Commentary Magazine


Optimistic or Pessimistic About America: Hugh Hewitt

The following is from our November issue. Forty-one symposium contributors were asked to respond to the question: Are you optimistic or pessimistic about America’s future?


Our abundant national energy, unrivaled technological genius, and history’s most powerful military ought to leave me and everyone else an optimist about our country’s future.

There is simply no better place or time to live than America at the end of 2011, even with the most incompetent president since the discovery of electricity, even after a horrific decade of tears and sacrifices made by the innocent at home and the best and brightest of America on battlefields across the world.

The widespread tentativeness, the gnawing doubt felt by all parents and grandparents, is due to government never having been this large, with burdens so sclerosis-inducing in all aspects of national life.

Out here in California—once the best place of all when measured by freedom and creativity, plentitude, and sheer exuberant living—the arteries have already closed, and the political class seems simply incapable of doing anything to reverse the disease. Asking the California legislature to repeal what must be repealed and slash the tax burdens that must be slashed is akin to asking a third-grader to do calculus.

There simply isn’t the capacity. Jerry Brown knows it. We all know it. The goose is on life support.

The California disease, like the deadly “greyscale” sickness in George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire novels, spreads slowly and inexorably across the country. Stupidity and power is a bad combination, and it seems as though the country has now touched the bottom California hit long ago. Again and again, interviews of people with power, from both parties and across all three branches, reveal they simply don’t read, think, or analyze.

They don’t know anything. And most of the media that covers them knows less.

Epic incompetence didn’t matter so much when government was smaller. Now, penetrating every aspect of the economy and encroaching on what had previously been the private sphere, government incompetence is poisoning everything. Of all the hats I wear—law school professor, practicing lawyer, broadcaster, and writer—my experience practicing law before federal regulatory agencies, witnessing the defense of businesses against trial lawyers with absurd claims, constitutes the wellspring of my pessimism.

There are so many destroyers of wealth and productivity, legions of dim-witted and credentialed bullies, that even the sunniest optimist may eventually pull down the blinds.

But…young people loathe government. Many millions who fell for Obama have learned a hard and necessary lesson.

Amazing veterans of the wars are returning to take up public life. They are smarter than can be imagined, wise beyond their years, courageous, and ready to lead in politics as they have in combat.

And the relentless hum of technology mixing with freedom, still vastly more prevalent here than anywhere else, is at work 24 hours a day in every corner of the country, from the tiniest hamlet to New York City, all linked by a net of astonishing power.

If upcoming elections deliver the rebuke to the tenured overlords of government, media, and academia, it will be enough to salvage the situation, just as the election of 1980 did 32 years ago.

If not, well then, I offer another George R.R. Martin reference: “Winter is coming.”


Hugh Hewitt, is a law professor at Chapman University Law School and a nationally syndicated radio talk show host.