George Will wrangles with God, the conservative sensibility and the dangers of progressivism

George Will wrangles with God, the conservative sensibility and the dangers of progressivism

-So, this is really how
your friendship with Moynihan begins is with this letter. -Yeah. -From another famous
conservative, Irving Kristol. It says that you are
conservative, true, very smart, true, very nice, true,
and a true-blue intellectual. -Two-and-a-half speed, yeah. -Senator Daniel
Patrick Moynihan, late Senator of New York,
who was also United States ambassador
to the United Nations, close advisor to both LBJ
and Richard Nixon — not many people can say that —
and your lifelong close friend. What would Moynihan
have to teach us about our situation today? -He was a world-class
social scientist, certainly the finest
social scientist ever to serve
in the legislative branch. He’s justly remembered
and rightly remembered for his famous aphorism, “Everyone is entitled
to their own opinions but not their own facts.” He respected data. What I loved about Pat
was he started from facts, from reasoning from the data, because he was
a social scientist. -We need more of that today?
-We need a lot more of that. Lord knows we’re in
the opinion business. I’m in the opinion business, but opinions are only
interesting when they take off
from a large sentiment of fact. -Now, Moynihan was not a
conservative. -That’s correct.
He was a New Deal liberal. -And you engaged with him
over decades, conversations. Did that engagement,
did that relationship form the kind of conservative
you became? I think so.
Pat was so much fun. A woman entering the House
of Commons in Britain recently said
in her maiden speech — she said, “Democracy’s like sex. If it isn’t messy,
you’re not doing it right.” I would modify that to extend to
say that politics is like sex. If it isn’t fun,
you’re not doing it right. Pat had an enormous capacity
for pleasure and happiness in what he was doing. This Time magazine cover
from the 1964 convention was hanging in
Barry Goldwater’s Senate office. -This very one.
-This very one. “A new thrust
on American politics.” Carried 44 states
for Lyndon Johnson. -I thought it was more. Now, your book is dedicated
to Barry Goldwater, who — the late Barry Goldwater —
who was a Senator from Arizona. Probably most famous in American
history for his candidacy as the Republican nominee
in 1964 as an unapologetic, conservative,
small-government. But I think it’s probably,
in our day, a somewhat controversial
choice of dedication, because he’s also known
for opposing things most people believe
are wise such as the Civil Rights’ Bill
and so on. Make the case
for your dedication and for Goldwater’s legacy. -I cast my first presidential
vote in 1964 for Barry Goldwater,
but, back then, conservatism was considered
naughty but not serious. This liberal consensus
was so strong, and Barry came along and said, “I don’t like the way
the country’s going.” 1964 this was. I was at Princeton
in graduate school. Goldwater finished third
in the faculty poll at Princeton
behind Lyndon Johnson and some peace-and-freedom
candidate from somewhere. What Goldwater said was this — “Sooner or later,
you’re gonna find out that as the government
becomes more solicitous, it becomes less respected,”
and look what’s happened. 1964, 70% of
the American people said they trusted the government
to do the right thing or almost all the right thing
all the time. 70%. Today it’s under 20%. Since 1964, the government
has become so permeating
in American life, and, as its pretensions
have increased, its prestige has decreased. The irony here — the cunning of history,
if you will — is that Goldwater
made this possible. By losing in a huge landslide
in 1964, the Democrats elected
for the first time since 1938, when the country
recoiled against Franklin Roosevelt’s idea
to pack the courts — another bad idea
whose time has come again — until —
between ’38 and ’64, there was no liberal legislating
majority in Congress. Suddenly, there was one, and Lyndon Johnson
took full advantage of it to this eruption of legislation
to produce the Great Society, and government
grew promiscuously, and, as I say,
its prestige plummeted. Why? Because the government lost
track of its proper scope and its actual competence. -The unintended consequences
of the Goldwater candidacy. -I used to say that Goldwater
didn’t lose, it just took them 16 years
to count the votes. He won in 1980
with Ronald Reagan. -There’s a lengthy passage
in your book about religion. Specifically —
-A whole chapter. -Yes. -Called “Conservatism
Without Theism.” -It’s about religion and why
it is not necessary to being a conservative. We live in a time when probably
the hard core of what’s considered
the conservative movement in this country consists
of evangelical Christians, and along comes George Will
to explain what I think some people
find as sort of surprisingly, not just not — a non-religious
take on conservatism. Tell us a little bit about
your personal background as an atheist and how that informs
your political philosophy. -First of all, I’m not hostile
to religion. I am an, as I have said,
an amiable, low-voltage atheist. I’m married to a voracious
Presbyterian. I’m not sure there are
any other kinds, but anyway. I grew up in an utterly
secular household. My father was the son
of a Lutheran minister, and he used to sit outside
Pastor Will’s study and listen to the pastor and some of his more
thoughtful parishioners argue about the problem of
reconciling grace and free will. My father, having seen
quite enough of churches by the time he grew up,
became a philosopher, professor of philosophy
at the University of Illinois. He, too, was a non-believer. So the question never arose
in my household. So I was sort of startled
when I mentioned in something that I was a non-believer, and people were either
scandalized or surprised
or God-knows what — “God knows.” I’m not —
I think Bill Buckley was right. A conservative
need not be religious, but he cannot despise religions. I think the great religions
express common durable human anxieties and aspirations
and worries and questions. The Founding Fathers were,
to a remarkable stint, deists. That is, they believed that God
