THE PURSUIT OF VIRTUE AND OTHER TORY NOTIONS by George F. Will

THE PURSUIT OF VIRTUE AND OTHER TORY NOTIONS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Conservative columnist Will likes to style himself a ""Tory"" because ""I trace the pedigree of my philosophy to Burke, Newman, Disraeli and others who are more skeptical, even pessimistic, about the modern world than most people are who today call themselves conservatives""--which makes him the first Tory without a monarch or a precapitalist past to repine for. In this collection of his columns from the Washington Post and Newsweek (1978-81), we do find Will praising Juan Carlos of Spain for stemming the tide of eurocommunism in favor, he hopes, of ""Euromonarchism."" The real reason for the Tory affectation is to claim the turf of conservative opposition to unbridled laissez-faire capitalism in the name of ""virtue"" and other benefactions that government can bring. (To Will, virtue is a ""Tory notion""; but in this country the concept has republican roots.) This enables him to snipe at commercialism and the erosion of social values that capitalism brings; but since he's not a real Tory, he has no remedy in mind. (Certainly not the abolition of capitalism.) In columns, however, his inconsistencies are spread out. The strange case of a New Jersey couple who tried to swap their infant for a used Corvette-to which Will ascribes deep social significance--becomes a jeremiad on the decline of family values and an argument against abortion. Other frequent Will targets are national health insurance (goodbye Disraeli!), welfare, and virtually anything else the government can actually do to mitigate the effects of the free market. (When he has something good to say about a trade union, it is, of course, Solidarity.) For Will, ""the truly conservative critique of contemporary American society is that there is too much freedom""--a cheery thought in itself. Once Will appeared to represent a tonic skepticism; now, those bracing pieces are in the minority.

Pub Date: March 5th, 1982
Publisher: Simon & Schuster