Pulitzer Prize winning columnist George Will returned to the BankUnited Center at the University of Miami last Friday to deliver the New Student Convocation address to the incoming freshmen class.
Last year, Will delivered a lecture entitled “The Political Argument Today,” where he argued that the nation had become a welfare state that redistributed capital from the working young to the retired and dispossessed.
This year, Will re-emphasized the danger posed by entitlement programs, discussing the problem in the context of national health reform.
“Obama is determined to expand the government’s role in the marketplace,” he said. “He wants to bring equality to the system by circumscribing free action.”
Will argued that government programs addressing inequality result in unintended consequences that are often disastrous. He referenced Cash for Clunkers, the government program offering Americans money towards fuel-efficient cars when trading in vehicles that get less than 18 miles per gallon.
“But the program hurts the charities that receive these cars as donations,” countered Will.
Adriyan Rotati, a freshman political science major, asked Will if the coverage of 46 million uninsured Americans was a moral or fiscal issue. Will said it was both.
“Spending other people’s money for a program they would not spend money on is a moral hazard,” he said.
The focal point of Will’s lecture was the importance of thoughtful discourse and the danger of reliance on the government for solutions.
“Anyone can be a Republican or a Democrat but not everyone can be a Hurricane,” said Will. “You have to be able to think.”
Will referenced several other examples of ineffective government programs such as subsidizing ethanol production, which led to corn riots in Mexico. He did not endorse any of the proposed health care or climate legislation.
At the end of his lecture, he said students should relish in the widening income gap between America’s poorest and richest, as it validated the worth of their degrees. Quoting the poet Robert Frost, Will said he did not want to live in a society where everyone is on equal footing.
“You are here to rise. You are here to join the elite.”