Wednesday, March 15, 2017

George Will at his Best

1.  On prayer in schools.  In 1982 then-President Reagan proposed a constitutional amendment allowing school prayer. Will is at his best as he argues against this.

Will correctly points out that "the issue is not really voluntary prayers for individuals. The issue is organized prayers for groups of pupils subject to compulsory school attendance laws". He quotes favorably from Senator Jack Danforth, an ordained Episcopal priest, who says that "a lowest -common-denominator prayer would offend all devout persons. Prayer that is so general and so diluted as not to offend those of most faiths is not prayer at all. True prayer is robust prayer. It is bold prayer."

Will correctly argues that school prayer cannot be truly "voluntary". He endorses Danforth's distinction, which is that "The term 'voluntary prayer' shall not include any prayer composed, prescribed, directed, supervised, or organized by an official or employee of a state or local agency, including public school principals and teachers".

But in a later column, Will derides the ACLU for challenging a law which provides for a one-minute period of silence at the start of each day. Again, Will is correct in making this distinction.

2.  On Term Limits.  In a 1990 column, Will explains why term limits is such a bad idea. Basically, what you are doing with term limits is throwing away expertise. There is no justification for this.

Will says that "Limits on terms would inded prune much deadwood, but also would chop down the tall cotton: all great careers are long."  He goes on to say that "Forcing out veteran legislators would increase the power of the 'permanent government'--congressional staff, executive bureaucracies."

Term limits is an idea like a constitutional balanced budget amendment--mandating something which can be done if people want it down, and not done if people don't. Democracy is the best resource to preserve good government, not artificial restrictions.

3.  On Baseball.  Will is at his best whenever he writes about baseball. In a column on 10/13/83, he gives one of  my favorite quotes: "It is said that baseball is 'only a game'. Yes, and the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona".  Another quote of his that I like is that "baseball is only dull to dull minds".

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