After drawing a caricature of Ronald Reagan that he attributes to historian John Patrick Diggins, George Will demonstrates his commitment to the concept of human fallibility by whacking that strawman into pieces. Reaganite optimism is too much for Will, who writes that "Reagan frequently quoted [Thomas] Paine's preposterous cry that 'we have it in our power to begin the world over again.'"
When Paine wrote that line, in Common Sense, he was refering to a specific historical moment: "A situation, similar to the present, hath not happened since the days of Noah until now." At that moment, on the eve of the American Revolution, he was absolutely right. And when Reagan quoted Paine on the eve of the fall of Communism, he was absolutely right. It's indeed good to be mindful of the failings of the masses, but if Will's conservatism is one that finds the very notion of liberation "preposterous," it neither has nor deserves any future in American politics.
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