Stories by George F. Will

  • Of Death And Rent Seeking

    What is called the national pastime operates 30 teams in 28 cities from April through October. Another national pastime is much more ubiquitous and constant--it goes on everywhere, year-round. The technical name for it is "rent seeking," and a manifestation of it in Tennessee proves that you cannot avoid it even by dying.Rent seeking is what economists call the bending of public power for private economic advantage. Sometimes it is the use of government by interest groups to confer advantages on themselves (e.g., tariffs and import quotas to protect the textile industry and sugar growers). Sometimes it is the use of government to impose disadvantages on competitors. The government's antitrust action against Microsoft is, in part, successful rent seeking by a Microsoft competitor, Netscape.Often rent seeking is done under the guise of licensing requirements for professions, from hairstyling to taxi services. Many of these requirements have less to do with protecting public health and...
  • Compassionate Liberalism

    The Clinton administration, which thinks it takes a village to raise a child, knows that a masked SWAT-type team with battering ram, automatic weapons and pepper spray suffices to snatch a child, terrified, in a predawn raid. But Elian was fortunate. The last time Janet Reno--one of the worst attorneys general in American history and certainly the most lethal--inflicted her caring on children, they were incinerated. Besides, the government, practicing compassionate liberalism and heeding the advice of its latest batch of "experts," had on its getaway plane some Play-Doh. Kneading it is supposed to ease a child's stress.A few days before the paramilitary operation against Lazaro Gonzalez's home, one of Reno's experts, a pediatrician with a long record of crackpot leftism, came--without meeting Elian--to the convenient (for Reno) conclusion that Elian needed to be quickly "rescued" from "psychological abuse" at the hands of his relatives. Fear of child abuse was Reno's excuse for...
  • Straight Talk From Arizona

    Phoenix--If George W. Bush wins, conservatives will be glad they failed to abolish the Department of Education. Surely he would have the wisdom to make Lisa Graham Keegan, Arizona's superintendent of Public Instruction, secretary of Education. That is, unless this July he has the audacity to roll the dice and make her his running mate.Keegan, 40, supported the candidacy of John McCain, who, regarding straight talk, is a shrinking violet compared with Keegan, a Stanford-educated intellectual cactus who radiates prickly thoughts. Such as: "Everyone is complicit in trying to make the education system look good without merit." And: "This country is so content not to know the truth about its children, it's horrifying." And: "Those who believe there is 'still time' to reform our centrally planned educational systems ignore the fact that while there may be time, there is no reason to do so.""Sometimes," she says, "when we ask Washington for help, we run a very real risk of getting it."...
  • Don Zimmer's 52D Season

    Tampa--want to see the face of baseball? turn to the back of this page. What? You expected the sunburst smile of Ken Griffey beneath a backward-turned Reds cap? Or Pedro Martinez's assassin stare from the Fenway Park mound? No, such superstars come and go, but Don Zimmer is a baseball lifer.Currently he is the Yankees' bench coach, whose job during games consists of sitting next to manager Joe Torre and dispensing advice based on intuition--intuition that distills more than half a century of experience. Understand Zimmer and you will understand baseball--and one reason why today's Yankees are so successful. No other sports franchise has the Yankees' glamour--the pinstripes, Yankee Stadium, 25 World Series won, Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, Jeter. But beneath baseball's glitter there always is the grit of men like Zimmer.He is the last former Brooklyn Dodger still wearing a major-league uniform. His number this year is 52, the number of years he has been a professional ballplayer. His number...
  • The Censoring Of Zachary

    Measured in terms of America's traditional causes of discord--antagonisms arising from class, race, ethnicity and religion--there never has been more domestic tranquillity. Yet the sulfurous wrangling about religion in the fight for the Republican presidential nomination has made many Americans anxious about uncivil aggressiveness by some Christian factions bent on using government for sectarian purposes. But some Christians believe they are on the receiving end of aggression by government. Consider how growing up in America feels to Zachary Hood.In 1996, when he was a first grader in a Medford, N.J., public school, his teacher rewarded students' reading proficiency by allowing them to bring from home, and read to the class, a story of their choice. The only requirement was that the selections be of age-appropriate brevity and complexity. Zachary chose the story "A Big Family" from "The Beginner's Bible." This is the complete text:"Jacob traveled far away to his uncle's house. He...
  • Conservatism, Mccain Style

