George Wills Problem With Government By We the People

Dave Johnson

In a column today, Hubris heading for a fall, George Will lays out his problem with America’s system of decision-making by We, the People.

The idea that America’s problem of governance is one of inadequate resources misses this lesson of the last half-century: No amount of resources can prevent [decision-making by We, the People] from performing poorly when it tries to perform too many tasks, or particular tasks for which it is inherently unsuited.*

Will continues, saying that the problem with democracy is “the bell-shaped curve.” He says we should be ruled by the class of people who “achieve eminence” by superior performance, like surgeons, and not the regular people currently allowed to vote.

Actually, [decision-making by We, the People] is not sufficiently demoralized. The hubris that is the occupational hazard and defining trait of the political class continues to cause [decision-making by We, the People] to overpromise and underperform. This class blithely considers itself exempt from the tyranny of the bell-shaped curve – the fact that in most occupations a few people are excellent, a few are awful, and most are average.

In fact, the bell curve is particularly pertinent to government. Surgeons achieve eminence by what they do “in office” – in operating rooms, performing surgery. Politicians achieve eminence simply by securing office – by winning elections, a skill often related loosely, if at all, to their performance in office.

Will goes on to complain about the “pathologies” of expanded decision-making by We, the People, saying that public-sector jobs like teaching, nursing, the performing arts are inferior because they are labor-intensive and inherently do not increase their productivity, and are thus “stagnant” with rising relative costs. He says We, the People should not provide these services to people.

I vote for democracy. But, if Will has his way I won’t be able to vote.

* I substituted “decision-making by We, the People” for Will’s use of the word “government.”

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