Sunday, September 11, 2005

P.J. O'Rourke: Politics is Evil

P.J. O'Rourke Older & Wiser? A Weekly Standard 10th anniversary symposium. 09/26/2005, Volume 011, Issue 01

The first issue of this magazine appeared in September 1995, part way through the Clinton administration, and less than a year after the Republican victory in the congressional elections of 1994. The pressing foreign policy issue of the day was Bosnia. The world seems a very different place today. To mark our 10th anniversary, we invited several of our valued contributors to reflect on the decade past and, at least indirectly, on the years ahead. More specifically, we asked them to address this question:
"On what issue or issues (if any!) have you changed your mind in the last 10 years- and why?" Their responses follow.


Ten years ago I thought politics was misguided. But the events of the past decade--indeed, of the past 10 or a dozen decades--have proven me wrong. The sum and substance of politics was expressed in the 1860s by Nicholas Chernyshevskii, a prescient Russian radical: "Man is god to man." And politics violates the other nine commandments as well. Politics could hardly function without bearing false witness. Likewise, without taking the Lord's name in vain. This is especially true given that, in politics, the Lord who is so loosely sworn by is Mankind. In the modern era politics has taken the place of mere tyranny. The result has been more killing in one century than in all the preceding centuries combined.

Covetousness and stealing define redistributive politics. Without redistribution politics would have no political support. Graven image is as good a name as any for the fiat money by which politics operates. Politics' insistence upon involvement in every human activity, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, is more anti-Sabbatarian than golf. The Social Security system is no way to honor thy father and thy mother. And as for adultery, there was, and there may be still, Bill Clinton.

To claim that one's political activities are the will of God is to worship Beelzebub, as Osama bin Laden has demonstrated. To loudly call for separation of church and state is to miss the point. Why is there never a call for separation of state and coven?

Even to be "politically informed and engaged" is probably to be of the devil's party. Tune in to that most politically informed and engaged network, NPR, and listen to the evident relish with which its newscasts and current events programs recount misfortune, inequity, and suffering worldwide. The unspoken gleeful message is, "More occasions for more politics!"

Conservatism is not without its own delight in misery. Witness our enjoyment of the junior senator from New York. Of course we cannot walk away from politics any more than we can take a hike from original sin. But the most important action of political conservatism is not to politic but to conserve--to save things, in particular people, to preserve them from evil, which is to say politics.

God has made us free men, sovereigns of our own affairs, and sole experts on minding our own business. We are endowed with an individual capacity to improve our understanding, better our circumstances, and laugh at Howard Dean. The purpose of conservatism is to guard the sovereignty and get out of the capacity's way.

Observe our national politics. Observe politics around the world. Observe politics through the ages. Does it look like God's handiwork? When it comes to having a role in politics, that would be the Other Fellow.

- P.J. O'Rourke is a contributing editor to THE WEEKLY STANDARD and author, most recently, of Peace Kills (Atlantic Monthly Press).
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