George Will’s Triumph

By special request, my long review (almost 4,000 words) of George Will’s big new book, The Conservative Sensibility, is out from behind the paywall at the Claremont Review of Books. Everyone should buy this book and actually read it: it is built to last, and, as I say early in the review, it “deserves to take its place with such classics as Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom (1944) and Richard Weaver’s Ideas Have Consequences (1948).”

I like to joke that Jerry Brown was governor of California when I was a teenager, and was still governor when I had lost all of my hair. I think something similar about George Will.  His columns have been a constant in my life since I first started reading him in National Review when I was about 13.

I’ll put it this way: this is the book we have long been waiting for. And it represents a substantial revision—though by no means complete repudiation—of his short 1983 book, Statecraft as Soulcraft, as I explain at length in my review. Statecraft as Soulcraft was controversial at the time, and attracted a lot of criticism. It is evident that George has done a lot of rethinking since then, and the result is this impressive summa of his mature thought.

Here is one short excerpt of my treatment, though of course you should read the whole thing:

It is not so much that Will offers a sweeping revision of Madison as that he perceives more fully the virtues of the founders’ thought. Now, he says, “properly understood, conservatism is the Madisonian persuasion,” and “the fundamental political axis of our time is an argument between Madisonians and Wilsonians.” Will joins the growing number of conservatives who, influenced by the work of Ronald J. Pestritto (Pestritto is cited more than any other scholar in Will’s new book), regard Woodrow Wilson and Progressivism, not Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, as the primary attack on the American Founding.

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