Thursday, September 22, 2016

William Voegeli doesn't know that Oliver Goldsmith's perhaps most famous axiom was written by Samuel Johnson

Are we therefore wrong to look to an Oliver Goldsmith, and then to a Donald Trump, "to lead and inspire"?

Stipulating all that for the sake of the argument does nothing to clarify how a Trump presidency remedies the afflictions catalogued in this sprawling diagnosis. Indeed, since many items on the list are social trends or crackpot ideas, it’s not clear how any president can reverse the damage being done. “How small, of all that human hearts endure,” wrote Oliver Goldsmith, “that part which laws or kings can cause or cure.” Conservatives invoke this axiom to rebuke liberal social planners, but it also calls into question whether political activity can effect moral and social regeneration. And to whatever extent Americans still look to presidents to lead and inspire through word and deed, Trump’s capacity to advance such causes as virtue, morality, religious faith, and stability is exceptionally doubtful.

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