cover image The Conservative Sensibility

The Conservative Sensibility

George F. Will. Hachette, $35 (640p) ISBN 978-0-316-48093-2

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 [in demographics and cultural values]... 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. Agent: Robert Barnett, Williams & Connolly. (June)