If you haven't seen it yet, I highly recommend "Pursuit of Happyness." It's the story of Chris Gardner, a black San Francisco high-school graduate who went from homeless to stock broker in the early 80s thanks to his natural gifts, and taking a chance on an unpaid internship at Dean Witter. That's what my column is on today:
It’s mostly because this man succeeds against great odds in a business environment that the movie is “conservative.” His accomplishment is found in capitalism, not football. It’s refreshing to see that held up for recognition, glamorized just a little bit without making the white-collar hero into a money-grubbing demon.
After all, the free market is the motor that makes this country run—and run better than any other country on earth—whether liberals want to believe it or not. It offers greater opportunity to greater numbers of people than any other system every conceptualized.
Not everyone will be a Chris Gardner in our society, but the free market can offer great rewards for those willing to take great risks, and very good rewards for most of the rest of us. Upward mobility is not a myth, though many liberals would like you to believe it is.
The utter reliance and faith some liberals express for government programs requires that they believe men like Gardner are victims, and stories like his, impossible. For many people who believe that, liberalism has devolved into a way to encourage victimhood over personal responsibility, and value dependence over self-reliance.For that reason, this movie is a pleasant surprise coming from a very liberal Hollywood. Also a pleasant surprise, the fact that Will Smith’s star power carried the movie to the top of the box office in its opening weekend. I imagine it will continue to do well.
The message and values of “The Pursuit of Happyness” are not so much “radically conservative” as they are just plain optimistically American.
The only people this feel-good movie will make feel bad are those who depend on keeping folks like Chris Gardner convinced that the American dream is out of reach for them. Sadly, there are far too many of those people in this country. But "Happyness" was No. 1 at the box office last week, and I imagine it will continue to do well-- not because it's "conservative" to admire men like Chris Garder, but because it's American, and a lot of Americans like to see it on screen.