cranked up the universe, set it in motion like a clock,
and then absconded. A deist god is like a distant
wealthy aunt in Australia — benevolent
but not often heard from. My argument in the chapter
“Conservatism Without Theism” is not just that conservatism
does not depend on theism but that there is
a conservative sensibility that rejoices
in the whirl of things, the unpredictable,
unplanned nature of things. Virginia Postrel, a very wise
writer in Washington, once said the story
of the Bible, distilled to its essence, is, “God created man and woman
and lost control of events.” Conservatives —
proper conservatives, someone with
a conservative sensibility — loves the fact that events
are out of control. Good. Who knows where it’ll go,
but that’s part of the fun. You look at the universe,
and we are such an infinitesimally
insignificant cooling cinder at the back of beyond in this
enormously expanding universe, expanding into what,
no one knows. Some people either find
this frightening or depressing. A conservative sensibility says, no, this is what
we like about life. -In a way, as I listen to you, it comes together with
your critique of progressivism because progressives
are playing God, as it were. They’re trying to constantly
impose order on what is essentially
permanent chaos. -Yes.
And the chaos, what Hayek called spontaneous order of society,
is creative. The fecundity of freedom that we
live with on a daily life is what conservatives want to
protect from the fatal conceit, another Hayek word,
the fatal conceit that we can plan the future
and do it better than the spontaneous creative
energies of American life — 327 million Americans
getting up in the day, making billions of decisions
a day, that drive the society. -Now, that brings us
to the present day and the present President,
whose name, by the way, it’s Donald Trump,
does not appear in your book. Now, that can’t be an accident. -The names of Charlemagne,
Audrey Hepburn, and Duke Ellington don’t appear
in the book, either. -That’s true. -Because this is a book
about ideas, and the current President
is not part of that discussion. He has nothing to do
with conservatism. He, really, to his credit, has never pretended
to be a conservative. He’s an entrepreneur
in politics, and he’s maximizing
whatever he wants to maximize, but this is a book
about important arguments, and he’s not part of that. -You made a great impression by, in the midst of the Trump
run for the presidency, renouncing your membership
in the Republican Party, on principle,
because of his nomination. And, in listening to you
describe your critique of progressivism,
in a way, I think it goes together with
your critique of Donald Trump. You’ve written, many times,
that his cardinal sin, so to speak,
is to attempt to control things, through tariffs,
through bullying. That, in some ways,
his essential flaw is the same flaw
that progressives, or the same error
that progressivism commits. -Sure.
“Trade wars are easy to win.” Oh, yeah? You go out to Iowa and you’ll
stand there in a soybean field and the farmer will say,
“One in three of those rows of soybeans
were going to go to China. Oops!” Looking on the bright side, as I
am strongly disinclined to do, but, in this case, the physics
of our politics is gonna work. Equal and opposite reactions. Donald Trump represents,
in a way, the culmination of the grotesque
inflation of the presidency. There was a time,
sixty years ago, at least, when conservatives
believed strongly in Congressional supremacy. Their text was
James Burnham’s book “Congress and
the American Tradition.” Because they had seen,
correctly, that, under Theodore Roosevelt
and Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt
and Lyndon Johnson, the presidency was the engine
of expanding government. Well, then, they had the heady,
intoxicating, deranging experience
of Ronald Reagan. They said, “Lord, this is fun,
having executive power.” So they became part of this
absurd inflation of the presidency. Alchemists used to think
they could turn lead into gold. We now think 270 electoral votes turns a run-of-the-mill
politician into a savant, into someone
who will create jobs and run the economy
and all the rest. Great moment in, well, a great, big moment
in American history — in his first fireside chat, Roosevelt began with two words
that do not appear on the transcript
of his fireside chat in the library
at Hyde Park. Those two words
were “My friends.” Well, you say,
“What’s the matter with that?” I don’t want presidents
to be my friend. I want them to occupy
the executive branch and do what the Article II says,
which is simply take care that the laws
are faithfully executed. That’s enough! Don’t be our moral tutor. Don’t embody the nation. Don’t run the country. 327 million Americans
are busy doing that. Leave them alone! It works! Donald Trump, at the convention
that nominated him in Cleveland, in a way, was the culmination
of the progressive view — “Only I can fix it.” Well, right back to the —
and it’s in my book. It goes right back to Theodore
Roosevelt and the stewardship idea
of the presidency. Roosevelt said, “Whatever I am
not forbidden to do explicitly, I am permitted to do.” And you go from there
to what we’ve got. -Where do conservatives go now?
Is there a refuge for them? Is the Republican Party
still their home? Do they need to look
somewhere else? -The Republican Party today
is more homogenized than ever before in its history. The Republican Party
has been warring with itself since Teddy Roosevelt decided
he wanted the presidency back and went to war against
William Howard Taft. That war is over, in the sense
that the Republican Party is Mr Trump’s party. At the 500-day mark
in Ronald Reagan’s presidency, he had the support
of 77% of Republicans. At the 500-day mark
in the Trump presidency, he had the support
of 87% of Republicans. We’ve seen, with Senator Corker, Senator Flake,
Congressman Sanford, what happens to people
who break ranks. What this means is that
the Madisonian premise of rival institutions
has fallen apart. The Republican herd
believes its job is to be teammates
of the president. Madison would be spinning
in his grave about this, among many other things, because
