Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Soul of a Conservative

Let's consider the first part of the first sentence of George Will's column today:

"Most improvements make matters worse because most new ideas are regrettable".

I could agree that some improvements make matters worse because some new ideas are regrettable, but only a conservative pundit could lead off with the view that most improvements make matters worse because most new ideas are regrettable.

Of course I don't have a complete list of improvements and new ideas, and I haven't counted up to see whether there really are more good or bad improvements. (Guess what, neither has Will.) But what exactly is Will yearning for here? Shall we go back to the old ideas? Shall we get rid of the improvements? How far back do we have to go?

Which of the following improvements made matters worse: vaccination, air travel, telephones, television, computers, the Internet, and cell phones? Does Will not want to use digital cameras, ibuprofen, contact lenses, or laser printers?

Maybe I'm biasing the list by focusing on private-sector innovations instead of improvements and new ideas in governmental structure (which is what Will's column today is about) or those driven by the public sector. So how about the abolition of slavery, equal rights for women and minorities, occupational safety, regulation of working hours, forbidding child labor, and seat belts? Does Will want to go back to the days when railroad brakemen had to ride on top of trains and duck when the train entered a tunnel, when young children worked in factories and coal mines, and when six percent of coal miners were killed every year?

OK, Prohibition didn't work out too well. Communism was a mistake too. But how conservative do you have to be to believe that most improvements make things worse?

No comments: