smoke up in peace, which makes sense. But that self-interest is not going to make people pay attention. What might are such issues as unfair prison sentences for light drugs and the strain on law enforcement and prisons. If people can look beyond their own best interest and examine multiple aspects of their pet issue, change might come more quickly. The key to any social-policy change is to get people on your side who have no self-interest in the outcome. Combine your passion with someone else’s compassion, and no one can stop you.

I think this is the reason that I prefer liberalism over conservatism in the first place: whereas conservatism concerns itself with its own pockets, liberalism means wanting the best possible situation for everyone.

Pray for Nick Bouterie.

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