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George Will, Unplugged

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorMarch 7, 2009 8:08 PM


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It's easy to dismiss George Will as an ideologue but you can't dismiss his intellect. He is a bright guy. And he's been willing to take on his own tribe, as Sara Palin and George W. Bush discovered. So what causes him to become so muddle-headed when he writes about global warming? I believe this interview, in which he expounds on the uproar over his two recent columns, is quite revealing. Here's one exchange:

Q. What disturbs you most about this global warming consensus that seems to be pretty widespread and doesn't seem to be eroding? A. Well, I think it is eroding, in the sense that people sign on to be alarmed because it's socially responsible...(and because it makes them feel good). But once they get to the price tag, once they are asked to do something about it, like pay trillions of dollars, they begin to rethink.

First of all, the consensus is not eroding and Will is smart enough to know that. But I think the rest of his statement speaks to a larger animus he has towards environmentalism in general. It's worth reading in its entirety to understand what I suspect is really behind Will's two recent factually incorrect columns:

I've never seen anything quite like this in my 40 years in Washington. I've never seen anything like the enlistment of the mainstream media in a political crusade--and this is a political crusade, because it's about how we should be governed and how we should live; those are the great questions of politics. It is clearly for some people a surrogate religion. It's a spiritual quest. It offers redemption. But what it also always offers, whether it is global cooling or global warming, is a rationale for the government to radically increase its supervision of our life and our choices. Whether the globe is cooling, whether it's warming, the government's going to be the winner and the governing class will be the winner.

There's a lot of familiar (and outdated) criticism of environmentalism there, such as his harping on the spiritual aspect, but what's also evident is his deep-seated opposition to the "command and control" paradigm that has largely epitomized government's approach to environmental regulation since the foundational laws were first enacted in the early 1970s. George Will's antagonism for mainstream environmentalism is a matter of long record. Global warming, because of its recent elevation as a major societal concern, merely provides him the cudgel for his own ideological crusade. Will's latest two latest columns on climate change and this interview show how he is allowing himself to be governed by ideological biases, and not his considerable intellect.

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