Thursday, February 02, 2006

George Will - ' Back to Basics'


There is a broad consensus that government has a duty to assuage two perennial fears and a modern anxiety. The two fears are illness and old age -- particularly illness in old age. The modern anxiety is that educational deficits will leave rising generations of Americans ill-equipped to compete in a world in which few social structures can temper the winds of competition.

Furthermore, Americans are uninterested in the question of which level of government in our federal system addresses those fears and that anxiety. Five decades ago, the new interstate highway system was officially named the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways. And when, also in the 1950s, the Soviet Union's Sputnik produced American anxiety about educational standards, the federal government produced the National Defense Education Act. Note the recurring word: ``defense.'' That was partly a verbal tic of the time -- a Cold War reflex to impart momentum to any proposal by presenting it as integral to national security. But it also represented a vestigial impulse to connect any federal action with a clear -- meaning constitutionally enumerated -- federal power.

That impulse is gone in a nation in which it seems quaint to suggest that some things are beyond the federal government's proper purview. Today's default position is: Washington should do it.

George is right on the money with this one.

posted by David at 1:06 PM :: Permalink ::

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