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The Secret Knowledge

David Mamet's The Secret Knowledge is a book-length expansion of the ideas presented in his now infamous essay Why I Am No Longer A Brain-Dead liberal.  It's a series of  short essays explaining various facets of conservative philosophy and how he came to believe them.
It's a remarkable book, especially when you consider Mamet once named a very dysfunctional character after the godfather of conservative political philosophy.

Some essays are about general principles. Others deal with specific issues, such as affirmative action and  Israel. He makes an excellent case for Israel's existence and right to fight for it's existence, while acknowledging its flaws. He also writes at length about the sad state of universities today.

He illustrates his point about modern universities.  with a particularly sad story about a class he taught  on dramatic structure. He mentioned  a play about "arab terrorists" and got into a huge argument with students about whether fictional   terrorists necessarily have to be arabs. Later some students  filed a  complaint  against him. He doesn't teach that class anymore.

It damn near made me cry. These students were being taught by one of America's greatest dramatists and chased him off because they couldn't get past a few politically incorrect remarks. It's as if Steve Jobs was chased away from teaching programming. I can't think of any better illustration of how ideology trumps excellence and accomplishment in today's academy.

Mamet has read widely in conservative literature, especially Hayek. He is as worthy a philosophical heir of Hayek as Thomas Sowell (whom he also quotes extensively) is. He manages to present many of Hayek's ideas in a much more lively style. Mamet is, after all, a dramatist, and the guy who wrote such lines as "second prize is a set of steak knives, third prize is you're fired."

He's very good at illustrating his principles. For instance, he tells a story of a rich little girl his daughter went to school with. She had a refrigerator in her room, and every night there was a snack in there for her. His daughter asked her schoolmate who put the snack in there. She didn't know. The little rich girl is a perfect symbol of  every uninformed critic of free markets. Although the book went to press too early for Mamet to mention it, she's an awful lot like the folks occupying Wall Street.

My only problem with the way the book is written is Mamet's annoying tendency to put asides into footnotes.*That minor criticism aside, The Secret Knowledge is well worth reading.

*Will Cuppy used to do the same thing.