George Will goes after liberal historian David Goldfield

Historians in the News
tags: David Goldfield, George F Will, The Gifted Generation



Is there anything more depressing than a cheerful liberal? The question is prompted by one such, historian David Goldfield, who has written a large-hearted book explaining that America’s problems would yield to government’s deft ameliorating touch if Americans would just rekindle their enthusiasm for it. 

Goldfield’s new book, “The Gifted Generation: When Government Was Good,” notes that in 1964 nearly 80 percent of Americans said they trusted Washington all or most of the time; today, about 20 percent do. Goldfield does not explain why trust in government waned as government’s confidence waxed. The question contains its answer.

He rightly celebrates 1944’s GI Bill of Rights but misses what distinguished it from many subsequent social programs. It was intended as a prophylactic measure against unemployment and political extremism among the millions demobilized from the military. It worked. Veterans overwhelmed campuses; Goldfield says in his book that some in California resided in the fuselages of half-built airplanes. Eligibility for the bill’s benefits was contingent upon having performed military service. The GI Bill used liberal means — subsidies for veterans’ education and home buying — to achieve conservative results: Rather than merely maintaining people as permanent wards of government, it created an educated, property-owning middle class equipped for self-reliant striving.

In contrast, much of the Great Society’s liberalism sought to de-moralize policies, deeming repressive those policies that promoted worthy behavior. The political base of this liberalism was in government’s caring professions that served “clients” in populations disorganized by behaviors involving sex and substance abuse. Surely this goes far toward explaining what Goldfield’s narrative leaves inexplicable. ...

Read entire article at The Washington Post

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