In his characteristically elegant and incisive way, Will limns the differences between liberals and conservatives. Here’s the core of his argument:
Steadily enlarging dependence on government accords with liberalism’s ethic of common provision, and with the liberal party’s interest in pleasing its most powerful faction -- public employees and their unions. Conservatism’s rejoinder should be that the argument about whether there ought to be a welfare state is over. Today’s proper debate is about the modalities by which entitlements are delivered. Modalities matter, because some encourage and others discourage attributes and attitudes -- a future orientation, self-reliance, individual responsibility for healthy living -- that are essential for dignified living in an economically vibrant society that a welfare state, ravenous for revenue in an aging society, requires.
Social issues, he says, should be left to "moral federalism," and in international affairs, conservatives should [eschew]... the fatal conceit that has been liberalism’s undoing domestically -- hubris about controlling what cannot, and should not, be controlled."
One question I would pose to him concerns whether he thinks we have a "civil society" sufficiently healthy to cultivate and sustain the attitudes necessary for "dignified living in an economically vibrant society." Connected with that is another question: to what degree does the "economically vibrant society" undermine some of the attitudes necessary for its own sustenance? Some conservatives aren’t necessarily as willing to embrace and celebrate the market as GFW is.