Ideologues of all stripes

George Will is a conservative and brilliant thinker. If you’re a liberal wanting to debate his arguments, you better bring your “A” game.

One of his favorite targets is the political correctness present at many universities. This political correctness flies in the face of open debate and diversity. One such example would be the protest by professors and students at Rutgers last year when former U.S. secretary of state Condoleeza Rice was asked to be the commencement speaker. Rice accepted, but then declined when the protests intensified. She felt she didn’t want to become a distraction during what should be a day of celebration.

Universities are not the only examples of groupthink in America. One need only to look at corporate mantras and the ever-increasing polarization in politics to understand just how rampant it is. So one would think that George Will’s latest column taking aim at political correctness would be like shooting fish in a barrel. But somehow he missed.

His criticism is directed at universities which will not allow its investments to include energy companies that deal in fossil fuels. Personally, I believe this prohibition is folly. I think it speaks to an incredibly simplistic view of the world. It’s comforting to demonize others. But I’m thinking professors and students at Rutgers are a privileged class with above average consumption. Chances are much of their consumption is made possible via petroleum products.

Still, what Will gets supremely wrong in his column is devaluing beliefs and actions based on their probability to succeed. This is a staggering thought. It would mean every decision we make would have to be utilitarian. A moral good unto itself wouldn’t pass this test. This feels dangerous. Because it is.

Likewise, he fails to acknowledge that protest movemments, even misdirected ones, usually spur debate, which is our best chance as a people to progress. Will can mock so-called sustainability advocates, and maybe they deserve some mocking. That said, I remember my trips from the suburbs into Chicago when I was a child. It was always very exciting. But I also remember many times when the smog and the smell of pollution were overwhelming. I also remember when car manufacturers said it was going to be impossible to increase gas mileage and cut down on carbon emissions. And so if Mr. Will is going to criticize the folks from Rutgers for their myopia, surely he must do the same with the anti-government, anti-regulation advocates. Ideologues don’t have the capacity for the nuances and complexities that are our world.

 

 

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