Thursday, June 23, 2005


Published by Encounter Books, San Francisco, 2005

David very kindly sent me an autographed copy of this book. I get lots of books for one reason or another but rarely read much of them. I have read so many books in my 61 years on this earth (when I was aged 8 I was already reading three books a week) that I mostly just read articles now. So when I picked up David's book, I expected just do do a quick scan. Instead I sat down and read it right through. The book crams an immense amount of thought into 155 pages but it is all expressed with such simplicity and clarity that it is for all that not the slightest labour to read. I have always said that obscure writing betrays confused thinking and that clear thinking yields clear expression. David's book is an excellent example of the latter.

The book is basically a reflection on life in general and David's own life in particular. As such it is not a directly political book but, given David's life in politics, there are many penetrating reflections about politics in it. So I think I will here mainly share a few quotes that I particularly liked as accurate summaries of the world:

"If you look long and hard enough, you will find that a lie is at the root of most human wrong"

"The desire for more than is possible is the cause of greater human misery than any other"

"How can utopians dream of changing the world when it is so difficult to lose an inch off one's waistline?"

"My father's prophet was Karl Marx, who was himself descended from a long line of Rabbis"

"What Mohammed Atta and my father wanted was an escape from this life"

"My father was a decent man who was not prepared to harm others ... But along with millions of decent progressive souls, my father abetted those who did just that. Progressives looked the other way and then endorsed murder of untold innocents for the same reason that Mohammed Atta and the Islamic martyrs did: to make the new world possible"

"This very envy and the cruel desire for revenge that accompanied it were Joseph Stalin's most human traits"

"To the devoted [Leftist] the source of human misery cannot be located in a deficiency of self [i.e. a deficiency in himself], let alone the wish to escape it [i.e. escape his own deficiencies]"

"Self-loathing is the secret revolutionary passion"

"Social redeemers ... cannot live with themselves or the fault in creation, and therefore are at war with both. Because they are miserable themselves, they cannot abide the happiness of others"

"The Devil they [Leftists] hate is in themselves"

"The personal dream of every revolutionary is to be at the center of creation and the renewal of the world"

"Here is why you cannot change the world: Because we -- all 6 billion of us -- create it"

"The lack of respect for immovable differences is the cause of endless human grief, and is why my father's dreams have failed"

Because the book is largely autobiographical, we read a lot about the type of person David is and the type of person his father was. And the thing that stands out starkly is what an unhappy soul David's Marxist father was and what a gluecklich (lucky, happy) person David comes across as being. This of course fits in perfectly with what heaps of survey evidence shows -- that conservatives are happier people than Leftists (see e.g. here). And how happy you are is a fairly stable part of what you are -- almost regardless of your objective circumstances -- as this shows. Where David ended up ideologically, then, was predictable from his personality. And ditto for his father. Nature certainly triumphed over nurture in David's case.

It is always impressive how much personality -- what you basically are -- is central in the end. David and I have very similar views politically but we could not have had more different life-histories. I am a lifelong conservative from parents whose main attitude to politics was skepticism, for instance. But I too see myself as having had a full and blessed life and that obviously underlies my views. Happy people have no axe to grind and they have no need to deny reality.


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