David Mamet’s Intellectual Journey Through Politics

For thirty years, David Mamet was a force in theater and film, championing liberalism in his movies and plays, exploring the ethics of the business world, the struggles of the “oppressed,” and the [supposed] flaws of capitalism.

But then something happened:

David Mamet: Why I Am No Longer a “Brain-Dead Liberal”, in the Village Voice, March 11, 2008.

But if the government is not to intervene, how will we, mere human beings, work it all out?

I wondered and read, and it occurred to me that I knew the answer, and here it is: We just seem to. How do I know? From experience. I referred to my own—take away the director from the staged play and what do you get? Usually a diminution of strife, a shorter rehearsal period, and a better production.

The director, generally, does not cause strife, but his or her presence impels the actors to direct (and manufacture) claims designed to appeal to Authority—that is, to set aside the original goal (staging a play for the audience) and indulge in politics, the purpose of which may be to gain status and influence outside the ostensible goal of the endeavor.

Strand unacquainted bus travelers in the middle of the night, and what do you get? A lot of bad drama, and a shake-and-bake Mayflower Compact. Each, instantly, adds what he or she can to the solution. Why? Each wants, and in fact needs, to contribute—to throw into the pot what gifts each has in order to achieve the overall goal, as well as status in the new-formed community. And so they work it out.

The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of the American Culture (2011)

“My interest in politics began when I noticed that I acted differently than I spoke, that I had seen ‘the government’ commit sixty years of fairly unrelieved and catastrophic error nationally and internationally, that I not only hated every wasted hard-earned cent I spent in taxes, but the trauma and misery they produced…”

From page 61 of the Secret Knowledge, on the Utopian vision of liberals:

Hayek calls this utopian vision The Road to Serfdom.  And we see it in operation here, as we are in the process of choosing, as a society, between Liberty – the freedom from the State to pursue happiness, and a supposed but impossible Equality, which, as it could only be brought about by a State capable and empowered to function in all facets of life, means totalitarianism and eventual dictatorship.

War Stories: An interview with David Masciotra, The Federalist, March 13, 2014:

“The combative nature of human beings in relationships with each other and in the understanding of themselves is the essence of the tragic view,” Mamet said before continuing, “The marvelous thing about my discovery of conservative philosophy and economics is that it made sense with my previous experience in the world. It is saying that there are things beyond our understanding, but by observing them we might be able to deal with them. We can never completely do away with the final remainder of discomfort, mutual loathing, and self-doubt, because that is part of the human condition. Whatever we do, the price of failure will be chaos, but the price of success will also be chaos.”

Also from Masciotra:

The conversion announcement [in the Village Voice] surprised many admirers of the Renaissance man, but some observers saw it coming for a long time, including political analyst and social commentator Shelby Steele, who said, “I think he (Mamet) has the same values today as he did before. He’s always been conservative without knowing it.”