George F. Will

Washington, D.C.

George Will writes a twice-weekly column on politics and domestic and foreign affairs. He began his column with The Post in 1974, and he received the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 1977. He is also a regular contributor to MSNBC and NBC News. "The Conservative Sensibility," his latest book, was released in June 2019. His other works include: “One Man’s America: The Pleasures and Provocations of Our Singular Nation” (2008), “Restoration: Congress, Term Limits and the Recovery of Deliberative Democracy” (1992), “Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball” (1989), “The New Season: A Spectator’s Guide to the 1988 Election” (1987) and “Statecraft as Soulcraft” (1983). Will grew up in Champaign, Ill., attended Trinity College and Oxford University, and received a PhD from Princeton University. Honors & Awards:
  • 1977 Pulitzer Prize for commentary
  • 1979 National Magazine Awards: Finalist in the essay and criticism category
  • 1978 National Headliners Award
  • 1980 Silurian Award for editorial writing
  • 1985 The Washington Journalism Review named Will best writer, any subject
  • 1997 Named among the 25 most influential Washington journalists by the National Journal
  • Books by George F. Will:
  • The Pursuit of Happiness and Other Sobering Thoughts
  • Buy on Amazon
  • The Pursuit of Virtue and Other Tory Notions
  • Buy on Amazon
  • The Morning After: American Successes and Excesses 1981-1986
  • Buy on Amazon
  • Suddenly: The American Idea Abroad and at Home 1986-1990
  • Buy on Amazon
  • The Leveling Wind: Politics, the Culture, and Other News, 1990-1994
  • Buy on Amazon
  • The Woven Figure: Conservatism and America's Fabric
  • Buy on Amazon
  • With a Happy Eye, But ... America and the World, 1997-2002
  • Buy on Amazon
  • One Man's America: The Pleasures and Provocations of Our Singular Nation
  • Buy on Amazon
  • Statecraft as Soulcraft
  • Buy on Amazon
  • The New Season: A Spectator's Guide to the 1988 Election
  • Buy on Amazon
  • Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball
  • Buy on Amazon
  • Restoration: Congress, Term Limits and the Recovery of Deliberative Democracy
  • Buy on Amazon
  • The Conservative Sensibility
  • Buy on Amazon
Recent Articles

GEORGE F. WILL COLUMN

Advance for release Sunday, July 5, 2020, and thereafter

(For Will clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

By GEORGE F. WILL

WASHINGTON -- The French revolutionaries' instrument for administering the 1793-1794 Reign of Terror was the Committee of Public Safety. Today, China's totalitarians, displaying either ignorance of this unsavory history, or arrogance in flaunting their emulation of it, call their new instrument for suffocating Hong Kong the Commission for Safeguarding National Security. Yet again, actual tyranny is imposed in the supposed service of safety.

Acting as communists do, the leaders of China's Communist Party, which is the bone and sinew of that nation's Leninist party-state, have, less than half way through their commitment, shredded the 1997 agreement to respect Hong Kong's autonomy until 2047. The new law mocks the rule of law, which requires sufficient specificity to give those subject to the law due notice of what is proscribed or prohibited. The new law stipulates four major offenses: separatism, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign governments. These will be defined post facto, in capricious enforcements against those whose speech is not chilled by the law's menacing vagueness. The "law" authorizing the committee to operate secretly was released at 11 p.m. Tuesday, probably to deter demonstrations on Wednesday, which was the anniversary of Beijing's 1997 agreement.

Modern technologies of communication enable the world to watch darkness descend on one of the world's most vibrant metropolises. Modern technologies of surveillance enable Beijing to refine a deep, penetrating oppression beyond what Winston Churchill could have imagined when he warned that Nazism's triumph would mean the world would "sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science."

China's faux law, which echoes Stalin's use of randomness to intensify fear, serves two purposes: It smashes Hong Kong dissent - Leninism brooks no challenge to the party's supremacy. And it distracts attention from reports that Beijing is pioneering a sinister fusionism that melds Leninism and Stalinism with an ethno-nationalism reminiscent of fascism.

