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« The Economics of Janis Ian | Main | Free Reads -- Politics and Cuisine »

October 24, 2002

Pleasure and Politics reredux

Friedrich --

A political staffer from the West Coast writes:

The reason why conservatives seem more puritanical than liberals about pleasure (e.g., sex, drugs, outre art) is because they are. For every libertarian blogger cracking jokes about pot and porn, there are hundreds of people like my aunt, who hates movies with "bad language" and is horrified by the thought of legalizing marijuana. Remember Nixon's Silent Majority and GW Bush's pledge to restore dignity and honor to the presidency, i.e. no Oval Office blowjobs.

Liberal pleasures: sex, drugs, rock & roll, art, porn.
Conservative pleasures: tobacco, football, country music, Tom Clancy novels, SUVs.

Alcohol is bipartisan.

Feminists don't believe in any of these pleasures. Gay men believe in them all. (I've been to gay C & W bars).

Great stuff.

I've got a little caffeine in me, so I'm going to tease apart one aspect of our correspondent's note.

It's all-too-common for righties as well as lefties to say that righties are more puritanical about pleasure than lefties are. I can't agree. They may indeed be more puritanical about leftie pleasures than lefties are, but they just as clearly have their own pleasures.

Our correspondent, when referring to the pleasures lefties are open to that righties generally aren't, makes mention of sex, drugs, and outre art. Those are indeed, or at least can be, pleasures, whether or not you personally want to experience or recommend them. (And lefties often do.) But they aren't all there is to pleasure.

Our correspondent lists, all on his own, tobacco, Tom Clancy, and country-and-western music. Potential pleasures, each and every one! To indulge in cliches of Republicans for a moment, here are some other, and not-uncommon, potential rightie pleasures: duck paintings, good Scotch, rumpled corduroy pants, reading the morning paper while sipping coffee, listening to swing jazz on LPs rather than CDs, old stone houses, quilts and window seats, Labrador retrievers, making fun of lefties....

These are all potential pleasures as deserving of recognition, appreciation and discussion as any art-porn novel or deconstructed building. Which is to say that, despite the thought-policing of lefties and the reluctance of righties, righties already have an aesthetic, if not many aesthetics.

Righties: It's simply not the case that you have no aesthetic tastes or preferences. Everyone does, at least everyone who has a few spare dollars and a few spare minutes -- who isn't entirely consumed by the struggle for existence. Your aesthetic is there already; you don't have to come up with one. The challenge is to recognize it as such, and to assert it as such.

Lefties will look at the old Victorian house (or the crisp new condo) you adore and say, "That's not architecture." Don't let them get away with that. Say instead, "It certainly is architecture. And it's a kind of architecture I much prefer to the kind that you advocate."

Why do you think it is that righties have such trouble recognizing that they have their own pleasures and their own aesthetic? And why should they be so shy about asserting them? My theory, which I know I've over-harped on, but which I'm sure I'll return to yet again, is that it's largely because the left has taken over the pleasure-and-aesthetics discussion, and maintains an ongoing campaign of intimidation.

But I suspect it may also be because conservatives tend to be reticent -- by the way, a preference for a quiet life is, to some extent, an aesthetic preference. And I suspect it may also be because libertarians fall into the "it's popular and makes money thus it's good thus I must assert it as pleasure" trap -- ie., they lose track of their own responses in their enthusiasm for libertarian dogma. Libertarians seem more comfortable writing odes to strip malls (symbols of a healthy capitalism!) than sorting out their personal pleasure-responses. Sigh.

Further hunches, insights and theories welcomed and encouraged.



posted by Michael at October 24, 2002


Probably the single most right wing aesthetic interest is golf course architecture. Don't laugh. The number of people passionately interested in the subject is probably in the same ball park as the number interested in contemporary classical music or contemporary scupture. The amount of money spent on golf courses each years is of course overwhelming - probably about $5 billion. I know men with libraries with several hundred books on the subject (I have about two dozen). Dozens of books are issued each year and classics from the 1920s (the golden age of golf architecture) are constantly being reissued. To get a taste of fanatical golf design aficionados, check out .

Posted by: Steve Sailer on October 24, 2002 6:20 PM

steve --

i don't laugh! i've actually always wondered about the aesthetics of golf, and wondered why american fine art didn't take golf more into account. many thanks for the info, which helps make the larger point that there are many, many more categories of art, creativity, and pleasure than the (generally) left-wing art press tends to allow for.


Posted by: michael on October 24, 2002 8:48 PM

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