What’s A Nice Jewish Boy Like You Doing At A Website Like This?
Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Noah Millman. For the past five years or thereabouts, I’ve blogged for The American Scene. I’ve also blogged occasionally for The Economist in their Free Exchange and Democracy in America blogs.
I’m a former Wall Street banker. Actually, worse than that: I used to work in derivatives. No, even worse: I used to work in structured products. No, that’s still not bad enough: I used to work structuring CDOs. But I don’t do that anymore. Now I’m in the process of building a second career as a Hollywood screenwriter.
In 2002 and 2003, I was a full-throated supporter of the Iraq War. In 2000, I supported John McCain for President. In 2008, I supported Barack Obama. I expect to support him again.
I support gay marriage. I’m not an immigration restrictionist. I think the Affordable Care Act was largely a good piece of legislation, should not be repealed, and is plainly constitutional. I don’t think the Federal Reserve should be abolished or that we should return to the gold standard.
My favorite living author is Philip Roth.
So what on earth am I doing blogging for The American Conservative?
The simplest answer to that question would be to say: they asked me, and unlike Groucho Marx I’m rather more inclined than not to join clubs that would have me as a member. And it’s not like I’m coming in under false colors; I laid out all of the above in my initial conversations with the folks at TAC, and they were well aware of the number of issues on which I’m “off side” from the bulk of the readership and, more than that, how few are the areas where we will likely see eye to eye. And they were interested in me anyway.
Moreover, they were interested in letting me do some things I very much wanted to do, such as doing more writing about culture. My other blog, Millman’s Shakesblog will be migrating over in a month or so, and I hope to expand beyond theatre reviews to writing more broadly about the arts.
But a more complete answer would reference their explanation for why they wanted me involved. As far as my political or ideological orientation went, they really weren’t too worried. From their perspective, the magazine stood not for any particular demographic group, much less for any particular politics, but rather for the conviction that what is closest to us – what we know best, and love best through the deepest knowledge – is what is most important, and worth trying to preserve. What that thing is will, of course, vary from person to person, but a respect for that sentiment – even when, in the end, one concludes that what one loves best cannot be preserved, may, in fact, be damaged more by the effort at preservation than by a more adaptive strategy toward change – is something I can heartily endorse.
Their other point was that they were not aiming for a magazine that spoke with one voice; they preferred, frankly, a cacophony if that is what a lively a spirited debate produced. And while I suspect I will often – perhaps usually – disagree with my interlocutors here, I have tried to make a habit of engaging with those with whom I disagree, even with those whose premises or conclusions I find strongly abhorrent. Indeed, I feel like an enormous amount is gained merely by coming to agreement on what those premises and conclusions really are. In my politics these days, I am functionally a liberal, and I may wind up as TAC’s house liberal, but I hope if that turns out to be the case that it turns out to be a good thing to have a liberal in the house.
Finally, I should say something about how my own history relates to my presence here. I spent the bulk of my adult life as a functional neoconservative. I also spent the bulk of my adult life working in the more rarefied regions of the financial sector. In the wake of the Iraq War and the financial crisis and subsequent recession, I have come to have serious qualms about both associations. I am now extremely critical both of the foreign policy views I used to hold and of the industry in which I used to work. I’m fairly aware of the critical arguments from the left. This magazine is the natural home of critical arguments from the right on these two issues. If those arguments are good, I want to lend my support to them. If those arguments are lousy, I want to make them better. Either way, that’s a reason for me to be involved in this magazine’s project.