Top positive review
Helps understand conservatives
June 7, 2019
An excerpt from this book in the Washington Post was so interesting and clearly expressed that I ordered the book. The idea George Will puts forth is that government started out small, then expanded into more and more areas—which “inflames incontinent appetites” and leads to 67% of the budget being in the form of transfer payments. The bigger government gets, the more it is run by administrative agencies and infested with people who have a vested interest in influencing it or getting benefits from it. The bottom 50% of earners paid 3% of the income tax collected, which leads to the moral hazard of voters voting to get benefits which don’t cost them much. Conservatives need to help us face some important hard truths about budgeting.
Will starts with a lot of philosophical stuff about where the Founders got their ideas and values. In successive chapters, he goes into some different areas of civic life: economics, the judicial, culture, education, international affairs, and religion. He goes back often to the Founders, with their value of self-restraint.
From the time of Plato, whom he cites as trying to figure out a form of government that won’t fall to tyranny, societies have tried to find solutions. Will’s solutions are woven throughout the text, with innumerable interesting and pertinent quotes. Will’s writing and use of words are beautiful. It was great to read this on the Kindle, where you can just highlight a name and get a dictionary/Wikipedia readout for more information!
Will paints progressives as people who think citizens are pliable, and if enough scientific knowledge can be brought to bear, society can be improved. I tend toward the progressive side, and I didn’t think he went enough into what to do with people who are homeless or food insecure if government does not intervene. One instance was interesting: “Do people want to live in a society where jobs are protected by policies that suppress economic dynamism….Or in a society in which workers are expected, and helped, to adapt to a constant stream of uncertainties—and opportunities?” The “helped” would seem like a progressive act to me.
The book was valuable in understanding the conservative philosophy, and Will effectively gets across his ideas.