Video from The Commonwealth Club of California
"Pulitzer Prize-winner George F. Will has been one of this country’s leading columnists since 1974 and, as The Wall Street Journal once called him, “perhaps the most powerful journalist in America.” In his new collection titled American Happiness and Discontents: The Unruly Torrent, 2008–2020, Will offers an in-depth account of a remarkably chaotic 13 years in our nation’s experience through his analysis of an impressively vast array of topics. In this stirring examination, George Will reveals the ways in which expertise, reason and manners are continually under attack in our institutions, courts, political arenas and social venues. Will covers topics including his perspective on American socialists, anti-capitalist conservatives, drug policy, the criminal justice system, climatology and the coronavirus. Join us as we delve into this stunning account of American politics and culture from one of the preeminent columnists and intellectuals of our time.
NOTES Photo by Victoria Will. SEPTEMBER 17, 2021 SPEAKERS George F. Will Columnist, The Washington Post; Author, American Happiness and Discontents: The Unruly Torrent, 2008-2020 In Conversation with Jonathan V. Last Editor, The Bulwark
The Commonwealth Club of California is the nation's oldest and largest public affairs forum 📣, bringing together its 20,000 members for more than 400 annual events on topics ranging across politics, culture, society and the economy. Founded in 1903 in San Francisco California 🌉, The Commonwealth Club has played host to a diverse and distinctive array of speakers, from Teddy Roosevelt in 1911 to Hillary Clinton in 2010. Along the way, Martin Luther King, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton have all given landmark speeches at the Club." from video introduction.
"...Will’s book is an antidote to the present level of discourse, and most fun for readers eager to learn well beyond policy is that so much of Will’s commentary springs from the voluminous books he consumes with great vigor. As he puts it, “The more fuss is made about new media,” the “more I am convinced that books remain the primary transmitters of ideas.” In short, this most excellent of books is in many ways about books, and will have the reader ordering all manner of new ones after reading commentary that springs from the reading of them by Will. American Happiness teaches a great deal, but also sets the stage for a great deal more learning...There are so many ways of looking at this, but given the times we live in, what Will conveys is a reminder that economic progress is easily the biggest enemy that death, disease and pain have ever known...Will quotes polymath writer Bill Bryson as writing in The Body: A Guide for Occupants, that “We live in an age in which we are killed, more often than not, by lifestyle.” Translated for those who need it, remarkable economic progress has produced the resources that have made it possible for doctors and scientists to erase or shrink myriad life-enders that used to menacingly stalk the living...Referring yet again to “A Nation Not Made by Flimsy People,” Will thankfully disdains the “sentimental idea that cobblers and seamstresses are as much history-makers as generals and politicians.” No, they’re not. Nothing against the average, but average people could never have created something as brilliant as the United States. In Will’s words, “No George Washington, no United States.” Applied to the present, it’s fun for an increasingly populist Right to get all weepy about small businesses as the alleged “backbone” of the U.S. economy. Nonsense... Arguably the most dangerous form of nostalgia is that of the work kind. Presidents who, in Will’s wise estimation, “permeate the national consciousness to a degree that isn’t healthy,” routinely promise to bring the jobs of the past back. It’s the path to decline. In Will’s “Human Reclamation Through Bricklaying,” we learn that in the 1920s Pittsburgh was “America’s ninth most populous city” versus sixty-sixth today. Jobs aren’t created, rather they’re a consequence of investment. Investment follows people. The talented people, the unequal people, have a tendency to run from the present and past. The investment once again follows them...On the subject of science, Will is a joy. His skepticism about expertise and grand policy responses as a consequence of expertise expressed is a lot of fun to read. He quotes 1998 Nobel Prize winner Robert Laughlin (“The Pathology of Climatology”) as observing that damaging planet earth is “’easier to imagine than it is to accomplish.’ There have been mass volcanic explosions, meteor impacts, and ‘all manner of other abuses greater than anything people could inflict, and it’s still here. It’s a survivor.’” In the column preceding the aforementioned (“A Telescope as History Teacher”), Will writes of “Our Milky Way galaxy, where we live," that "probably has 40 billion planets approximately Earth’s size.” Oh wow, we’re so small and insignificant. At least that’s how this reviewer reads Will’s analysis. Back to Laughlin, “the earth doesn’t care about any of these governments or their legislation.” Yes! The arrogance of the global warming movement is astounding. Remarkable as we humans are, we’re the proverbial ant on the elephant’s enormous behind, and even the latter probably understates our significance to planet Earth’s health..." these are excerpts from the excellent review in Forbes Magazine: Book Review: With His Thoroughly Brilliant ‘American Happiness and Its Discontents,’ George Will Outdoes George Will