Klein: A rose by no other name

This article has been corrected. You may view this article’s correction here.

Michael Pomeranz wants to pervert the American ideal.

In his view, the problems of our society are caused by our focus “on what we can do and what government cannot,” also known as the Constitution (“Naming Obama’s new politics,” 1/23). He proposes we create a new religion of worshiping the state. In a world devoid of meaning, Pomeranz (who is a friend of mine) and his Lord and Savior will give all Americans a new purpose: fulfilling “duties” to our nation.

The “New Patriotism” (what was wrong with the old one?), the “citizens’ alliance” and the millions of political “pilgrims” are only the beginning. Today Washington, tomorrow the World!

This country was not founded to be an end in itself, an altar upon which every “citizen” would be sacrificed; it was founded to be the home of the free. The rugged individualist, not the social worker, is our nation’s mascot. America is special and wonderful because here alone do we appreciate that the country exists for the sake of the people and not the other way around.

America is a great country precisely because the men and women of talent do not enthusiastically enter government. This is one of our oldest and proudest traditions. George Washington is remembered with love because he was eager to leave the presidency, emulating not Caesar but Cincinnatus, the Roman patriot who defended the republic from the barbarians only to eschew honors to return to his farm.

John Adams wrote, “I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy … in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain.” Politics is the lowest discipline, simply the prerequisite to gaining independence and founding a free society. Only the kind of purposeless youth who gets caught up in movements and wears armbands would insist that the manly freedom our ancestors fought and died for should be replaced by submission to the collective and the state.

Government was perhaps once the steward of our way of life, but government as it exists today is permanently opposed to the values of liberty, self-reliance and enterprise. Now it is an endless bureaucratic machine whose only purpose is to steal from the productive to coddle the lazy. It is an army of petty accountants backed by the force of degenerate lawyers and policemen who have all too often forgotten what real criminals look like. The bipartisan post-New Deal consensus will turn a once-great nation into the world’s greatest retirement home. Soon, Mother America will have everyone suckling at her teats.

Yet Pomeranz and his fellow travelers think that more government is the answer. I cannot blame our new president for this, and I wish him well in doing what is best for this country. He is a successful politician and politicians are successful here by telling people what they want to hear. I blame the American people, who seem to have grown fat and lazy and forgotten what it means to be true patriots. I blame young people like Pomeranz, who provide arguments half-intellectual and half-orgiastic for greater encroachments on our freedom.

Most incensing me was that Pomeranz willfully misunderstood the meaning of conservatism. Conservatism is the act of conserving the essential values of a society. In America, the conservatives are the men and women who live as free people, resisting the Fabian growth of an ever-larger, more totalitarian state. Pomeranz, on the other hand, seems to use the term as a catchphrase for whatever he likes in a disingenuous attempt to justify his views. “The obverse side of liberty,” which is usually known as oppression, he calls “conservatism,” but with delightful ambivalence (you could call it “citizenship,” too!), revealing the intellectual vacuity of his arguments.

The battle for freedom in America is hard to fight because it must be fought against the legislators and judges and presidents who impinge upon it. We who love freedom and appreciate what it means to be Americans are instinctively repelled from running for office. But it must be done or we will forever be ruled by those who enjoy telling others how to live at the point of a gun.

So too must we fight pseudo-intellectuals who dedicate their lives to providing cover for tyrants. We who defend the birthright of all Americans do not do so for our own glory or because we are searching for “meaning.” We do it because it is right.

That is conservative, and I am proud to be called one.

Matthew Klein is a senior in Berkeley College.


  • Elizabeth Moore 09

    Thank you very much for writing such a well-thought response. I am always proud when conservatives here stand up so openly for what they believe in. We need not be ashamed of anything that we think (afterall, 48% of Americans, if not more, think as we do), and so to read words from somebody obviously very passionate about his own views makes me feel very glad that the conservative voice is not always silenced here on campus.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks! Please run for national office in a few years.

    Robert Schneider, Ph.D., 82.

  • Rob Schneider

    You can do it!

  • George Patsourakos

    George Patsourakos
    The primary problem with American government is that too many of our elected leaders -- from the President to local representatives -- are obsessed with power, and will do whatever is best for themselves, rather than for the American people. America needs to have more of its citizens running for public office who will lead our nation for the good of the American people, and not for their own glorification!

  • Confused

    Is this satire or serious?

  • Meredith Williams

    Correction: Matthew Charles Klein is a Senior in Berkeley College.

    This essay is a fine response from one dear friend of mine to another, and I must say I agree with its censure of a blind enthusiasm for expansive government and professional politicians.

  • must be a satire…

    must be a satire…

  • Matthew Klein

    This was not a satire. Sorry.

  • Yale 08

    Well said.

    Glad to see some intelligence remains at Yale.

  • Yalie '10

    Well-written and true. I consider myself a moderate, and honestly, I don't think your argument is conservative -- it's just logical.

  • Ayn Rand Fan

    I love Ayn Rand too!

  • Hieronymus

    All hail Yale's conservatives (all four of us)!

  • Ida

    The column is parody and the comments are parody as well--burlesque imitation of far right posituring.

  • Julian R

    It's always good to see that the conservative tradition at Yale lives on.