I met George Gilder before he had become the author most in demand by the supply-siders, before "Wealth and Poverty" had hit the best-seller lists.
In those days, David Stockman was an ex-divinity student. Ronald Reagan was an ex-governor and George was a bachelor.
This last fact was not, I hasten to add, extraneous. George had just finished a dreadful little book called "Naked Nomads," a postscript to "Sexual Suicide" in which he set out to prove how miserable single men were. They were prone to everything from poverty to pornography, psychosis to syphilis. Those who were not violent to others were likely to inflict violence on themselves.
What I remember most about our interview was that George arrived wounded. He had cut his unwed chin while shaving. As he talked about the self-destructiveness of single men, a small piece of Kleenex kept jiggling ominously along his wound.
George was ardent in his belief that women should devote their lives to rescuing poor needful men. Jiggle, jiggle. He maintained that if only women would stop being so damnably independent and would follow nature -- see Lionel Tiger -- all would be right with the world. Jiggle, jiggle.
Frankly, I thought Gilder was a bit dippy. By then, as I recall, I'd already heard the stories. Heard about his uncanny ability to lose overcoats. Heard about the time he'd driven to Philadelphia to see a track meet, flown back to Boston and gone looking for his car. It never passed my mind that he would become a darling of presidents. I mean, who would trust the economic philosophy of a man who can't keep track of his overcoat?
But I must be kind about this. I chauvinistically assumed that Bachelor George would do what he said all men do: straighten out as soon as he got married.
However, here he is six years, one wife and two children later, and lordy, the man is still at it. Once again in his book about hope, faith, charity and the capitalist system, he bases his beliefs on some mysterious, mystical sexual powers.
"Civilized society is dependent upon the submission of the short-term sexuality of young men to the extended maternal horizons of women," he writes.
This time, capitalism, as well as mental health and crime prevention, rest on the ability of a woman to get her man and keep his nose to the grindstone. "This is what happens in a monogamous marriage: The man disciplines his sexuality and extends it into the future through the womb of a woman. The woman gives him access to his children, otherwise forever denied him; and he gives her the product of his labor, otherwise dissipated on temporary pleasures. The woman gives him a unique link to the future and a vision of it; he gives her faithfulness and a commitment to a lifetime of hard work."
Gilder identifies the enemies of this blissful romantic-capitalistic union as (1) women who allow sex without marriage, (2) working wives, (3) women with independent means, (4) government programs that in any way support (1) (2) or (3).
The basic point about family and the economy is that a man needs a thoroughly dependent wife and needful children to become a dependable, upwardly mobile worker. The woman (or government) who undercuts the male role as provider merely produces another naked nomad, as the capitalist system goes kapooey.
Gilder is blissfully unconcerned about what happens to the dependent wife and children when a man's nose is not permanently attached to the grindstone, or when it is not permanently attached to a wife. He's blissfully unconcerned about women who are not wives and mothers.
Under his plan for fun and profit, the only decent thing for a woman to harbor is a fund of trust for her man, rather than, say, a trust fund. Under his plan a woman is supposed to provide, rather than to have, a meaning for life.
All this would be amusing, in a dippy sort of way, except for the fact that Gilder's mystical philosophy has been officially dubbed "Promethean in power and insight" By David Stockman. The ideas underlie the budget plans of the former divinity student and the former governor.
It is no accident that the Reagan cuts are aimed at any programs -- welfare, child nutrition, food stamps -- that would "undermine the motivation of men" by helping women and children. It was all in the works years ago, in the mind of the man with the Kleenex on his chinny, chin, chin.