Thanks for the side-by-side publication of George F. Will’s conservative fantasies (“Is the individual obsolete?”) with D.J. Tice’s unusually restrained praise — “A (mostly) clarifying higher-altitude view,” Opinion Exchange, June 16. And thanks to Tice for reading Will’s book so the rest of us don’t have to.
Reassuringly, Tice finds excessive overreach in Will’s assertion that judges should discard the explicit will of Congress and the president to instead enforce “natural law.”
Philosophers across recorded history have appealed to natural law, god-given or otherwise, as the source of authority in human relations. But, as unequivocally noted in the U.S. Constitution, the source of authority in this country is “We the People.”
Those first three words establish exactly who is in charge, and in the preamble’s six goals the founders don’t mince words. But, to Will’s taste, “promote the general Welfare” should have been “promote the individual Welfare of those favored by natural law.”
Will’s choice of vicious racist Woodrow Wilson, the 28th president, as a “progressive” champion is telling. As is his own veiled racism, citing, “inequalities of wealth … rising from exceptional natural aptitudes” and their “genetic bases.”
His shout-out to Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin is truly precious: “Government should not impede or discourage parents in their conscientious accumulation, husbanding and investment of those assets for their children’s education, broadly construed.” Perhaps Will’s book will be on their prison reading lists.
Will’s conservatism asserts “the spontaneous order of cooperating individuals in consensual, contractual market relations” as the basis for society.
Sorry, George. None of that works without a government designed by “We the People” to “establish justice.”
William Beyer, St. Louis Park
• • •
The excerpt from Will’s new book “The Conservative Sensibility” represented Will’s typical tendency toward intellectual abstraction, musing about the ideals of “natural law” and individual achievements without feeling the need to ground his arguments in the empirical realities of everyday American life.
In his accompanying review, Tice describes Will’s approach as a “higher-altitude view.”
“Higher-altitude,” indeed. In fact, Will’s musings are so distantly abstract that he blithely describes the conditions of “modernity” in ways shockingly divorced from the most basic facts of everyday life.
Two statements at the heart of Will’s essay blatantly reveal his insulation. Attempting to minimize concerns for growing wealth gaps in U.S. society, Will argues that in some respects life has become more, not less, egalitarian.
He writes, “Anyone can have as much access to the internet as Bill Gates has; Jeff Bezos and you have the same access to one of the 20th century’s greatest blessings, antibiotics.”
Such eccentric assertions, willfully ignoring the facts of both the well-documented digital divide and wide disparities in health care access, severely undercut Will’s overarching propositions, once again revealing his on-high prescriptions for a proper social contract to be fatally out-of-touch.
Michael Griffin, St. Paul
• • •
In Will’s excerpt, Barack Obama and Elizabeth Warren are cited as speaking about the interdependence of society being at least partly responsible in building any business — regardless of the fact that the right likely distorted the statements by both. It is still true, though, that neither of these politicians address a key factor in entrepreneurism:
While it is true that every individual and business relies on social interdependence and services the government provides, what is also true is that all individuals who embark on creating a business do so at their own risk — in many areas: financial risk, time risk, health risk, opportunity risk.
It is for that risk that the successful individual deserves to be rewarded. That reward is deserved after the individual pays his or her fair share of taxes and is held fully responsible for any damage caused to other members of society or the environment.
To suggest that a person or business owes more than that, or should in any way subsidize those unwilling or unable to take on such risks, is shameful.
This country and its wealth has, is and always should reward those willing to take on risk. If the rewards end up being greater to the risk-taker than the non-risk-taker, then that is the natural state of affairs.
We will never maintain the standard of living we now enjoy without the potential for rewarding those willing to take on risk. Progressivism, as sold by the Obamas and Warrens of the world, has the potential to degrade our standard of living immensely if allowed.
And on the right, the Republicans have done nothing to stanch the gamesmanship indulged in by large corporations who are allowed to buy their way out of responsibility to society, and this has given voice to progressives to argue for more, more and more to be taken from those who are complicit. Unfortunately, this net is cast over all business.
Both sides feed the degradation of the risk/reward relationship by exploiting it for their own gain.
To vote either Democrat or Republican is as irresponsible as the parties themselves. We need a fresh voice. We need to risk-taking a chance on a third party in order to enjoy the reward of America becoming America once again.
It’s high time to roll the dice.
Dale Vaillancourt, Burnsville
LIGHT RAIL, HEAVY TOLL
Birds such as chickadees have gone missing, and I think I know why
Remember the chickadee? I certainly remember this pugnacious creature who darted back and forth from my bird feeders all day long. For weeks, however, I have not seen a single one. Few and far between are the finches and cardinals. I attribute the lack of these beautiful denizens of the woods and fields to the rampant destruction of their habitat due to preparation for the light-rail line that will traverse a formerly heavily forested area of Hopkins and Minnetonka.
Just when birds would have been laying their eggs and preparing their young hatchlings to go out into the bright world, the trees are gone that held their nests of young families. The area has been laid bare after days and weeks of chopping and grinding away of stately, old-growth trees that now lie in shreds in an obscenely large pile on bare earth. I know that this is just the start, that more trees will be felled and more hillsides reduced to nicely structured flat land fit for miles and miles of track.
If your neighborhood has been targeted to accommodate this overly costly transportation innovation but the devastation hasn’t started in, just wait! If you have been a devoted bird feeder, as I have been for decades, your budget soon will be healthier, because you will be able to substantially reduce your purchases of birdseed, maybe even to zero!
Linnea Sodergren, Minnetonka
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