    John Mccain is no doubt not the first person who, late at night after a long day, has said something strange in the convivial atmosphere of the NASCAR cafe in Myrtle Beach. But what he said there on the eve of the voting in South Carolina suggests why he is doing so very much better among Democrats and independents than among Republicans. He said: "We can eradicate evil. We can eradicate differences between rich and poor." Well.As to the first, it has been tried, often. For example, at the time of the French Revolution, some enthusiasts thought the job could be done by strangling the last king with the entrails of the last priest. The results were unsatisfactory, and Edmund Burke's articulation of what was wrong with such political overreaching became the modern genesis of what is called conservatism.As for eradicating the "differences" between rich and poor--whatever that might mean--perhaps it would be prudent to defer attempting that eradication that until some more bite-size...
  • Philadelphia In 2000: Like 1948?

    Although the democratic convention in Los Angeles is still six months away, it is not too soon to start yawning. But when Republicans convene in Philadelphia, brotherly love may be as scarce as it was when last a party convention was held there.The Democratic nomination contest is all but over because Bill Bradley has difficulty attracting Democrats. Bradley has Adlai Stevenson's earnestness without the leavening wit that made it palatable. (Asked his opinion of the Rev. Norman Vincent Peale, the middlebrow exponent of "the power of positive thinking," Stevenson quipped, "I find Saint Paul appealing but Peale appalling.") Bradley's last three elections suggest that he has severe limitations as a candidate for office. Before losing in Iowa and New Hampshire, his most recent election was a decade ago, when he barely won a third Senate term, beating the then unknown Christine Whitman by just 3 percent, even though he spent $12.73 per vote against her 87 cents.In 1968 there were just 15...
  • Then There Were Four

    After months of bounding off buses and into gaggles of strangers, the presidential candidates should by now feel much as Job did after he lost his camels and acquired boils. But the candidates manage, most of the time, to resemble human sunbeams, up and doing with a heart for any fate. Now their fates will come with a rush, beginning next Monday when some actual voters, all of them Iowans, will finally be able to intrude upon the nominating process. The fates of all but four candidates are already known.Bill Bradley's task against Al Gore is difficult. John McCain's task against George W. Bush is even more so. Bradley is trying to be nominated without much help from two substantial portions of the base of the Democratic Party--African-Americans and organized labor. McCain is running against much of the Republican nominating electorate.McCain favors campaign-finance reforms opposed by most Republicans. And he criticizes Bush's large proposed tax cut in language (the cut, he says,...
  • Aids Crushes A Continent

    Imagine 40 million orphans in sub-saharan Africa by the end of this decade, many of them organized into "kid armies." Does this grotesque recasting of "Lord of the Flies" in real life get your attention? Ron Dellums hopes so.Dellums, tall, slender, elegant and angry, came to Congress in 1971, the first black ever elected from a white majority district. Representing Oakland, home of the Black Panthers, and fermenting Berkeley, he was radicalism incarnate. Today, 64, with gray hair and a gray beard and wearing a black turtleneck and a long flowing topcoat, he looks like a prophet who stepped simultaneously out of the Old Testament and Gentlemen's Quarterly.These days his mind is on something of Biblical proportions--a plague akin to the Black Death that killed one third of Europe's population in the middle of the 14th century. Dellums, who in 1971 began the push for sanctions against South Africa (they were imposed in 1986), thinks the AIDS pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa can crush the...
  • 1999: Sort Of Satisfactory

    Nineteen ninety-nine was a suitable exclamation point for a century that would like to be remembered more for its wealth than for its wars. America's prodigious wealth-creation threatened to deprive Americans of the delights of complaining, at least other than as Gilbert and Sullivan did:Some baseball fans grumbled: a Los Angeles TV sports anchor said, "Dodgers and Angels highlights at 11. Please watch anyway." And there was war.In Kosovo--actually, over Kosovo--NATO practiced a kind of warfare made possible by modern technologies and perhaps made necessary by modern sensibilities. It was a war waged on the principle that there are values important enough to fight, meaning kill, for, even if they are not important enough to die for.Kosovo was a small, mostly Muslim entity, brutalized by a mostly Orthodox nation of which Kosovo was (and is) legally a part. As the year ends, Chechnya is a small, mostly Muslim entity being brutalized by a mostly... oh, never mind. At the year-end,...
  • Are Children Little Adults?

