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by Dinesh D’Souza

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-465-01733-9
Publisher: Basic

A recruiting brochure for the conservative cause, padded with the usual slams against Hilary Clinton, feminists, and anyone who questions the intellectual might and political accomplishments of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.

This volume in the Art of Mentoring series finds Reagan administration alumnus D’Souza (The Virtue of Prosperity, 2000, etc.) piloting a young college student between the treacherous shoals of liberalism on one hand and libertarianism on the other. Avuncular and arch, D’Souza peppers his letters of instruction with homespun homilies about right-wing virtues: if I give a hungry man a sandwich, he writes, “then I have done a good deed, and I feel good about it. . . . But then see what happens when the government gets involved. The government takes my sandwich from me by force. . . . Instead of showing me gratitude . . . the man feels entitled to this benefit.” Humans are inherently driven by self-interest, he goes on to explain, and conservatives, unlike liberals, have no illusions about their perfectibility; hence, conservatives have a more realistic view of humankind, which is why they’re so much better at government and better people to boot. In all of this, D’Souza avoids the empty windbaggishness of Rush Limbaugh and the nastiness of Ann Coulter, but his arguments for the superiority of conservatism (or, really, neoconservatism) turn on a similar glibness: he falls easily into us good–them bad rhetoric and half-baked formulas (conservatives care about money, whereas liberals care about power, which is so much dirtier than money). Some of his attacks are well placed, if of the fish-in-a-barrel variety, as when he takes on proponents of academic “political correctness” (a term he popularized with his 1991 book Illiberal Education) and twits elite radicals who “communicate their anger in very nice lounges over expensive meals and fancy cocktails.” Few, however, are completely thought through, suggesting that D’Souza wrote his Letters in a hurry—for money, of course, and not for power.

Add water and stir: a political philosophy in 30 easy lessons, just right for college students too busy or ill-educated to read Edmund Burke or William Buckley.