he wanted the executive branch and the legislative branch
to have a creative rivalry. -It’s quite fashionable
to criticize the Founders
of the United States. We hear a lot of talk now about
how the Senate is so unfair, the electoral college
is misconceived, Thomas Jefferson and George
Washington were slaveholders. Contrary to that trend, this book, I think,
can be understood as a defense of the Founders
and of their vision and I’d like to ask you
to explain why you defend the Founders and why you consider it
not just valid, but very important to recover
their vision today. -I think you can understand
American political thought and our current condition
by understanding the argument between
two Princetonians — James Madison
of the Class of 1771; and Thomas Woodrow Wilson,
Tommy, as he was known at Princeton,
of the Class of 1879. Woodrow Wilson was
the first president to criticize
the American founding, which he didn’t
do peripherally. He did root and branch. He said, “The fundamental
Madisonian architecture of the Constitution is wrong because the separation
of powers is wrong. And it’s wrong because it
inhibits the government from acting with dispatch,
quickness, nimbleness.” What worried the Founders
didn’t worry Woodrow Wilson. What worried the Founders
was factions and majority rule and majority abuses
of minorities. Wilson thought we’d evolved
so far, we’d become modern and had
achieved consensus about life, and we didn’t need to worry
about factions and minorities’ rights
and that sort of thing. So, in that sense,
the progressives have been remarkably forthright
and amazingly successful in overturning
the Founders’ vision, which was natural rights, which means first come rights,
then come government. And government’s function
is inherently limited by the natural
rights’ doctrine. I think the most important word in the Declaration
of Independence is “secure.” “All men are created equal,
endowed by their Creator with with certain
unalienable Rights,” and “Governments are instituted”
to secure those rights. That inherently limits
the function of government, in theory. It hasn’t worked out
that way in practice. But to understand the tension between the progressives’
understanding that we must
emancipate government for enormous enterprises and the Founders’
much more constricted view of what politics is about. -So, let’s go back
to that word “secure” because in contrast, I guess the idea would be
a more kind of European idea, which is governments exist
to create and grant rights. And I think if we’re honest, we would say that
in American culture today, that has taken hold, that idea
that it’s the government’s job to sort of confer rights
and indeed benefits on people. Well, what’s really wrong
with that, and why do you feel that it’s
more consistent with freedom to think of the government as having just the function
of securing rights? -In the speech that made Ronald
Reagan’s political career, the speech in
the Goldwater campaign, called “A Time for Choosing,”
Ronald Reagan said, “Today, we now seem to believe
that rights are dispensations
from government.” And indeed that’s what
the progressive vision is, that government doles
out rights with in mind the public interest. And when it thinks the rights
serve the public interest, it hands them out,
and when it doesn’t, it doesn’t. That is a government that has
a relationship with the citizens where the citizens truly become
subjects of the government. Franklin
Roosevelt in the campaign in 1932 said as much
in a great speech in the San Francisco
Commonwealth Club. He said, “We’re offering
partly a new deal in that we’ll have a bargain. The government will do this, and the citizens
will be compliant.” -So, I also thought of your book as a contrast
between certain people, who are kind of the heroes
of the book, and then there are
certain villains of the book. One of your heroes
is definitely James Madison. I think you alluded
to him earlier. Briefly explain
to a contemporary American, who doesn’t know a lot
about Madison necessarily, why they, too, should think
of Madison as their hero. -I would tell them to read
Federalist 10 and Federalist 51. Before Madison came along
and affected a revolution
in democratic theory, everyone who had thought
democracy was possible — and there weren’t
that many who did — thought it was possible
only in a small, face-to-face, homogenous society because a homogenous society
would not have factions — Rousseau’s Geneva,
Pericles’ Athens, someplace you could
walk across in a day. Madison came along, and they had a different
catechism for the Founders. The Founders said, “What is
the worst outcome of politics?” The answer is tyranny. To what form of tyranny
are democracies prey? Tyranny of the majority. Solution —
don’t have majorities. Don’t have, that is, stable,
tyrannical majorities. Have majorities that
are constellations of constantly shifting factions. To do this, have an extensive
republic, to use Madison’s term. So, in Federalist 10, he said, “The first duty of government
is to protect the different and unequal capacities
of acquiring property.” That would guarantee
a plethora of factions and an unstable society
in the sense that you didn’t have
a stable, tyrannical majority. In Federalist 51, Madison said,
“You see throughout our system the process of supplying
by opposite and rival interests, the defect of better motives.” The Framers, flinty realists
that they were, were not going to
rely upon good motives. They said, “We’re going to
disperse power through the separation
of powers, and properly
rivalrous institutions will resist one another and prevent
any stable abuse of power.” That was the theory. Hitherto, the ancient
philosophers said, “Define the best and aim
for it in politics.” The Framers said, “No, that’s
a little bit risky. We’re gonna orient ourselves. We’re going to take our bearings
from the low and solid and predictable in life,
including interestedness.” And, therefore, they aimed
not to achieve the best but to prevent the worst,
which, again, was tyranny. -Well, I want to pick up
on that point because, again, I think
you’re getting at something that is really essential
to this book, which is bringing to our time a sense