    An American revolution in child rearing has tiptoed in on little cat feet. One sign of it is the locution "quality time," by which busy and uneasy adults tell themselves that the diminished quantity of time they are spending with their children is redeemed by its quality. Another sign is crib mobiles, which arrived in the 1950s, harbingers of today's vast smorgasbord of learning accessories for babies.Wonder why there are so many television programs about childlike adults ("Seinfeld," "Friends," "Ally McBeal")? These reflect "the elongation of youth" by those who "loiter on the outskirts of adulthood," dressed in jeans and sneakers like prepubescent children. Notice the cartoons for adult viewers ("The Simpsons," "King of the Hill"). And the "juvenilization" of movies that attract undifferentiated audiences of adults and children ("Star Wars," "Indiana Jones"). When children are regarded as little adults, adults become childish.So says Kay S. Hymowitz in her book "Ready or Not: Why...
  • Mccain Moves Up, Up There

    A published list of prudential maxims (e.g., "Never give your wife an anniversary gift that needs to be plugged in"; "Never order barbecue in a place where all the chairs match"; "Never buy a Rolex from someone out of breath") could have included this one: Never extrapolate February politics from November polls.John McCain, uppermost underdog in the competition to deny George W. Bush the Republican nomination, is doing well in one of the places where he must do well or go home--New Hampshire. However, a McCain surge right about now was almost as predictable as autumn itself, for several reasons. One is that this is how the system is supposed to work.The improvised and constantly evolving nomination process is the haphazard result of largely uncoordinated decisions by the states and parties. But because the process begins in two states like Iowa and New Hampshire, both small but in many other ways dissimilar, a candidate with limited resources (of money, national reputation and...
  • Rough Rider In Green Bay

    America had seen something like Vince Lombardi's Chiclets-teeth grin before. His face often radiated competitive fury, but when it crinkled with happiness, you saw the visage--and spirit--of Teddy Roosevelt, apostle of the strenuous life, who could have said, as Lombardi did, that fatigue makes cowards of us all. TR thought an occasional war could invigorate the nation, tuning its spirit and teaching it teamwork, and thought football could serve as a substitute. However, he found college football--the NFL was two decades away--alarmingly rough. Being the first busybody president, he convened a White House conference on rules changes to cut down the number of undergraduates being killed and maimed.In 1959, half a century after TR's last full year in office, Lombardi drove his mauve and white Chevy from his native New York, where he was the Giants' offensive coach (Tom Landry coached the defense), to Green Bay. In the turbulent next decade, stalking the sideline in his camel's hair...
  • Politics And The Test Ban Treaty

    President Clinton, whose cynicism never loses its power to astonish, put on a long face and, with that tone of sincerity that betokens his tendentiousness, lamented that the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty had become tangled in "politics." Indeed it had, but long before last week.The treaty purports to ban all nuclear explosions. But the treaty does not even define prescribed nuclear tests. As Sen. Richard Lugar said in his lethal analysis of the treaty, "Russia believes hydro-nuclear activities and sub-critical experiments are permitted under the treaty. The U.S. believes sub-critical experiments are permitted but hydro-nuclear tests are not. Other states believe both are illegal." U.S. negotiators might have been able to hold out for elimination of such dangerous ambiguity, but they were under pressure to produce a treaty in time for a United Nations signing ceremony before the 1996 election. The ceremony was 42 days before the election.But now, at long last, the spell cast by arms...
  • A 100 Percent Tax On Speech?

