New York Times' Notable Book of 2019 Selection
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
From the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, an "astonishing" and "enthralling" (Booklist) new examination of how the Founders' belief in natural rights created a great American political tradition--"easily one of the best books on American Conservatism ever written" (Jonah Goldberg).
For more than four decades, George F. Will has attempted to discern the principles of the Western political tradition and apply them to America's civic life. Today, the stakes could hardly be higher. Vital questions about the nature of man, of rights, of equality, of majority rule are bubbling just beneath the surface of daily events in America.
The Founders' vision, articulated first in the Declaration of Independence and carried out in the Constitution, gave the new republic a framework for government unique in world history. Their beliefs in natural rights, limited government, religious freedom, and in human virtue and dignity ushered in two centuries of American prosperity. Now, as Will shows, conservatism is under threat--both from progressives and elements inside the Republican Party. America has become an administrative state, while destructive trends have overtaken family life and higher education. Semi-autonomous executive agencies wield essentially unaccountable power. Congress has failed in its duty to exercise its legislative powers. And the executive branch has slipped the Constitution's leash.
In the intellectual battle between the vision of Founding Fathers like James Madison, who advanced the notion of natural rights that pre-exist government, and the progressivism advanced by Woodrow Wilson, the Founders have been losing. It's time to reverse America's political fortunes.
Expansive, intellectually thrilling, and written with the erudite wit that has made Will beloved by millions of readers, The Conservative Sensibility is an extraordinary new book from one of America's most celebrated political writers.
It's time to return to the wisdom of the founding fathers, argues this sweeping political manifesto from Washington Post columnist Will (Men at Work). Will grounds his conservative ideology in the doctrine of inalienable rights rooted in unchanging human nature as articulated in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, which prescribe limited government that protects life and liberty while leaving the pursuit of happiness up to self-reliant individuals. He contends that America went off-track with the rival ideology of progressivism, promoted by President Woodrow Wilson and his successors, which, Will argues, wants the state to shape human nature and control too many aspects of social and economic well-being; the result he sees is intrusive government, unsustainable health care and pension entitlements, corrupt preferments for elites, ill-advised military adventures, welfare dependency, and disintegrating families. Will centers the book on a rich, wide-ranging discussion of political philosophy written in graceful, aphoristic prose ("The redistributionist state inevitably distributes upward"). In many respects it's a challenge to today's populist conservatism as well: Will is pessimistic about the wisdom of voters who embrace populism and enjoins readers to embrace "the disruption ... that accompanies economic and cultural dynamism," which he sees Trump voters seeking to be shielded from. Both liberals and conservatives will find much to argue with here, but Will offers a formidable, thought-provoking riposte to conventional dogmas.