of the downside of government and the whole concept
of unintended consequences. We live in a time where really
it’s not just on the left, but, really, if you consider
Donald Trump the right, there’s a sense
that government exists to intend good things and go out
and get them and that what matters
most about political action is your good intentions. So, I’d like to ask you
to discuss a little bit about why it is so important
in Madison’s thought and therefore for us today
to keep an eye on the possibility
that things could go wrong. -Well, the sentimental
and romantic view of government is that it is the one thing
in life that’s disinterested, that is inherently altruistic. Public-choice theory came along
from James Buchanan and others
at the University of Virginia and said, “Wait a minute.” Public-choice theory simply says
just as in the private sector, we understand that people try
to maximize their affluence, in the public sector, they try
to maximize their power. They are not disinterested. They are not angelic. And, therefore, you must
understand the government is an advocate, a party, an interest
group itself, a faction. And when it’s as enormous
as it is, you expect people
to cluster around. Someone has wisely said
that when you lay out a picnic, you expect ants. And the biggest picnic in the
world is the US federal budget. There is a reason why, what,
5 of the 10 wealthiest counties in the United States by per-capita income
are in the Washington area. We don’t make anything here
except trouble and laws and regulations. We have no natural resources. What we do is distribute
trillions of dollars in one way or another, and people come to affect the
influence, this flow of money. -Now, if there is a villain
in your book, it might be Woodrow Wilson. I’ve got to say,
he enjoys otherwise a very good reputation
in the United States. He has schools named after him. He has a bridge here
in Washington named after him. He is known as the man
who led us through World War I. -He’s the only president
buried in Washington. -And you present
a devastating critique that I think will strike
a lot of people as new
in that you identify Wilson as a kind of founder
of modern progressivism. Tell us a little about what was
so mistaken about Wilson’s vision
and how it still kind of, those mistakes
are reverberating today? -Recently, at Princeton,
some African-American students, becoming cognizant
of Woodrow Wilson’s very retrograde views on race — he actually resegregated
the federal workforce — were up in arms
and wanted to rename things because they named it
Woodrow Wilson School and Wilson College,
and all the rest. And I called the president
of Princeton, Chris Eisgruber, and I offered to come
to Princeton and teach them how to
really dislike Woodrow Wilson. Woodrow Wilson simply believed
that in fact government now had to transcend, had outgrown
the Madison architecture. He said, “It was all very well
once to worry
about the separation of powers and all that when we were
3 million or 4 million people scattered along the fringe
of a continent, 80% of people living within
20 miles of Atlantic tidewater. But now,” he said, “we’re
a giant continental empire, united by copper wires
and steel rails, and, therefore, we need
a government with the ability to act decisively
and emphatically and quickly to regulate
the forces of industrialism and all that’s let loose.” Again, that’s fine, as long as
you think the government is and will always remain
an independent umpire calling balls and strikes. Government, however,
is an interest group, and it is inevitably
the biggest interest group, and because it has a monopoly
on violence and coercion, it is the most
dangerous interest group. That’s what the Founders
thought. -Well, there’s someone else
you talk about in your book, and that’s the famous
economist Friedrich von Hayek, who was well-known
for theorizing about the role of information
in government decision-making. And his point he elaborated
is that it’s impossible for any central authority
to know all the things
you would need to know to manage the country
the way a progressive wanted it to be managed. Isn’t that really at the heart
of what you find so troubling about Wilson’s thought, that he aspired to
that kind of omniscience? -Hayek preached
epistemic humility. Epistemology is the field
of philosophy about how we know things. He said, “The market is nothing but an information-generating
device, and when you interfere with
the market or ignore the market, you’re either interfering with
the generation of information or ignoring information.” Now, the Soviet Union
died of ignorance. It didn’t know
what things should cost. The Soviet Union would
manufacture shoes with the marvelous
value subtraction. That is, the shoes were worth
less than the materials
that went into them. They had no idea
how to function. Hayek alerts everyone to the law
of unintended consequences. It is rightly said that
conservatives understand the law of
unintended consequences. I think conservatives
are conservatives because the law
of unintended consequences, which is when you intervene
in a complex system, like a society,
the unintended consequences of what you do are apt
to be larger than and contrary to the intended
consequences. Society is like a Calder mobile. You jiggle something here, and things jiggle
all the way over there. So, be very careful. -Another theme of your book
is that we sort of are living
with the accumulated — some would say encrusted — legacy of past government
interventions, which you call
the administrative state, that whole bureaucracy that goes
by the alphabet soup of names from EPA to SEC and so on. You’re quite passionate about
the dangers that this poses. I think a lot of people
have grown up with the assumptions
that no, those agencies are what protect us
against pollution and so forth. Talk a little bit about
why people out to be more concerned
than they seem to be about the growth
of the administrative state. -Because the administrative
state is unaccountable and because the administrative
state exists to take power that cannot properly
be delegated to them but is delegated to them by
the Congress, which is so busy “a,” getting re-elected
