Saturday, July 22, 2006

What to Do about Liberal Error

A thoughtful reader, who describes himself as a liberal, ends an e-mail with this suggestion:

Instead of berating the media and pointing figures, conservative groups should promote young conservatives to consider careers outside banking, finance, medicine, business and law.

My first reaction is that "berating" and "finger pointing" -- aimed at specific journalistic (and academic) instances of error and propagandizing -- are a necessary part of the "dialogue" that informs public opinion. It would be a dereliction of duty on the part of conservative-libertarian commentators not to identify and chastise journalistic and academic half-truths, untruths, and improprieties. True, some conservative-libertarian commentators go over the top, just as do some of their liberal counterparts. Neither of the extremes, I think (I hope), is very influential because their excesses are so obvious, their stridency so off-putting. They seem to spend most of their time and energy in talking to each other and working themselves into a rage. If an occasional spark of light emerges from the volumes of heat they generate . . . well, that's why we have freedom of speech.

But I do agree that more young conservatives and libertarians should be encouraged to take up careers in professions dominated by liberals. There is, to some extent, a temperamental barrier. Some professions (e.g., the dramatic arts) seem to attract few persons of a conservative or libertarian bent. (Hollywood conservatives and libertarians, where you can find them, are notable for their rarity, as are academic conservatives and libertarians.) But there are conservative-libertarian enclaves in academia and journalism. A question then arises as to whether conservatives and libertarians should (a) expand those enclaves, as a draw for aspiring young conservatives and libertarians; (b) encourage the entry of young conservatives and libertarians into the liberal enclaves (by dint of talent and training, of course); or (c) do both.

I think (c) is the right answer. That is, there should be identifiably conservative-libertarian media outlets and academic outposts, and conservative-libertarians should compete with liberals on their own turf, to the extent that they are able to "infiltrate" traditional bastions of liberalism.

But it is incumbent on conservatives and libertarians to attack liberal error, as it arises. The attack, to be effective, must be factual and logical, not merely rhetorical.