Increasing Contempt for George Will

Once upon a time George Will brought an intelligent, incisive Conservative perspective to the editorial pages of American newspapers. I began reading his column decades ago and, while I disagreed with him on almost every issue, I used to find that he provided challenging food for thought – facts and arguments that pushed me to rethink and re-articulate my own positions on the issues.

In recent years, however, Will has become an anti-government fanatic and a shill for the corporate interests who are working behind the scenes to reshape the nation in their own image. These two agendas go hand in hand, of course. Trashing government – not just a given administration, but the very principles of Federalism – discourages citizens from participating in the political life of their Republic, and clears the way for big-moneyed interests to remodel our political, social, and economic landscape.

Will’s latest column, headlined “Increasing Contempt for Government,” provides a perfect demonstration of his devolution from thoughtful Conservative into demagogic hack. As usual, he cherry-picks a few anecdotes of bureaucratic idiocy, and implies that they exemplify government in all its forms. He evokes issues of serious, legitimate concern to Americans and asserts that the problem – the only problem – is government “overreach.” He stitches together a crazy quilt of examples and draws the sweeping conclusion that if we could only tie the hands of evil, obtuse “gummint,” the United States would instantly morph into the Eden envisioned by the Founders.

He begins by taking aim at the Healthy Hunger-Free Food Act of 2010, which sets nutritional standards for all food and drink sold in schools during the school day. Will indignantly asserts that our poor kids will no longer be allowed to sell cupcakes at their bake sales. That’s simply false. After-school sales are not affected by the standards. But with his reductio ad absurdum, Will gets to take a cheap shot at Federal nutrition standards, an essential initiative to improve the health of the nation’s children.

Moving from school nutrition to school safety, Will pulls out two examples of admittedly dim-witted applications of “zero tolerance” policies for weapons and toxic materials. Obviously a child should not be suspended for bringing a toy gun to school (although, in my view, he should be told to take it home and not bring it back). And yes, banning suntan lotion on a school trip is a pretty egregious example of rule enforcement gone stupid. But neither of these cases represents Federal overreach. These “zero tolerance” policies are adopted by states and/ or by local school districts, often under pressure from misguided parents who are terrified for the safety of their own children. Will’s tireless insistence that federal = bad, local = good argues against him here. Municipalities and school districts are at least as prone to making bad decisions as Federal or State governments. As a matter of fact, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has urged local school officials to dial back their over-the-top “zero tolerance” policies. The Federal government DOES have a role to play in ensuring safe environments for all American schoolchildren, while maintaining a healthy respect for civil rights and common sense.

Will then addresses the very real problem of the increasing militarization of America’s police departments – an issue that has been addressed elsewhere in these pages – and asserts that big, bad government is solely to blame for the fact that the nation is awash in military-grade weaponry which too often finds its way into the hands of local police. Yes, there’s no question that our foreign policy has invested too heavily in a bloated arsenal of horrific war machines. But Will seems to forget that the problem is a military-INDUSTRIAL complex in which weapons makers bear at least half the blame, lobbying tirelessly for more and more lucrative contracts, “buying” politicians who share their corporate priorities, and gouging American taxpayers for overpriced, and sometimes ineffective, weapons systems. Nor does Will even mention the NRA’s role in ramping up militaristic sentiments with such gems as “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a bigger gun.” And then we’re surprised that the cops want to be the guys with the biggest guns?

Will’s use of the tragic shooting of Michael Brown, and the immigration crisis on our borders, to take potshots at “big gummint” militarism – while ignoring all the complex economic, political, historical, and social factors involved in these issues – is not just disingenuous, not just cynical, but downright devious and deceitful.

The greatest irony in this column of Will’s is his reference to “unified field theory,” the scientific notion that a single hypothesis may be used to explain a wide range of phenomena. For George Will, a Federal government that applies its power to the full range of issues facing our country represents a very nasty application of unified field theory. That’s simply a ludicrous interpretation of history and reality. The Constitution created a Federal government, with a system of checks and balances, PRECISELY so that it could “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”

The REAL abuse of “unified field theory” is the fiction propagated by George Will, the Tea Party, and certain ultra-conservative and corporate interests who tell us that every single problem faced by the nation can be boiled down to a single, simplistic mantra: “too much government!”

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3 Comments on "Increasing Contempt for George Will"

  • uncle pepper says

    Very well written piece. Nice use of facts, might make conservative folks cry…

  • jimbob says

    “Too much government” – Except when the GOP wants more; i.e. legalization of marijuana, abortion, gay rights, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc

  • MahoningVal says

    Leave it to Will and the GOP to take an innocuous idea like serving healthier lunches to our school children and turning it into a big-government-overreach-and-control-conspiracy. I wonder if he’s ever dined at a school cafeteria in the last 20 years and enjoyed those same greasy fried chicken nuggets, french fries, and soggy bland pizza that our kids “enjoy”. Better quality food for our school children is WAY overdue.

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