but also micromanaging society that it can’t do
its own business. Therefore,
it increasingly passes “laws” that are actually
sentiments. “We should have a clean
environment. You people out there
work out the details. We should have quality education
for everybody. You, down at the Education
Department, you write the regulations that
will put meaning into that.” Christopher DeMuth,
a great thinker in our town, says, “Congress engages
in velleities now.” Just expresses nice sentiments and leaves it
to the bureaucracy. Well, the bureaucracy
goes way off writing the rules
and regulations. Walk into the office
of Senator Mike Lee of Utah, you’ll see two piles of paper. One’s about that thick, and it’s what Congress did
in terms of passing laws, actual laws
in a given term. The 8-foot pile is what
the bureaucracy generated in response to laws — regulations, rule making,
all the rest. That graphically demonstrates
the fact that we are today
governed by executive agencies exercising vast discretion
granted illegitimately, in my judgment, by a Congress too busy
to actually govern. Now, there’s a doctrine
that some people — myself included — would like
to see revived by the court, which is the
nondelegation doctrine that says you simply
have no right to give this kind of essentially
lawmaking power to unelected, unaccountable
executive-branch agencies. -Well, you mentioned the court, and I think one thing that will
surprise some of your readers is that though a conservative, you’re not wedded to the
doctrine of judicial restraint, which conservatives
are associated with. You argue that it’s up
to the courts, really, to reign in this
administrative state. Why do you think
that would be effective, as opposed to just substituting another set of unaccountable
officials into the situation? -Because the judges are
accountable to the laws written in the Constitution
that they supervise. What I call the judicial
supervision of democracy is inevitable,
as soon as John Marshall, the third-most-important
American, in my judgment, after Lincoln,
Washington, then John Marshall, because he with judicial
review said, “The judicial supervision
of democracy’s excesses is inescapable
under a written Constitution.” Conservatives are allowing
their intelligence to be bewitched
by their language. They adopted the language of
judicial restraint in reaction against some of
the more freewheeling rights-inventing judgments
of the Warren court. But what they were really doing was embracing a classic
progressive aspiration, which was to use
the courts — actually to not use the courts,
to have the courts back off and let legislative
and executive power run free to have
a more energetic, interventionist, comprehensive,
regulating government. Often in America these days, the most interesting arguments
aren’t between left and right. They’re within the right. And the most interesting
argument of all is between
those like myself, who argue for
judicial engagement, and those who still continue
to argue for judicial restraint. The city government of
New London, Connecticut, says, “Ha, we’re gonna use
eminent domain to condemn
an entire neighborhood so that we can give the property
to another private interest that will pay more taxes to —
guess what — us, the government
of New London, Connecticut.” Well, the court deferred,
was deferential to the democratically
elected government, and conservatives
were horrified, as well they should be. But they had provided
the rhetoric, the language,
the moral justification for judicial deference
to democracy. Properly understood,
conservatives want judges to enforce the Constitution
and that there comes a point where deference is dereliction
of judicial duty, and that’s what
we’re arguing about. -So, as you look at
the political landscape today and the movement of many people
in the Democratic Party to the left and toward
a progressive vision of society, who do you think is sort of most
in the Wilsonian tradition? Who do you think most completely
embodies that mind-set? -Probably Elizabeth Warren. Elizabeth Warren has a very
firm grip on half of a point. Her half a point is, “The government we have today
is a plaything of rent-seekers.” “Rent-seeking” is an economist’s
term for people who bend public power
to private advantage, either to confer an advantage
on themselves or a disadvantage
on competitors. Of course they do. And, again, she is firmly
in the grip of the sentimental view
of government, that if only we could just
enlarge the government enough, it would stop this. But look what she’s saying. She’s saying, “The government
is a plaything of rent-seekers, and we need more government.” Maybe, just consider
the possibility that we need
less government. Progressives are always
saying there’s too much money
in politics. You want to get the money
out of politics? Get politics out
of the allocation of money. If government weren’t so very
deeply involved, waist deep in the allocation
of wealth and opportunity, less money would
flow into politics to influence the government. -If you think about
all the characters for whom you express
admiration in this book, if you could name one,
who would be most helpful to us in our present predicament? -Oh, Lincoln. Lincoln had prudence, which is not indifference
to principle. Prudence is how you apply lucid
principles to untidy realities. Lincoln dealt with a country
falling apart. He dealt with a country divided
on very fundamental questions. You know, we talk about
all the discord today. The differences between
our parties today are trivial compared to what they were
in the 1850s, when the party system
fell apart. There is no place
for conservatism right now. It is an orphan persuasion
in a cold and windy world, but get over it. The party system
changes over time. The Republican Party
didn’t always exist. The Whig Party once did.
I’d be a Whig today. Lincoln was a Whig before he was
the first Republican president. And when this passes, this current detour
in the Republican history, see if they can reinterest
the Republican Party in reconnecting with its
relationship to the Founders. Lincoln’s career in one sentence was an attempt to reconnect
the country to the Founders.