The regime reportedly is employing forced abortions and sterilization to inflict what has been called "demographic genocide" on Muslim Uighurs and other minorities. U.S. customs officials have seized some China-made beauty products perhaps made from human hair harvested in Xinjiang concentration camps. China's signatures on the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and on the Sino-British Joint Declaration guaranteeing Hong Kong's autonomy are equally constraining. Next year, President Joe Biden and a Democratic-controlled Congress should match Britain's generosity in welcoming refugees from Hong Kong's talented, freedom-loving citizenry.

In diplomatic parlance, China is a "revisionist" power, aiming to revise the global order. In less antiseptic language, it is a piratical power whose crudeness, born of cultural condescension toward others, includes special contempt for an America distracted domestically by various hysterias, and (BEG ITAL)choosing(END ITAL) retreat abroad. President Biden's urgent foreign policy tasks will include revising the longstanding U.S. policy of "strategic ambiguity" regarding Taiwan. Beijing is demonstrating in Hong Kong "one country, two systems" actually means one country, one simmering stew of Leninism and Stalinism flavored with fascism.

The dictator Xi Jinping has repeatedly said that Taiwan's current status - nationhood in all but name - is intolerable and "should not be passed down generation after generation." A reelected Donald Trump, whose cramped notion of America's role in the world is confined to commercial bookkeeping, might swap Taiwan's freedom for increased Chinese purchases of U.S. soybeans. When at noon January 20 the U.S. ends the policy of making America marginal again, Biden should adopt strategic clarity, informing Beijing that the U.S. legal obligation to sell Taiwan weaponry needed for self-defense entails a moral obligation to assist with that project.

The Korean War, which brought Americans into combat against Chinese troops, began 70 years ago after Dean Acheson, President Harry S. Truman's secretary of state, gave a speech in which he left South Korea outside his definition of America's defense perimeter. Beijing has drawn a "nine-dash line" to demarcate extravagant claims to sovereignty over the South China Sea - claims incompatible with international law and disdainful of the legal rights of various nations in the region. The Biden administration should draw a line that places Taiwan within the sphere of regional nations whose self-defense implicates vital U.S. interests.

Beijing should remember this: France's Committee on Public Safety was created in April 1793. Maximilien Robespierre, who prefigured Lenin, joined it on July 27. One year and a day later, devoured by forces he had fomented, he was guillotined in Paris's Place de la Revolution, now called Place de la Concorde. Beijing's totalitarians, who have murderous French precursors, may one day have a similarly disagreeable rendezvous with their handiwork.

George Will's email address is georgewill@washpost.com.

(c) 2020, Washington Post Writers Group

GEORGE F. WILL COLUMN

Advance for release Thursday, July 2, 2020, and thereafter

(For Will clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

WRITETHRU: In 3rd and 6th graf, fixes to "Tuesday" (sted Monday)

By GEORGE F. WILL

(c) 2020, The Washington Post

(BEG ITAL)Blaine, Blaine,

James G. Blaine

The continental liar from the state of Maine.

Burn this letter!

-- Democratic campaign doggerel, 1884(END ITAL)

Because of his grandiloquence, House Speaker Blaine was called "the Plumed Knight" by a man suggesting Blaine's nomination at the Republicans' 1876 convention. Despite Blaine's participation in the fragrant politics of the Gilded Age, when railroads showed their gratitude to helpful legislators (hence Blaine's instruction concerning an inconvenient letter), he eventually came close to being called "Mr. President."

But in 1884, after he had been a senator and secretary of state and was at last his party's nominee, a supporter, a prominent protestant minister, characterized Democrats as the party of "rum, Romanism and rebellion." Catholics - waves of whom had been arriving for decades as immigrants, many settling in New York - voted their umbrage. Blaine lost New York, and hence the presidency (to New Yorker Grover Cleveland), by 1,047 votes out of more than a million cast.

On Tuesday, 127 years after his death, Blaine had another bad day. The U.S. Supreme Court held, 5-4, that a Montana policy based on the state constitution's "Blaine Amendment" violates the U.S. Constitution.

In 2015, Montana's legislature, seeking "to provide parental and student choice in education," enacted a program similar to ones in 18 other states - a small (up to $150) tax credit for individuals and businesses donating to private, nonprofit organizations that dispense scholarships to help children attend private schools. Children like those of Kendra Espinoza, a single mother and office assistant, who took a second job, as a janitor, to enable her two daughters to attend a non-denominational (not Catholic) school. The Institute for Justice's libertarian litigators supported her when she challenged Montana's Department of Revenue ruling that scholarship recipients could not use their funds at the 70% of Montana private schools that are religious.

