Before you pick up that diploma, P.J. O'Rourke has some grand advice before you leave the ivory tower.
So now, it's my job to give you advice. But I'm thinking: You're finishing 16 years of education, and you've heard all the conventional good advice you can stand. So, let me offer some relief:
1. Go out and make a bunch of money!
Here we are living in the world's most prosperous country, surrounded by all the comforts, conveniences and security that money can provide. Yet no American political, intellectual or cultural leader ever says to young people, "Go out and make a bunch of money." Instead, they tell you that money can't buy happiness. Maybe, but money can rent it.
There's nothing the matter with honest moneymaking. Wealth is not a pizza, where if I have too many slices you have to eat the Domino's box. In a free society, with the rule of law and property rights, no one loses when someone else gets rich.
2. Don't be an idealist!
Don't chain yourself to a redwood tree. Instead, be a corporate lawyer and make $500,000 a year. No matter how much you cheat the IRS, you'll still end up paying $100,000 in property, sales and excise taxes. That's $100,000 to schools, sewers, roads, firefighters and police. You'll be doing good for society. Does chaining yourself to a redwood tree do society $100,000 worth of good?
Idealists are also bullies. The idealist says, "I care more about the redwood trees than you do. I care so much I can't eat. I can't sleep. It broke up my marriage. And because I care more than you do, I'm a better person. And because I'm the better person, I have the right to boss you around."
Get a pair of bolt cutters and liberate that tree.
Who does more for the redwoods and society anyway — the guy chained to a tree or the guy who founds the "Green Travel Redwood Tree-Hug Tour Company" and makes a million by turning redwoods into a tourist destination, a valuable resource that people will pay just to go look at?
His advice on fairness is absolutely perfect, by the way. This is one commencement address worth reading all the way through. Many graduates are about to be mugged by reality when they find out that the world does not quite operate the way they think it should. Listening to O'Rouke's advice could help them navigate the stormy waters of reality a bit more easily.