Why George Will is Wrong about Why Elizabeth Warren is Wrong

George Will contradicts himself in his critique of Elizabeth Warren.


Because I can't resist, here is another installment of George Will, Yesterday and Today: The Degradation of a Burkean Conservative into a Beckian Crank.

In his most recent column, castigating Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren for her now-famous remarks on "class warfare," Will says:

[See the GOP's top Senate targets for 2012.]

Such an agenda's premise is that individualism is a chimera, that any individual's achievements should be considered entirely derivative from society, so the achievements need not be treated as belonging to the individual. Society is entitled to socialize—i.e., conscript—whatever portion it considers its share. It may, as an optional act of political grace, allow the individual the remainder of what is misleadingly called the individual's possession.

The collectivist agenda is antithetical to America's premise, which is: Government—including such public goods as roads, schools and police—is instituted to facilitate individual striving, a.k.a. the pursuit of happiness.

This assertion represents an intellectual turnaround of about, let's see ... yes, 180 degrees.

[Read: George Will Torches His Own Body of Work]

Will in 1983:

Biologically, we are directed toward culture; we are pointed beyond our individual existences, toward our species, in the form of our community and progeny. Politically, we should be led up from individualism [emphasis mine]. De Tocqueville warned that individualism "at first, only saps the virtues of public life; but in the long run it attacks and destroys all others and is at length absorbed in downright selfishness." It is telling that, several generations after De Tocqueville spoke of "mental dust," Emile Durkheim wrote anxiously about modern societies composed of "a dust of individuals." A man without a city, said Aristotle, is either a beast or a god. But of course a man without "a city"—a shaping and restraining set of cultural acquisitions—is never a god. What Emerson called the sovereign individual, free, self-reliant and alone in his "greatness" is a dangerous fiction. Individual greatness is always a mystery. However, it never purely is "individual." Greatness never is alone in the sense of having been produced with no debt to society's nourishing forces [emphasis mine].

Warren, it should be noted, didn't even go as far as "society's nourishing forces." She mentioned only roads, police, and firefighters.

Way to go, George Will: The old you actually made Elizabeth Warren's (conservative) point better than she did!