The department, validated by the state Supreme Court, said this prohibition was required by Montana's constitutional stricture (adopted in 1884, readopted in 1972, and similar to 36 other states' provisions) that no "direct or indirect" public monies shall be spent "for any sectarian purpose" or to support any institution "controlled in whole or in part by any church, sect, or denomination." Such "Blaine amendments" - so named because of his pandering to anti-Catholic (a subset of anti-immigrant) sentiment - were widely adopted, and for a while were required by Congress for the constitutions of new states entering the union. Protestants resented the impertinence of Catholics who founded schools that taught their faith as forthrightly as public schools ("nurseries of piety," said many 19th century educators) then taught Protestantism via the King James Version of the Bible.

On Tuesday, Chief Justice John Roberts, joined by the other conservatives (Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh), held that Montana had violated the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of the free exercise of religion: "A State need not subsidize private education. But once a State decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious." Social conservatives might suspend, for a moment, their despair that Roberts and Gorsuch have defected to the Dark Side.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, joined in dissent by Elena Kagan (Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor also dissented), said that Montana did not make the decision that Roberts said it made. Because Montana's Supreme Court had struck down the entire scholarship program, all private-school parents were "in the same boat," so the U.S. Supreme Court "had no occasion to address the matter."

Perhaps, but Roberts's language will splendidly annoy the annoying teachers unions, which oppose choice programs that dilute the public-school monopoly: Roberts said that parents have a constitutionally protected right to direct their children's "religious upbringing" by sending their children to religious schools.

The court has split many hairs about tangential contacts between government and religious schools. When it held that government can fund religious schools' textbooks but not maps, a bemused Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan in 1978 wondered: What about atlases, which are books of maps? The good news, especially today, is: Fevers - those of cranky secularists as well as anti-Catholic bigots - burn out.

Blaine exploited a longstanding prejudice. As early as 1855, Massachusetts's governor, the entire state Senate and all but three members of the state House were members of the anti-Catholic Know-Nothing Party, and the legislature's Nunnery Committee searched for underground dungeons in convents. Today, Blaine's portrait hangs in the U.S. Capitol's Speaker's Lobby, unmolested by the cancel culture's enforcers, who probably admire his truculent spirit.

George Will's email address is georgewill@washpost.com.

(c) 2020, Washington Post Writers Group

GEORGE F. WILL COLUMN

Advance for release Sunday, June 28, 2020, and thereafter

(For Will clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

WRITETHRU- In 5th graf, 2nd sentence, changes to "higher education"

By GEORGE F. WILL

(c) 2020, The Washington Post

WASHINGTON -- A nation's gravest problems are those it cannot discuss because it dare not state them. This nation's principal problem, which makes other serious problems intractable, is that much of today's intelligentsia is not intelligent.

One serious problem is that the political class is terrified of its constituents - their infantile refusal to will the means (revenues) for the ends (government benefits) they demand. Another serious problem is family disintegration, e.g., 40% of all first births, and 69% of all African American births, to unmarried women. Families are the primary transmitters of social capital: the habits, dispositions and mores necessary for flourishing. Yet the subject of disorganized families has been entirely absent from current discussions - actually, less discussions than virtue-signaling ventings - about poverty, race and related matters.

Today's most serious problem, which annihilates thoughtfulness about all others, is that a significant portion of the intelligentsia - the lumpen intelligentsia - cannot think. Its torrent of talk is an ever-intensifying hurricane of hysteria about the endemic sickness of the nation since its founding in 1619 (don't ask). And the iniquities of historic figures mistakenly admired.

An admirable intelligentsia, inoculated by education against fashions and fads, would make thoughtful distinctions arising from historically informed empathy. It would be society's ballast against mob mentalities. Instead, much of America's intelligentsia has become a mob.

Seeking to impose on others the conformity it enforces in its ranks, articulate only in a boilerplate of ritualized cant, today's lumpen intelligentsia consists of persons for whom a little learning is delightful. They consider themselves educated because they are credentialed, stamped with the approval of institutions of higher education that gave them three things: a smattering of historical information just sufficient to make the past seem depraved; a vocabulary of indignation about the failure of all previous historic actors, from Washington to Lincoln to Churchill, to match the virtues of the lumpen intelligentsia; and the belief that America's grossest injustice is the insufficient obeisance accorded to this intelligentsia.

