About This Month

Article excerpt

Don't trust anyone over 30, they used to say. And now that they're all well over 3o we can congratulate them on that uncharacteristic bit of self-knowledge. Unfortunately, as my dear friend and colleague Marc Carnegie recently reminded me, they passed their anarchic and debauched tastes on to succeeding generations, and so we're now in a situation in which it's safe to say that you can't trust anyone under 30 as well. Who's to say they didn't create a perfect world?

Have conservatives done better? In Washington, at least, the jury is still out, and likely to remain so indefinitely. It was Terry Eastland who long ago noticed that conservatives came to Washington to do good, and stayed to do well. In the wake of 1994, moreover, I've heard it said that only conservatives could have moved from obscurity to decadence without ever acquiring real political power. In other words, they've settled for the trappings of power and lost sight of the bigger picture that once inspired them. Or so it appears when the day-to-day self-promotional hustle becomes all consuming in a post-Cold War era that has left the right bereft of any larger unifying themes. One result is intellectual slovenliness, and it affects even those unwilling to settle for television-level discourse. In my latest Weekly Standard, for instance, our own Tom Bethell is roundly dismissed as "the Walter Duranty of the Right." On what grounds? For "an astonishing celebration of Jiang [Zemin]'s regime" in last month's TAS and for being sarcastic about intellectuals and democracy. Bethell is even criticized for being "apparently unaware that Jiang is the first Chinese leader with a higher education." What's missing is any attempt to grapple with what Bethell actually wrote. For one thing, his column wasn't about Jiang Zemin-in fact, the Chinese president's name doesn't even appear in the piece. It was about property rights in China, and Bethell's delight that in this Communist state the peasantry has essentially been given title to its land and entrepreneurialism has consequently blossomed. …