    At a stroke, Bill Bradley recently refuted the bromide that he is boring, and in doing so he usefully illuminated the upcoming Senate debate on campaign finance reform. He did all this with a remarkable proposal--a proposal flagrantly unconstitutional and amazingly inimical to democratic values, but definitely not boring.On a call-in program on New Hampshire public radio, Bradley was at first boring: he advocated public financing, saying we spend $900 million a year promoting democracy abroad and for about the same sum we could supplant all private money with public money in campaigns. This would "totally take special interests out of our election process." His unremarkable, because familiar, thought raises questions:By what criteria would he sort the "special," and impliedly disreputable, interests from the nonspecial, reputable ones that deserve to be in our election process? When the sorting is done, what will that process be about? Is Bradley a modern Mugwump, trying to scrub...
  • Some Queries For Bradley

    With almost insolent ease, Bill Bradley has gained much ground on Al Gore without burdening voters with much information about what he would do with power. Herewith a few questions: You stress racial "reconciliation." What was a reconciler like you doing Aug. 23 spending two hours in Harlem with Al Sharpton, the demagogic race hustler who participated in Tawana Brawley's completely fraudulent claim to have been raped and smeared with excrement by white police officers?The Education Department's Office of Civil Rights seems poised to rule that heavy reliance on SAT scores in college admissions constitutes illegal discrimination because minorities score lower on average than whites. Do you agree?Forced busing for school desegregation, which you have supported, is ending in the place where it began 29 years ago, Charlotte, N.C. After billions of dollars spent on busing, and billions of student hours spent on buses, what has busing accomplished?Cleveland's school-choice program may wind...
  • Life And Death At Princeton

    Princeton, N.J.--The university's motto, "Dei Sub Numine Viget," does not say, as some Princetonians insist, "God went to Princeton." It says, "Under God's Power She Flourishes." As the academic year commences, Peter Singer comes to campus to teach that truly ethical behavior will not flourish until humanity abandons the fallacy, as he sees it, of "the sanctity of life."He comes trailing clouds of controversy because he argues, without recourse to euphemism or other semantic sleights-of-hand, the moral justification of some homicides, including infanticide and euthanasia. He rejects "the particular moral order" which supposes that human beings are extraordinarily precious because God made them so. He also rejects secular philosophies that depict human beings as possessing a unique and exalted dignity that sharply distinguishes them from, and justifies their "tyranny" over, other species of animals.The appointment of the 53-year-old Australian philosopher to a tenured professorship...
  • Iowa Clears Its Throat

    Brooding, sphinxlike Iowa is about to speak. Well, maybe as much as seven tenths of 1 percent of Iowa's voting-age population will speak in Ames this Saturday. There may be as many as 15,000 card-carrying Iowans (this year, for the first time, they had better have proof that they are Iowans) who will pay $25 for the privilege of participating in a straw poll. The identification requirement aims to stop candidates from busing and even flying in supporters from far away. In other years, the joke went, some Iowans met their first Puerto Ricans at the Ames straw poll. This year's poll will be the first real--well, semi-real--event of the Republican presidential nomination contest. Or, more precisely, the poll will be a straw in the wind, indicating whether there really will be a contest.Because it is a safe surmise that George W. Bush will win, there is a sense in which he can't win. He has not spent much time--much less than most of his rivals--in Iowa, so he is not apt to win as...
  • The Mask Of Masculinity

    Prof. Harvey Mansfield is Harvard's conservative. Well, all right, he is one of Harvard's handful of conservatives, a.k.a. The Saving Remnant. A few years ago he received a call when a distinguished colleague retired. The caller, a young woman journalist, wanted a comment on the retirement. Mansfield obliged, saying he particularly admired the colleague's "manliness." An awkward silence ensued from the other end of the line. Then the reporter asked Mansfield, "Could you think of another word?"What might be wrong with that word? That is a (literally) academic question, now that professors and somber quarterlies are creating a new discipline: masculinity studies. That subject is being, as it were, married to "women's studies" to round out "gender studies," as at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, where there now is a Center for the Study of Women and Men.Well. In olden days, before these things were understood with today's clarity, people thought that when they studied subjects such...
  • Vertiginous In New York

