At BYU, George Will decries 'decadent democracy,' worries with LDS about religious liberty
"We know what the real problem is," he said, referring to a 1965 report called the "Crisis of the Negro Family," in which the crisis was that 23.6 percent of African-Americans were born out of wedlock.
"Today, the figure for all Americans, all races and ethnicities is 34 percent. We know what this means. This means a constantly renewed cohort of somewhat tenuously parented adolescent males. We know what that means. That means disorderly cities, schools that can't teach. No one wants to talk about this because we don’t know what caused it, and we don't know how to cure it. But these are some of the problems that drive inequality. It can't be cured by the government redistributing income willy-nilly."
During the question-and-answer session, a student challenged Will on the idea that the cause for family breakdown is unknown.
"We've seen family disintegration inflicted by disease, famine, war," Will said. "This (time it) has happened during domestic tranquility in the United States. I can't explain it."
"We have no more urgent domestic problem," he added.
In a one-on-one interview with the Deseret News, Will said American religious leaders who increasingly share concerns about what they see as a broad attack on religious liberty are right to worry. Albert Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, visited BYU a day before Will and said he believes Mormons and evangelicals will "to suffer the coercive power of the secular state together."
"They will," Will said.
Will had lunch with Rick Santorum on Sunday. He said Santorum thinks "the new theory is going to be that religion practiced in your private space is fine, but outside your private space the government owns you, as demonstrated by the Affordable Care Act requiring employers, no matter what their personal convictions, to provide contraception. Rick Santorum thinks that's a harbinger of the future, where outside of your churches and your temples, the state can control your behavior, no matter what consequence you feel that might have on the free exercise of religion supposedly protected by the First Amendment."
Will said he shares Santorum's concern, though he personally is not a person of faith.
"I certainly think this anxiety is well-founded. A properly engaged judiciary might rescue us from this, still, because as you know there are a number of suits in federal courts raising the free exercise opposition to the Affordable Care Act, one of many lawsuits pertaining to the Affordable Care Act which is by no means yet on firm legal ground."
Will also argued that Americans should take heart over the disagreements in Washington. They are, he said, evidence that what James Madison and the other Founding Fathers created, a system of checks and balances, is working.
"You wonder why people are angry in Washington?" he asked. "We're arguing about important things. People, say, yeah, doesn't this lead to gridlock? Gridlock is not an American problem, it is an American achievement."
Will's limited-government perspective includes the belief that 95 percent of what government does is wrong, should be stopped and is. "We're good at that," he said.
While he understands why people see Madison's concoction working and feel pessimistic, he expressed optimism about America's future.
"Things are going to get better," Will said. "We are not Bangladesh. We are a rich, educated industrious, continental nation. We can get better by choosing to get better, choosing better policies and thereby better policymakers."
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