There is an old saying, often attributed to Winston Churchill, that if one is not a liberal in one's twenties, one has no heart, and if one is not a conservative in one's forties, one has no brain. I have learned that if there is a doubt as to the origins of an adage, it will generally be attributed to Winston Churchill or Mark Twain, both of whom said a lot that was quotable.
This book does not shed light on the true provenance of the saying but instead looks in detail at its possible truth. In order to prove or disprove the adage, the author has spent a considerable amount of time in defining the terms. What is liberalism? Who is a conservative? What are the major and most identifiable liberal and conservative tenets at this point in American history?
Lipsman is a Jew, which makes his (current) conservatism an anomaly, but also a math professor, which would seem to fit with the profile of the conservative as rational and logical. He was a liberal in his youth, thereby fitting at one time the stereotype of the Jewish intellectual. He is Senior Associate Dean and Professor of Mathematics at the College of Computer, Mathematical and Physical Sciences at the University of Maryland, and has written a self-help book entitled
You Do the Math.
Lipsman says, "I think often about the early 1960s. One's late teen years are a wonderful time when you feel the infinite possibilities of life, the strength and agility of your body, budding new ideas for how you are going to remake the world." His conversion to the political right came in several stages: the forced school busing of his son, the liberal media attacks on Nixon, and the leftist hatred of Israel.
But do not imagine that Lipsman's book is primarily personal. He has taken pains to separate his private experience from what he believes are inalterable facts. For example, "a liberal is someone who believes in the perfectibility of man and that society must therefore be structured so as to foster the best possibility of man advancing toward that outcome; whereas a conservative accepts that woman is inherently flawed and so society must be arranged so as to minimize the mistakes she can make and the damage she can wreak."
Oh yes, I forgot to mention a very important aspect of Lipsman's book: he has chosen to use "man" and "woman" rather than a more general term such as "humanity," and in order to use both sex designations with total fairness, he switches them off one for one. This can be a little jarring at times, as in the sentence above.
Lipsman postulates that "a conservative believes that a just society is impossible unless the people have strong morals and the morals must derive their standing from deep religious principles and faith, whereas a liberal, while acknowledging that faith may be important to the individual, believes that state-sponsored religion is a danger that our founders sought to protect us from, and a just society is the result of virtuous citizens acting with the help of a benevolent government." These formulations are not tinged with personal bias. As near as I can determine, Lipsman strives mightily to portray with equanimity the views of liberals and conservatives.
This being the case, and he is deserving a good hearty pat on the back for venturing so far down the road of fairness in examining the political opposites, it still needs to be noted that positing one world view as youthful and the other as evolving over the course of time with the implication of greater insight and indeed, wisdom, can't help but rankle in the bosoms of Lipsman's younger readers (whether those be male or female bosoms). It could even offend that
rara avis, the "aging liberal" whom he characterizes as, in the main, doddering in the ivory towers of academia or existing contentedly off the drippings from the government gravy train.
Lipsman has made a conservative journeyman's effort at fairness, but since he has and admits to having his own bias towards conservatism, the scorn with which he regards liberals will never be expunged from his rhetoric.
As a liberal-minded but not closed-minded child of the 1960s living with a hardcore conservative Viet Nam vet, I think I can speak truth to Lipsman's powerful presentation. It can be sugar-coated, but it can't be disguised. If you are a thinking liberal (yes, they do exist) who wants to assay this interesting argument, prepare to be swayed and, if possible, toppled by the weight of Lipsman's logic. Or not. Conservatives with brains may acknowledge the bias but applaud the inevitable conclusions, to wit: "that conservatism is fundamental to the character of the American people" and "twentieth century liberalism is a spent bullet."