The Free Market Institute hosted George Will, a renowned columnist and political commentator, as its fall 2019 keynote speaker on Thursday in the Allen Theatre in the Texas Tech Student Union Building.
Whether it be teaching, writing or the media, Will has experience in a variety of areas.
Will has been writing as a columnist for The Washington Post since 1974, according to a Tech new release. He is also a Pulitzer Prize winner, a New York Times best-seller, a contributor for MSNBC and NBC News and he was a panelist on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, among other things.
In addition, Will also taught as a professor of political philosophy at Michigan State University and the University of Toronto, according to the news release. He also served as a United States Senate staff member for three years in the 1970s.
As the keynote speak of the Free Market Institute’s Public Speaker Series, he presented his educated perspective on the state of the free enterprise system, the current political climate and the meaning of freedom in the modern age.
“I want to talk to you tonight about the condition of our country and why we should be alarmed,” Will said. “The temperature of our politics today is unusually high.”
Many politicians desire a generous welfare state, but do not want to pay for that institution, Will said. The U.S. currently has a trillion-dollar deficit at full employment throughout the country and with two percent economic growth.
The recession allows the political class to gain favor with the current American people, but the main concern is the future of the next generation of Americans, Will said.
“What happens when the next recession for the trillion-dollar deficit starts?” Will said. “The only losers in this proposition are the unconsenting, unvoting, because the unborn future generation are going to bear the burden of this deficit spending.”
Another problem the U.S. faces is an increase in longevity, Will said. As medical technologies continue to advance, people continue live long past the age of retirement — 65 years old — allowing them to capitalize on retirement plans for a longer period.
The Social Security System is not designed to handle long-length retirement, Will said. When it was created, people were not expected to live many years past the age of 65.
“Longevity, ladies and gentlemen, is a wonderful social achievement,” Will said, “but it is tremendously expensive.”
This year, the U.S. spent $10,300 per person on healthcare, Will said. When creating policies, modern medicine, it’s considerable expenses and the affects it would have on the population above 65 years old were not anticipated.
“If we do not die when the office of management says we ought to die, the federal government has a crisis,” Will said.
One popular solution that many Democratic politicians have suggested is taxing wealthy Americans, Will said. However, this solution is technically already in action.
“The top one percent of income earners already pay 39 percent of the income taxes,” Will said. “The top 5 percent pay 60 percent; the top 10 percent pay 70 percent.”
Will said an increasing number of people are dependent on government support to survive, but the number of people paying for the services the government provides is decreasing.
“Here’s the social dynamite: the bottom 50 percent of American income earners pay 3 percent of the income tax,” Will said. “60 percent of American households either pay no income tax — that's 39 percent — or less than five percent of their income. This means that you have a large cohort of Americans who are not paying for the government.”
Will said that former U.S. President Barack Obama was the first president in history to serve eight years in office and not experience a year of three percent economic growth.
The Free Market Institute at Tech is designed to educate the next generation on how to take advantage of the opportunities of a free market society and promote economic growth within the nation, Will said.
“Economic growth takes work,” Will said, “and it used to be assumed and it no longer can be assumed.”
Will said Americans should, for a significant portion of their lives, take responsibility for themselves rather than relying on the U.S. government.
“I think the American people still understand that a benevolent government is not always the real benefactor, that capitalism doesn’t just make us better off,” Will said, “it makes us better.”
In addition, Will said individualism and innovation promotes changes within the economy, providing examples such as Eli Whitney, the man who invented the cotton gin, who affected American agriculture and politics.
Individualism is freedom within a free market society, Will said.
“The whole history of America is the history that freedom works,” Will said.