100 thoughts on “George Will wrangles with God, the conservative sensibility and the dangers of progressivism

  1. 5:00 Wrong. Johnson introduced the great society plus civil rights and conservatives began their descent into lunacy. Conservatives began destroying the government after that with great success, a project they are still involved in. Will is right that conservatism today is messed up but he has always been clueless about its many faults and will never understand why it's always been a lie.

  2. Oh these are the real jerk offs …George Soros and his kin too …they are non believers because it puts extra burden of responsibility to learn a more complicated language than political babble…also because ypu couldn't follow a story that is adult you as the world never learned the fallen angels keep you in a prison …still you shape not a great democracy but a way to try and turn mankind into a murderer of God for a fallen angel agenda ..being God is nothing of a democracy with infantile science your ego also known as a demon called pride raises your head to tongue nonsense of not believing…when you cannot do finite math it is not because you do not believe it or not you are not learned to even attempt to know ….the language of God is such , and you politician your poets musicians your great law makers have never learned ….do not mislead people and tell them of blind faith when you are the one blind …at that old baby age …the mind struggles to be right just for a little while longer …

  3. I'm a true blue, far left bleeding heart liberal. Yet, I love George Will. Hope I live long enough to see these United States reach a place where we are all on the same side, just have different ideas about how to get there.

  4. George only thinks about rights, just like most old white men. Native people think of responsibilities. Where is his discussion of his responsiblity..Does he only want his rights. He talks of Barry Goldwater as if there where no Vietnam war, did he fight? Conservatives drove that war.

  5. Dogma of the catholic church and heathen baptist george forgot corp welfare of trillions. What does kmart and catholic church have in common? They both have little boys shorts half off! Strip corp welfare and tax top 1% china has 10% annual growth past 20 years. The gop has put us in debt $15 trillion.

  6. The top 1% support bankrupted america multiple times acquire property is basis of stable growth. Not war not wall street not corp welfare a balance of wages not stock options . government flow of money top 1%

  7. $250,000,000 cash grant and 25% of WA state to build a railroad . robber barons now google amazon buffett microsoft world bank import export bank. Congress and trump white house now control government.

  8. Mitch mcconnel pelosi and trump control our budget not congress scotus need term limits and popular vote for electorial vote

  9. Trump is conservative 2.0 and is very much supported by the republican evangelical party; there's no turning backwards now, conservative 3.0, 4.0…?

  10. Goldwater didn't LIKE the way things were going in 1964? Really? He was a MADMAN….1) Back then, only one person -the average Daddy – could earn enough to support a family and kids.! 2) housing was ONLY 25% of income….and 3) good-paying union jobs with pensions were plentiful. 4) Bank accounts paid much higher interest than today. What a NUT!

  11. What a bunch of self-deluding horseshit. LBJ "exploded" Government overreach did he? Yes, all that pesky Civil Rights legislation is SO restrictive isn't it George. Your kind of "Conservativism" is a bit like Communism, it makes sense in the theories in your head,and collapses when exposed to Real Life and Human Nature – especially in the GOP. Try harder.

  12. He's not a conservative, he a Jew globalist… like most media whores and the politicians they choose to allow us to vote for.

  13. Just because Trump is demonstrably an utter moron does not mean that anyone should elevate George Will. When someone can show me ANYTHING George Will has done that is original or helpful in any way, I will be delighted to reconsider my views. That withstanding, I think that George Will is an enormously self-interested gas bag.

  14. George Will was, and is, part of the problem. Twisting words and concepts for a false narrative, baiting the conservative base. He was and is disgusting, getting rich off of corporate media deceit. What a horrible puff piece. Please go away for the sake of all species.

  15. George Will is many things but he has never been a Conservative, but he plays one for the Left Wing Media.

  16. Pure market capitalism (Cowboy Capitalism) has seen its day. AI and Robotics means that the end of human economic relevance is here. Growth and consumption as the means of valuation, has to end. A fair distribution of the means of production is necessary – the alternative is terrifying?

  17. Geoge Willl refuses to acknowlege that FDR's New Deal was incomplete and in one speech FDR recognized that one more right of every American was the right to health. That right exists n all developped democracies the world over. and yet the battle to have that right acknkowledged defined the politics of the last 30 years and the job is yet incomplete. The ACA is too expensive for the consumer and still is partial in its coverage. But the 2018 electiobn proved one thing; that flawed as it is the ACA is wildly popular and any attempt to destroy it will be followed by stinging political defeat. The other unfinished business of the New Deal is the need for free or heavily subsidized college education. College education was forgotten as a citizen's right because jobs did not demand a college education until the 1970's. Moreover state governments had done a relatively good job of educating the sons and daughters of farmers throuhg the land grant colleges. But by the 1970's tuition cost in all coleges began skyrocketing as the land grant colleges became full fledged universities and their mission rto educate the farmers disapeared and with it the support of legislators from farm areas.

    Not too many Americans embrace a view of the state as a benevolent Leviathan controlling everything or like a mother from which all must get sustenance. State Government in Europe have had a bit of that orientation and in some cases slid into totalitarianism. Today such notions are being abandoned. Yet economic crises like the one that engulfed the world in 2008 can make people so panicky as to look fr state intervention solutions.

  18. Barry Goldwater, whose ideas George says set the government straight, was not a fan of religion in government. One of Barry's famous quotes was his railing, passionately against Evangelicals who he said threatened to take over the GOP and destroy it. And, by golly,….lo and behold.

  19. Okay, no. Donald Trump is NOT a progressive. The truth is, he believes in nothing outside of himself. And, no, Progressives are not bent on imposing order, they're bent on getting rid of monopolies and theocratic power in our government, and redistributing the wealth of this country that has been stolen and hoarded.

