Friday, December 23, 2016

Where there's a will, there's George Will

In the topsy-turvey nonsensical political reality of 2016, I am looking back on some of the thinking and writing that makes the most sense to me when I consider the role of government, the value of politics, and the all important question of how men should live. Granted, it was with a profound bit of dismay at Election2016 that I begin this reflective quest to make some sense of political realities. And, truly, I do get it. I understand why what happened did in fact happen. It's really not so surprising the more I think about it, and I am more than a little miffed that HRC seems to be hanging her hat on the idea that the election was stolen from her by Russian hacking of DNC emails. If that's the position of Democratic leadership, they're going to be wandering in the muck for quite a while.

Instead, let's look back to some sound political reasoning about the way things ought to be. I have been reading two important socio-political critiques from fifteen and thirty years ago: Building a Bridge to the 18th Century by Neil Postman and Statecraft as Soul Craft by George Will. These two men might be a couple of the most astute thinkers of the modern era, and their ideas are sadly ignored and obscure to society's peril.

In perusing George Will's 1983 explanation and defense of true conservatism, I am reminded of why I call myself a conservative yet often "caucus with the Democrats" and find so few heroes in the contemporary Republican Party. In fact, the book reminds me of the article I've been meaning to write for a while entitled "Conservative but not Republican." The basic idea is that I believe in government as the foundation of a stable society, which is why I have so much trouble taking the contemporary Libertarian Party seriously - and that was before Gary Johnson embarrassed himself nationally in a haze of marijuana-influenced policy gaffes. Truly, as Thoreau noted in the 1830s, "the government is best that governs least," and we certainly don't need a continued expansion of government offices or programs. Interestingly, I argued with a liberal friend recently why anything more than a 35% tax rate is ridiculous, regardless of total income. But I digress. George Will has spent decades defending why a conservative can believe in "a strong government" and the "essentials of the welfare state." And he's right. It's just common sense.

In the new era of populism - which is a bit mystifying when truly considered - George Will reminds us that "Andrew Jackson said any American could fill any office." Those thoughts were also expressed by Vladimir Lenin, and in a strange way, Mao Ze Dong. Yet, it's pretty clear we are long past the days of the "citizen legislator," as Will points out how unsuccessful the last one - Jimmy Carter - was in the Presidency. Truly, "A great state cannot be run by citizen legislators and amateur administrators ... Government is increasingly and necessarily conducted by specialists. Progress requires specialization."

Yet, that is not where we're headed, which is disconcerting.  So, consider taking a look back at Will's analysis and prescription for what the country needs in terms of leadership.

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