… is from pages 411-412 of George Will’s wisdom-filled 2019 book, The Conservative Sensibility:
Most of the political calamities through which the world has staggered since 1919 have resulted from the distinctively modern belief that things – including nations and human nature – are much more malleable than they actually are. It is the belief that nations are like Tinkertoys: They can be taken apart and rearranged at will. It is the belief that human beings are material that can be sculpted by the tools of political artists. In the one hundred years since 1919, many more than 100 million people have perished in violence intended to force the world into new configurations. The violence has served ambitious attempts at social engineering – attempts to create racial purity or a classless society or the New Soviet Man.
In the modern era two complementary failures have plagued humankind, especially since the mid-19th century. One failure is the refusal to see that society and the economy are emergent orders, designed by no one. The second failure is acceptance of the horribly mistaken notion that the creator and operator of society is the state.
These failures result in people debating and often physically fighting to determine which particular human beings will be in charge of the state and, hence (as these debaters and fighters see matters), which human beings will be in charge of redesigning and operating society. The false belief is that if the ‘right’ leaders are chosen, then all will be well and perhaps even sublime, while all problems (real and imaginary) are blamed on evil or incompetent leaders. It’s all very childish, yet childishness of a deranged sort that leads too often to horrors.
These debaters and combatants too seldom question their juvenile premises regarding the nature of society and of the state.
This notion that society is akin to a Tinkertoy contraption built by the state is at the root of governments’ mad sledgehammering of society over the past two months.
A child, discovering that some termites had crawled onto her Tinkertoy house, can suddenly and without much thought – and likely to good effect – disassemble the house and rebuild it when and how she chooses. Many government ‘leaders,’ mistaking society for a Tinkertoy house, acted very much as did this child…. Or, rather, not quite: The child is correct in her understanding that her Tinkertoy house is a simple contraption that did not build itself and can be disassembled and reassembled at will. In contrast, government ‘leaders’’ (and their cheerleaders’) belief in the relative simplicity of society and the economy is disastrously incorrect.