    Hillary Clinton is a leading cultural indicator, and New York politics, with enough variables to induce vertigo, illustrates the definition of politics as the organization of animosities. So consider the complexities surrounding her evident determination to occupy--do not say fill--the seat of retiring Sen. Pat Moynihan.Why would she run? Never mind the psychotherapeutic hypothesis that after Monica and decades of Monica's antecedents, she needs a self-esteem infusion. She is running because running is what the Clintons do. Campaigning may be a metabolic necessity for them; it certainly is their lifetime vocation.He has been campaigning since law school. Tagging along, she has led an entirely derivative life, from rainmaker for an unsavory Little Rock law firm to unmaker of health-care reform. But now she inherits the family business, which consists of living off the land, nomadically soliciting money to fuel campaigns. Well-known not for any achievements but only for her well...
  • Republicans, Just Waiting

    Republicans in the House of Representatives are putting a cheerful interpretation on events, in the manner of the communique issued during the Spanish Civil War: "The advance was continued all day without any ground being lost." Their leader, Speaker Dennis Hastert, says, appearances of disarray notwithstanding, all 13 appropriations bills will be passed by the Aug. 7 recess. ...
  • Six-Year-Old Harassers?

    Granted, G.F., as the Supreme Court calls him, was even more vulgar than many fifth-grade boys occasionally are. His sexual misbehavior, which continued for five months and eventually required him to plead guilty to sexual battery against his classmate LaShonda, was directed at others as well. It included, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote last week, verbal affronts ("I want to feel your boobs"), groping and other crudities ("G.F. purportedly placed a doorstop in his pants and proceeded to act in a sexually suggestive manner"). ...
  • Meg's Potent Measuredness

    Meg Greenfield said that one thing she especially liked about her friend Daniel Bell, the distinguished sociologist, was that he was so smart he made her feel like a dumb blonde. Well, Bell is very intelligent, but not that intelligent. Nobody is, ever was or could be.Meg, who died at 68 last Thursday of cancer, was not a blonde. She was very intelligent and, what is different and more important, she was wise. In a Washington chock full of clever ninnies from tony schools, Meg was the real article--a public intellectual. Time was, New York was the magnet that drew such people. Meg's 1961 move from Manhattan to Washington markedly increased the thoughtfulness of the nation's capital.Indeed, discerning cultural historians will one day recognize that Meg's move was a significant episode in the making of modern Washington, and in the diminution of New York City as the center of the nation's political gravity. It was not so long ago, as eras in the lives of nations are reckoned, that...
  • The Perils Of Brushing

    All of us have seen lots of them, those words of warning or instruction that appear on products we buy. "Do not eat this sled." "For best results do not apply this floor wax to your teeth." "This antifreeze is not intended for pouring on breakfast cereal." We hardly notice them, let alone consider what they say about the times in which we live. The sled, wax and antifreeze warnings are apocryphal. But you could not know that. After all, The American Enterprise magazine offers these from real life:On a bag of Fritos: "You could be a winner! No purchase necessary. Details inside." On a bread pudding: "Product will be hot after heating." On a bar of Dial soap: "Use like regular soap." On a hotel shower cap: "Fits one head." On a package of Nytol sleeping aid: "May cause drowsiness." On a string of Christmas lights: "For indoor or outdoor use only." On the packaging of a Rowenta iron: "Do not iron clothes on body."The warning about a product's being hot after heating may be a response...
  • Ricky The Remarkable

    Mark McGwire's biceps symbolize big bang baseball. Rickey Henderson's thighs, which are responsible for what still may be the quickest first step in baseball, are the key to this: baseball's history is written largely in numbers, and numbers say Henderson's may have been the most impressive all-round career in the last quarter century.His gaudiest number--1,299 stolen bases, and counting--is a record you will never see broken. Here is another: 130 steals in a season (1982). He already has 38.5 percent (361) more than the second greatest thief, Lou Brock. With Oakland last year, Henderson led the American League with 66 stolen bases--four more than the Mets' team total. Joe DiMaggio, a fine base runner, stole only 30 bases in a 13-year career. DiMaggio's season high was six. Henderson has stolen five in a game.For half a century after Babe Ruth made baseball homer-happy, and especially in the 1950s, baseball became simple-minded. Most teams, most of the time, just tried to get...
  • Stepping Into A Dark Room