  20. I've always like George Will — but as a Christian, I can't accept the idea that politics is somehow tied in with a chaotic universe driven by unthinking laws. Let me add that I'm a moderate/conservative Democrat who definitely thinks that God does not belong to a political party.

  21. George Will is a non-believer and an ex-republican.. He has just gone up 1000 points in people I find interesting (and admire). He also has an excellent command of the English language!

  22. 34:24 "You want to get money out of politics? Get politics out of the allocation of money. If government weren't so very deeply involved — waist deep — in the allocation of wealth and opportunity, less money would flow into politics to influence the government."

  23. Funny he states that, "conservative sensibilities just love the chaos". Really? Too fearful to leave the house without a sidearm. Yet they embrace chaos? Which political philosophy is it that's trying to play GOD again?

  24. God the creator of the logical universe and man with free will exists. Denying His existence means we do not exist. However where is the correct evidence based concept of God? Read the book The Human Self and Allah by Parwez. All logically and factually explained. Also what human death means in our immortality.

  25. Mr. Will, no one's an atheist: "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. " (Rom 1:18-20) With respect and affection, Mr. Will, you know you will be held accountable for the transgressions we all are guilty of… only the atonement God has provided, His Son Jesus Christ, can rescue you.

  26. Good to see George still at it. May not agree with everything he says, but i appreciate the clarity of his sensibility. Love to listen to his historical references, which i have many to learn!

  27. Oh my oh, we must still take time out to listen to the fascist George Will tell us how wonderful it is to be obedient to corporations, empire and unelected policy, really?

  28. Bleh! Every remark they disparage progressives and celebrate conservatives – bleh! The Republicans who claimed to be conservatives birthed Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bush 41 & 43 and the 21st century depression and unending wars & DONALD J TRUMP! Again I say, BLEH!

  29. I'm pretty liberal, but I'm a fan of George Will. His thinking is concise, insightful and well informed.

  30. I founds this to be an interesting interview. While I do not generally agree with him, I found that he gives much to consider. That said, it is no wonder he left the Republican Party, he is a true conservative and an intelligent person. Two traits that are neither represented by, nor wanted by today’s Republican Party, which is totally in the hold of the “rent seekers” and the maintenance of power.

  31. 4 years ago George Will had many of opinions but stated very few facts.

    Even the Queen of the Andes blooms once every 100 years.

  32. I love the righteous God fearing hypocrits of the right who cling to their fantasy moral high ground as they continue to call for the bombing of children. From Vietnam to Yeman and Sudan they have no issue with weapons of disaster being used against innocents.

  33. Will knows even less about politics than he does about baseball. The Washington post would rather see the Republic mutate into a Banana Republic than let progressives into the halls of true power. An apologist rag for a failed, dying empire.

  34. Conservatives go by the old testament not the new testament.There policies are the opposite of what Jesus preached !

  35. Maybe we should discuss the dangers of crony capitalism , instead? 🤔 America loves to pretend that crony capitalism happens in other countries but gasp!– not here! Except, in actuality, that's America's economy in a nutshell. 🤷‍♀️ Kinda like how we pretend that "innocent until proven guilty" or "guilty 'beyond a reasonable doubt' " actually applies to anyone other than the top 10% income bracket. Most are presumed guilty and thrown in jail, with a bail/ bond that they are typically unable to afford, unless they prove their innocence.

    Interestingly, "conservatives" aren't actually all that "conservative", are they? What's our deficit now, under Trump? How much was the increase under Bush or the decrease under Clinton? Obama? Oh, right…

    "Conservatives" love "big government" when it comes to subsidizing industries, giving tax breaks to wealthy donors at the expense of the middle class, policing women's bodies, rigging the voting system to their advantage, protecting corrupt Republicans like Trump and Mitch McConnell; the list goes on and on…


  36. The Founders weren't deists, they followed the wisdom of Jesus of separating God and Caesar. This is basic political wisdom. They weren't setting up a theocracy. Americans left that behind in the old world. But Americans had Calvinism in their blood and bones. The foundation was already set by the time of the Revolution. Our country doesn't work without the foundation of Christianity. The Founders knew this and stated it. Our churches are not part of the state, but our founding documents and beliefs rest on the solid foundation of things like biblical anthropology (man is fallen, the doctrine of sin), and the Ten Commandments.

  37. Georgy Will is the perfect example of a pseudo-intellectual: in love with words but completely disconnected from reality. His beloved conservative movement has had one agenda since the 80's: make the rich richer. No amount of sophistry can hide that.

  38. The lost of trust is because as a population becomes more informed, better educated, all the flaws of system as large as our government simply becomes more apparent.

  39. The status quo always want an environment which continues to support themselves and masses will put up with it.

  40. Geo Will is CIA Operation Mockingbird shill
    “New Think Progress and the Ozzard of Wiz” > FauxScienceSlayer(.)com

  41. Oh no, progress is SOOO dangerous! If Bible humping conservatives had it their way we'd all be living in caves praying all day so as to not anger Old testament God, while the precious few at the top would enjoy all the luxuries of modern life by making money off of other peopl's fear. Hell, that's not far from what they do now, like this fear mongering jackass.

