I not-that-frequently run into people on the political right--or even anarchist libertarians--who proudly report they were once leftists, even socialists--or Fortune forbid: Marxists. Not that frequently. Not enough to get a statistic out of it. But this fact has impressed itself upon me all the same.
They seem proud when they report their change of heart. Sort of a prodigal son, I was once wrong, I've passed through the dark side, and now I've come clean type of story. It reminds me, in some ways, of the people who find religion after a long period of sinning.
Irving Kristol--"father of the neocons"--is a good example of someone once enamoured with the left who later became enamoured with the right.
St. Augustine is a religious example: hedonist becomes celibate.
I grapple with their logic. It goes something like this: "I was wrong once, but you can believe me now." Actually, I wouldn't call that logic. One could call it "lessons from the school of hard knocks."
To me it says: "I was once confused, but now I'm not."
Several questions come to mind:
- Is this mainly a left-to-right, hedonist-to-celibate phenomenon? Are there any famous people on the right who are now on the left? (Ronald Reagan moved right--who moved left? And I'm sure there a few celibates who became gangbusters hedonists.)
- If mainly a left-to-right phenomenon, is it a manifestation of the idea that "people become more conservative as they age?" And acquire life experiences? (Which, by the way, often works in a historical sense--yesterday's revolutionaries are today's conservative icons.")
My own read: Humans have a Utopian impulse that drives them to seek perfection. And control. Or if that doesn't work: oblivion. It drives many people into drink, drugs, cults--or Fortune forbid--the embrace of the neocons.
As an Independent, once member of the GOP [insert obligatory blame my parents insinuation], I find these once-left-now-right types a little over-zealous. Running open-loop (i.e. fact free). Unreality based. Ideological. Zealous.
They replace "the state" with "the market" in the libertarian case. And they replace "I should not have behaved as such" with "you should not behave as such" in the conservative case.
Nothing against the political right, in making this observation. I'm not sure how accurate it is. Nor what use to make of it. But as someone who inhabits that somewhat fictitious and non-existent center, I say: Fool me right, shame on left.