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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars neo-conservative polemic, 10 Feb. 2003
This review is from: Letters to a Young Conservative (Hardcover)
I bought this while on holiday in Boston and wondered why nobody in the UK writes these kinds of books. It is an engaging personal account of D'Souza's development as a conservative - conentrating largely on his student days at Dartmouth, where he turned a campus publication into a national phenomenon - as well as a refutation of liberal/left-wing positions on a range of issues, including affirmative action and the welfare state.
Don't expect anything profound from this book: it is not intended to be a substantial contribution to conservative thought. There is, for example, no attempt to seriously address the contradictions of conservative philosophy (e.g. why is the present considered the accumulation of all past wisdom, while any change is considered to be deleterious - surely the present is an accumulation of all past changes?). More disappointingly, D'Souza doesn't present the case for free-markets in much detail - there is little summoning of statistics, nor any rigorous comparisons between pro-market economies (USA, UK, etc) and social democracies (Germany, France, etc). His attempt to defend globalisation from the pious hypocrites and cretinous no-marks of the anti-globalisation movement is welcome, but ultimately not very substantial.
A further criticism is that D'Souza appears more concerned with deconstructing liberalism (often resorting to anecdotes about leftist professors) than advancing the case for conservatism - although this probably has much to do with the fact that conservatism is not a coherent ideology as such, but rather a general view of human nature and historical development. Nevertheless, as one of the leading intellectual exponents of the New Right dominance of American politics during the past generation, D'Souza should be able to offer more credible arguments for his beliefs than he does.

However, none of this matters much because the book does not attempt to be a classic of conservative thought in the first place. Indeed, D'Souza helpfully provides a reading list of more large-scale works that readers can investigate, including stuff by Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, Michael Oakeshott and, er, Pat Buchanan.
Instead, this is an accessible, vituperative and often devastatingly funny outline of what the author belives is conservatism and why he prefers it to completely alternative ideologies (such as socialism/social democracy) as well related ones (namely libertarianism). You don't have to be a conservative to enjoy it - I'm not.
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