On economic issues, I consider myself to be an adherent of the neoliberal consensus that arose with the market-oriented “New Democrats” of the 1990s, persisted with George W. Bush’s “Compassionate Conservatism” in the 2000s, and survives to this day with Barack H. Obama’s Wall Street-coddling Keynesianism. I hate social welfare, but I love government distortion of free markets in the name of progress. On fiscal issues, I consider myself an unflinching budget hawk—except, of course, in times of war, economic hardship, or whenever the wealthy deserve a tax break. On social issues, I am a fervent civil libertarian, with the important exception of privacy rights and the growth of the surveillance state—privacy, in my mind, is overrated. On foreign policy issues, my views are an extremely complicated potpourri of Richard M. Nixon’s hawkish realism, Bush’s hawkish idealism, and Obama’s dovish realism. I can’t say that I care much for James E. Carter’s dovish idealism.
If you are bored by now, I can’t say that I blame you. If someone had just uttered the previous paragraph to me in the course of verbal conversation, I would have tuned out about halfway into the first sentence. Few things are as irksome as having a conversation with someone who is a little too eager to explain to you their political beliefs. Worse still is when they feel compelled to use more than three or four words to describe them (in my experience, this very special caliber of human being is most often found lurking around the Institute of Politics). But really, you can’t throw a copy of Paul Krugman’s “The Conscience of a Liberal” without hitting a Harvard student with a rehearsed political manifesto. Someone ought to tell these people that when somebody asks them about their political orientation, it is intended to be a polite conversational catalyst, not a genuine expression of interest in the frivolous worldview of some overeager Harvard sophomore destined for a desk job at the Department of the Interior.
No one actually cares whether you consider yourself to be a Rockefeller Republican or a Reagan Democrat, or whether you are an Obamacan or a McCainocrat. We don’t care that you hate latte liberals and country club conservatives—or was it Dunkin’ Donut Democrats and Sam’s Club Republicans? We don’t want to know if, by Jacksonian, you are referring to Andrew or Scoop, or whether you align more closely with the Jeffersonians or the Hamiltonians. We are not the slightest bit interested in whether or not you are an idealist or a realist, a populist or a pragmatist, a centrist or a purist, a moderate or a radical, a hawk or a dove, pro-life or pro-choice (or anti-life and pro-death). We don’t want to know if you are a small c conservative or a big L Liberal or vice versa, and we definitely don’t want to know if you are a neoconservative or a paleoliberal or vice versa. We don’t care if your ideological lodestar is Oakeshott or Keynes, Hayek or Rawls, and we reserve a special degree of disinterest for those for whom it’s Rand.
It requires a truly astonishing degree of presumptuousness for someone to believe that their particular insights on the appropriate balance between the cause of social justice and the prudence of free market economics ought to be, let alone is, of interest to anyone other than themselves. What unique experience or knowledge can any of us actually bring to bear to lend us the authority or credibility to proffer our views alongside those of Oakeshott, Keynes, Hayek, Rawls, and, yes, even Rand? For that is, in a nutshell, what one does when they detail in length their prescriptions for society’s ills.
Ideally, the explication of your ideological leanings shouldn’t exceed the amount of time it takes to say, “I don’t care.” Because when it comes to your political beliefs, none of us do. You are not important, and neither are your ideas. It would do actually to accomplish something (or run for something) first before you come and tell us that what you think about education, energy, and economics. But a good general rule of thumb is this: If the word count of your manifesto exceeds the word count of “The Communist Manifesto,” then yours is too long.
Dhruv K. Singhal, a former Crimson associate editorial editor, is an English concentrator in Currier House. His column appears on alternate Fridays.