  42. we nominate narcissistic windbags who claim that "only they can fix it" because something in the voting electorate is incapable of seeing the sociopathic conceit in those who say such ridiculous things. I will vote for the candidate who promises the least, so long as "restoring the constitutional duties of the executive and forcing congress to re-assert theirs" as their main platform. not holding my breath, but i'll take the closes facsimile to it.

  43. lets hope George F Will can read my statement Below . for the next sac of sheit that thinks they are Anointed to be a president . send them to me . ill burn their asses so far up
    right field , they will pray for Adm boorda and vince foster to shoot them .

  44. "The dangers of progressivism…" *smh. QUICK! Everybody duck!! That socialized medicine is coming right at your head!

  45. He’s unnecessary and doesn’t need to be heard from anymore. I’m sick of these old men who the future doesn’t belong to anymore yet won’t let go of the reins. They’re devouring our future yet don’t trust the young to make their own decisions. It’s wrong.

  46. I just found out about Mr. Will from the Bill Maher show and I'm in my 30's. I'm ashamed of not knowing this absolute genius earlier.

  47. The scariest part about democratic governments is their "good intentions". I just want govt to 'do their job' with fairness to all.

  48. I really enjoyed this conversation, and this is coming from an Aussie leftist! I have always admired George Will. May there be many more of his kind.

  49. George sounds more like a libertarian/classical liberal to me. Cut from the same cloth as Hayek and Friedman.

  50. George Will must be the stupidest wisest simultaneously ignorant individual it is ever been my miss pleasure to admire observe over a period of many many years since the premier of the David Brinkley show on ABC this week, the blind spots that are exposed while he espouses his ignominious opinions are a enormous, and they walk hand-in-hand with his willing ignorance of the underbelly of the policies he espouses, he is a man in desperate need of a time travel gate back to the 1950s where he can be disabused of all the fantasies he entertains having traveled from a point in time where his eyes have observed the result of the hate and the ignorance projected forward from that time.

  51. "If you don't want billionaires to bribe politicians to do what they want them to, just let the billionaires do whatever they want directly."

  52. FOX News Alert, George: You didn't leave the GOP, the GOP left you because you're a fossil. You're still a member of the Whig Party in 2019.

  53. Conservatives have sold their collective souls to a cheap hood and con man. They, all conservatives have become servants of actual evil. Evil. Evil like hitler was evil.
    "A thousand people who follow one madman leaves one thousand and one madmen."
    I curse the lot of you, you are bigots, neo-fascists, cruel, and you've become radical capitalists, you all suck. All of you. Without exception.

  54. I appreciate Will's intellect but his views on God turns me against him. You cannot be a true conservative and not believe in God. The entire movement is based on Judeo-Christian principals and sensibilities.

  55. The fact Mr. Will blamed the progressive traditional for Trump says all you need to know about Mr. Will.

  56. Why would people like the gov't when the despicable GOP are in charge who always start wars – usually illegat phoneybwars for profit and tank the economy. Then the dems have to soend years trying to clean up the mess.

  57. What a mish mash of consitutional originalism, neoliberalism, individualism, elitism and social conservatism.

  58. There is a time to be a historian and a time to see the world as it is. George Will Can't see the world as it is or refuses too. Like most reporters and historians he has NO situational awareness at all. Donald Trump does. He understands the nature of the times and the players in it.

  59. I love George Will and consider him one of the reasons I pursued more knowledge about how conservative developed. His take on religion is very different than mine and thats ok. The point is free people enjoy liberty when they get to decide what they believe. I concluded – in spite of my politics – that Jesus Christ embodied everything that makes sense to me. I know others disagree. Thank God we are not all the same! We don't have to hate each other. We have so much in common. We sit in the same traffic, fight the same battles against obesity, want to see our kids grow up and be happy, enjoy time with family and friends. That doesn't mean we have to love each other or agree on everything. Will is an American treasure. I am a better christian for knowing this atheist…

  60. One other thing…In 2016 I was standing in the Prague, Czech Republic train station killing some time and noticed a memorial plaque dedicated to Woodrow Wilson of all people. It wasn't written in English, but the name and picture was clear. I complained to the gift shop counter lady, but her English wasn't great. I even stopped a bag man and tried to get him to understand but he looked at me like I was crazy. In this respect these people are pretty much like every American who doesnt really know real history.

  61. At 4:00, he says "now it's 120% of Americans"! Really? How can you have 120% of the population? An extra 20% of the Population that does not exist ALSO has an opinion?

  62. George Will has relevance in 2019…he represents the Republican Party that people lost trust in. Pander and zero fulfillment. Endless wars and spending. Zero accountability. Maintain the establishment and institutions. It’s soft progressivism.

  63. George Will neglects to see without God We have neither purpose nor morals. Life becomes meaningless & killing the unborn the first step to national suicide.

  64. You know I love George! I’ve been watching him on pundit shows since the 80s and as a teacher I love his eloquence as a writer and he has taught me quite a lot. I also love how is is calling out the GOP. But, he is misguided about climate change. Shows that no one can be right about everything. He also seems to have this way of presenting himself as right on everything. I get it; he’s been around and has studied things. But, his recent smugness about AOC on a recent talk show also shows that he thinks his way is the only correct way. George, I would love to see you be a bit more humble so more listen to you.

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