I had the great pleasure of meeting John O’Sullivan at St. Anselm’s earlier this year when he gave a talk about women in politics. His years serving as Margaret Thatcher’s senior aide give him some authority with which to speak on the matter of women and politics but I had no idea that he was also the father of “O’Sullivan[i]’s First Law” (a fact I probably would not have learned but for perusing National Review Online early this morning).O’ Sullivan’s First Law postulates that “All organizations that are not actually right-wing will over time become left-wing” and Mr. O’Sullivan defends this hypothesis saying:
“I cite as supporting evidence the ACLU, the Ford Foundation, and the Episcopal Church. The reason is, of course, that people who staff such bodies tend to be the sort who don’t like private profit, business, making money, the current organization of society, and, by extension, the Western world.”
I thought about that for a moment and, shazaam, realized that I myself had witnessed OSFL in person. Where, you might ask? Well, not long after moving to NH, with the idea of paying back some of the great good fortune I’d experienced in my previous life, I spent several years as a lobbyist for a tax-exempt (note, I do not say non-profit) organization. The organization had been started before I was born (can you imagine) and had grown into a multi-multi million dollars operation so sleek and sophisticated it had its own publishing style guide. I got hired, I think, partly because the boss took a personal liking to me (the primary reason I stayed as long as I did) but mostly as a token; the group didn’t appear to have ANY private sector folks and certainly no one of an even mildly-striped conservative nature. In fact, except for yours truly, it was staffed by lawyers.
So what I did I see that confirmed OSFL?
Two of the lawyers did come from private practice. One of the two – a fully grown adult - decided that it was simply not right to make money for other people and left the corporate world to seek redemption or revenge, I was never quite sure. The second was rather youngish but had collapsed under the pressure of working as a cannon-fodder junior associate. Refuge from the long hours and unrelenting demands of being on the partner-track apparently found in the tax-exempt’s warm and fuzzy bosom.
I’m told the senior staffer, a vegan given to riding-to-the-hounds and fabulous shoes rather the serving the great unwashed, had briefly dipped a toe or two in the hardscrabble world of social work early on but seemed to find greater peace and personal satisfaction serving up non-recourse, non-specific legal blather on a remarkably large salary with even more remarkable benefits.
There were four other attorneys: an already-retired municipal attorney; a late-to-the law but extremely practical real-world manager; another refugee, not from the cold, cruel real world but from consecutive state agency careers; and finally, the newest, a late-to-the law, clear-eyed and happy conservative.
The thread that bound them – but for the practical manager and the newbie– was, as O’Sullivan holds, a general but visceral disdain for riff-raff like me. They, like their progressive peers, believed they were smarter, more civilized, more tolerant and generally superior not only to me but to the very folks they were paid handsomely to represent.
The practical manager bailed after a couple of years, tired, I deduced, of the rigid in-house pecking order and absence of any internal promotion opportunities (the top job was most likely only going to be available upon the death of its occupant). The youngish attorney became the significant other of the older, conscience-weary one, the two living rather more splendidly out of wedlock than in (married folk weren’t allowed to work there – rules for commoners, dontchaknow).
Of course, this shy and happy warrior eventually got fired because a state agency commissioner demanded the organization either rid him of my troublesome presence or suffer consequences for keeping me, an opportunity not to be missed by the senior staffer whose stances I’d routinely questioned and generally pissed-off on more than one occasion.
So I wasn’t surpised to hear just after Christmas, when the the tax-exempt organization was being forced to tighten its belt, rather than sharing the pool of +$100,000 salaries in this tough economy, the senior staffer was able to get rid of the newbie, the only conservative in the organization, a happy and financially comfortable solution for all but the dumpee.
I spent decades across the table from serious businessmen and women, obvious hucksters and the occasional pompous dumbass. We locked ourselves in free-market combat building, buying or selling companies, the tougher, the better prepared and more tenacious generally winning the fight. We may not have liked another but, for the most part, we considered each other worthy advisories.
And throughout my life, I’ve run up against at least my fair share of sanctimonious snots wrapped so tightly in self-righteousness they can hardly breathe without spewing spittle. They speak to people like me either because they have to or because they think I am too stupid to understand their true motives.
Birds of a feather do flock together; we just seek different outcomes.
1 John O’Sullivan, CBE, author, editor, political commentator.