Its expansion tracks the expansion of colleges and universities - most have, effectively, open admissions - that have become intellectually monochrome purveyors of groupthink. Faculty are outnumbered by administrators, many of whom exist to administer uniformity concerning "sustainability," "diversity," "toxic masculinity" and the threat free speech poses to favored groups' entitlements to serenity.

Today's cancel culture - erasing history, ending careers - is inflicted by people experiencing an orgy of positive feelings about themselves as they negate others. This culture is a steamy sauna of self-congratulation: "I, an adjunct professor of gender studies, am superior to U.S. Grant, so there." Grant promptly freed the slave he received from his father-in-law, and went on to pulverize the slavocracy. Nevertheless....

The cancellers need just enough learning to know, vaguely, that there was a Lincoln who lived when Americans, sunk in primitivism, thought they were confronted with vexing constitutional constraints and moral ambiguities. The cancel culture depends on not having so much learning that it spoils the statue-toppling fun: Too much learning might immobilize the topplers with doubts about how they would have behaved in the contexts in which the statues' subjects lived.

The cancellers are reverse Rumpelstiltskins, spinning problems that merit the gold of complex ideas and nuanced judgments into the straw of slogans. Someone anticipated something like this.

Today's gruesome irony: A significant portion of the intelligentsia that is churned out by higher education does not acknowledge exacting standards of inquiry that could tug them toward tentativeness and constructive dissatisfaction with themselves. Rather, they come from campuses, cloaked in complacency. Instead of elevating, their education produces only expensively schooled versions of what Jose Ortega y Gasset called the "mass man."

In "The Revolt of the Masses" (1932), the Spanish philosopher said this creature does not "(BEG ITAL)appeal from his own to any authority outside him.(END ITAL) He is satisfied with himself exactly as he is....he will tend to consider and affirm as good everything he finds within himself: opinions, appetites, preferences, tastes." (Italics are Ortega's.)

Much education now spreads the disease that education should cure, the disease of repudiating, without understanding, the national principles that could pull the nation toward its noble aspirations. The result is barbarism, as Ortega defined it, "the absence of standards to which appeal can be made." A barbarian is someone whose ideas are "nothing more than appetites in words," someone exercising "the right not to be reasonable," who "does not want to give reasons" but simply "to impose his opinions."

The barbarians are not at America's gate. There is no gate.

George Will's email address is georgewill@washpost.com.

(c) 2020, Washington Post Writers Group

About
George Will writes a twice-weekly column on politics and domestic and foreign affairs. He began his column with The Post in 1974, and he received the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 1977. He is also a regular contributor to MSNBC and NBC News. "The Conservative Sensibility," his latest book, was released in June 2019. His other works include: “One Man’s America: The Pleasures and Provocations of Our Singular Nation” (2008), “Restoration: Congress, Term Limits and the Recovery of Deliberative Democracy” (1992), “Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball” (1989), “The New Season: A Spectator’s Guide to the 1988 Election” (1987) and “Statecraft as Soulcraft” (1983). Will grew up in Champaign, Ill., attended Trinity College and Oxford University, and received a PhD from Princeton University.
Books
  • The Pursuit of Happiness and Other Sobering Thoughts
  • The Pursuit of Virtue and Other Tory Notions
  • The Morning After: American Successes and Excesses 1981-1986
  • Suddenly: The American Idea Abroad and at Home 1986-1990
  • The Leveling Wind: Politics, the Culture, and Other News, 1990-1994
  • The Woven Figure: Conservatism and America's Fabric
  • With a Happy Eye, But ... America and the World, 1997-2002
  • One Man's America: The Pleasures and Provocations of Our Singular Nation
  • Statecraft as Soulcraft
  • The New Season: A Spectator's Guide to the 1988 Election
  • Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball
  • Restoration: Congress, Term Limits and the Recovery of Deliberative Democracy
  • The Conservative Sensibility
Awards
  • 1977 Pulitzer Prize for commentary
  • 1979 National Magazine Awards: Finalist in the essay and criticism category
  • 1978 National Headliners Award
  • 1980 Silurian Award for editorial writing
  • 1985 The Washington Journalism Review named Will best writer, any subject
  • 1997 Named among the 25 most influential Washington journalists by the National Journal
Links