    Instead of reflexively invoking the specter of Adolf Hitler whenever they are confronted with a troublesome tyrant, American leaders should take seriously one thing Hitler said. Formed by the First World War, destroyed by the Second, Hitler thought of little other than war in between, and he knew whereof he spoke when he said that going to war was like stepping through a door into a dark room.NATO is stumbling around in such a room, barking its shins. Emblematic of the confusion is the "NATO official" who tells The New York Times why Slobodan Milosevic's presidential palace cannot be bombed. It used to be the King of Yugoslavia's residence and is a prized cultural treasure--why, it even contains a Rembrandt: "How can we win the hearts and minds of the people of Yugoslavia if we destroyed the palace?"One's heart sinks. Is that how NATO thinks? Surely bombers are not dispatched to do only things that will leave undisturbed the mood of the masses in the target nation. NATO's problem is...
  • Lies, Damned Lies And...

    With the Dow average nearing a fifth digit, Americans are cheerful. However, soon the women's division of the Great American Grievance Industry will weigh in, saying women remain trapped beneath the "glass ceiling" and in the "pink ghetto." Brace yourself for a blizzard of statistics purporting to prove that women are suffering a "wage gap" primarily caused by discrimination that requires government actions like affirmative action, quotas and set-asides.But a counterblizzard has blown in from Diana Furchtgott-Roth and Christine Stolba, authors of "Women's Figures: An Illustrated Guide to the Economic Progress of Women in America." Furchtgott-Roth is a fellow at The American Enterprise Institute and Stolba is a historian living in Washington, and both had better mind their manners. Feminists are not famous for their sense of humor and may frown at the authors' dedication of their book to their husbands "who have always appreciated our figures."The National Committee On Pay Equity and...
  • The First Michael Jordan

    Joe DiMaggio was the first Michael Jordan, the first athlete who transcended his sport, and sport generally, to become his generation's archetype of a gentleman. But 30 years before DiMaggio there was Christy Mathewson, who did more than anyone to prepare the nation to make DiMaggio a grace note of the 20th century. Mathewson did this by placing baseball firmly in a new and unrivaled position in the nation's imagination.Mathewson is buried next to the campus of Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa. Although he did not get a degree there, he attended that school before becoming a big leaguer, at a time when college men were thin on the ground in the professional game. Not until 1988 did California surpass Pennsylvania as the state that has supplied the most major leaguers. For a long time players were hard men fleeing hard lives in coal mines and steel mills and on hardscrabble farms.Mathewson was born in 1880 in a tiny town with the no-nonsense name of Factoryville, Pa. There,...
  • Let's Play 20 Questions

    Given the compression of the presidential-primary calendar, both parties' nominees may be known a year from now, on the evening of March 7, the day voting occurs in California, New York and a slew of other states. The Democratic contest should be decorous, because neither Al Gore nor Bill Bradley will ever be confused with William Jennings Bryan, the Silver-Tongued Orator of the Platte. They are not firebrands who are apt to scorch one another over their differences, if they have any differences. But the Republican candidates, who are sprouting like March crocuses, should be entertaining, particularly if pressed to answer questions such as these 20:The average household has an income of $38,000 and would get only $99 from a 10 percent across-the-board tax cut. The public is less than incandescent about such a cut. Surprised?In 1999 the 23.6 percent of taxpayers earning between $30,000 and $50,000 will pay just 13.6 percent of income taxes. The 5 percent of Americans earning $100,000...
  • When Acting As Rome . . .

    WHEN ACTING AS ROME, DO AS THE ROMANS DID. If the United States, pursuing a Pax Americana, puts military forces on the ground in Kosovo, it should make clear that it does not have a ""timetable'' for an ""exit strategy.'' They are products of longings rather than logic and they telegraph tentativeness born of reluctance. They communicate lack of resolve and tell the people who are the problem to wait you out. ...