George Will at BYU

Columnist and conservative guru George Will offered his intellect to a large audience at Brigham Young University on October 22, 2013.

Taking a somewhat non-customary view of the political battleground he pointed out landmines that face the conservative allied front.  Simultaneously he trampled over some of the age-old unexploded ordinance of hyperbole like so much rubbish in a shallow grave.

For instance while there is a shout and cry  from nearly every politician in Washington about the accursed “gridlock” in Congress, Will noted that it is just a whimper and sniff.  “Gridlock is not an American problem, it is an American achievement.”

He went on to explain that via the Constitution the governing on America, at the federal level at least, was designed to deny rapid passage of new laws.  Citing numerous “checks and balances” with the structure of the government he suggested that 95% of what is achieved in Washington is obstruction of poor laws and policies.  Jokingly he added a quote from England’s half-American/half-Brit Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. “American inevitably get it right…after they have exhausted all alternatives.”

Therein is the grace of the United States of America.  From the day preceding the great Revolution of mankind those standing on the shores of this continent engaged in gridlock.  For centuries “We the People” have been willing to lock horns, even occasionally to our dying breath, to defend the virtue of The Declaration of Independence and Constitution under which all our laws are intended to be justly established.

As Will honorably explained, government here, as nowhere else on Earth, is designed to secure the pre-existing rights of men.  That is significantly different than the securing the rights of government over men.  To use the recent words of Senator Mike lee of Utah to the Heritage Foundation (November 13, 2013),

“Since the dawn of time, rich and powerful men, and friends of the king, always had access to opportunity. What made America different is that here, everyone did, and government’s job was to make sure of it.”

That is what makes the United States of American distinctively different from the rest of the world.  Every person has the right to pursue opportunities.  It is the gridlock of the marketplace as well as the gridlock of the policy place.

Where we have failed over the last fifty, maybe ninety years, is in our progressive mindset to make all things easy without discussion of rational consequences.  Rational thought comes from reasoned debate or gridlock.  What makes the gridlock of today so obtuse is the absence of the adjective “reasoned”.

Again George Will put it this way,

“We used to run deficits to borrow for the future. We borrowed to win wars for the future, build roads, highways and airports for future generations. Today we borrow from the future, to finance our own current consumption. This is a fundamental immorality, if you will, burdening the unconsenting and unpresent future generations with the costs of our appetites.”

We have become the entitled society.  Strange as it seems we, as a nation, are in the death throes of a community seeking to became that which we so ardently left behind on the battlefield of the great Revolution.  Under King George, the emperor of opulence, of Great Britain and his Sheriffs of Nottingham (commonly referred to as the Parliament) repeatedly enacted laws applicable to a an isolated sector of the realm.  They united sought to tax the colonies into funding their fun.

The elite of England felt entitled to have the ragtag rebels of “The Colonies” pay for their excesses in war and wanton luxury.  In short they fostered within the empire the idea that one segment of the society should pay for the extravagances of another segment.  Our forefather declared with a shot heard round the world “not so, we are free men…entitled to the futures of our labors and none other.”

We have wander far afield from that view.  Here are the giant leaps in our social growth, which have been disguised as small steps.

  1. We claimed freedom to pursue opportunity.
  2. We defend that right.
  3. We acquieseced to the idea that government should grow in size and influence.
  4. We passed laws and amendments to the Constitution taking from simple men the rights to the rewards of their labors.
  5. We engaged in efforts to force all men to equality of benefit, without equity of labor.
  6. We defined classes of men worthy of benefits gained at the expense of other classes of men.
  7. We subjected the civility  and culture of our nation to the whims of whimsical pursuits.
  8. Today, we by law mortgage the future of all citizens under the disguise of caring for a few, rather than simply giving the few access to opportunity.

The great debate, the rushed gridlock is not over how to generate access to opportunity.  We do not discuss how we may open the doors to opportunity.  We do not concern ourselves with securing the rights to opportunity.  Instead, as Will reminds us “The problem is that we are ‘wealing’ a network of dependency, making Americans more and more dependent, in more and more ways, on government we really are not paying for.”

I began using allegories of war.  I shall end in much the same place.  In a distant land many and many a year ago two men from different clans met at a spring of water.  They commenced to argue over which should have right to drink first.  Decades later their aging sons sat beside the same spot.  Surrounding them were the bones and bodies of thousands of clansmen from both sides.  In the weariness both felt at the setting of the sun one said to the other “Drink, for I shall not.  The stream runs with the blood of my people.”

“Nor shall I drink, for it also runs with the blood of my dead kinsmen.”

When gridlock fails to bring out the best in adversaries, it shall surely bring out the worst.  That is the American Problem when the Congress and the President insist that their sons and daughter will be better off drinking from a tainted spring.


2 thoughts on “George Will at BYU

  1. Bill, I read that article in the paper about George Will’s visit to BYU. I have also had my family read it. It was spot on and so are you.

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