The Shotgun Blog
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
I'm not entirely certain those of us south of the 49th can truly convey how important, great, and yes, transformative William F. Buckley was in his life. I give it a shot here, but I think the best way to do it is to compare the U.S. to Canada - which had no Buckley figure - in recent history.
Buckley was instrumental in ensuring the American right would be one in support of economic liberty and limited government. The radical nature of this is lost today, but in 1955, when he founded National Review, it set off a tectonic shift. Prior to that, American conservatism drew upon its big-government, paternalistic past, much like conservatism in other Anglospheric democracies. Buckley grabbed American conservatism by the scruff of the neck (figuratively, of course), established it as the leading force for liberty, and brought it into the modern age. He built the intellectual foundation upon which Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan built both the modern conservative movement and the pre-W Republican Party.
In Canada, by contrast, conservatism clung to its big-government past. Thus John Diefenbaker could credibly run to Louis St.-Laurent's left in 1957 and 1958. Limited government had no voice (let alone power) in either Parliament or the national discourse for years. Thus there was no genuine answer to the Trudeau fiasco. Socialized medicine seemed far more incremental than it really was, and in part for that reason it was enacted almost without serious challenge. To this day, economic liberty is on the intellectual defensive in Canada, in a way it hasn't been down here for decades.
One could even say that the only Prime Ministers in Canadian history with any sense of respect for liberty and limited government are Wilfred Laurier and Stephen Harper.
This isn't to say America is perfect; we're not (on international trade, for example, Canada's continuing crusade against barriers stands in glittering contrast to our embarrassing record in this century). However, it is far easier and far more respectable to defend limited government and economic liberty in the United States than it is in Canada. That wasn't true in 1955; it is true today because of Bill Buckley.
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Excellent post, DJ. Thanks!
Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2008-02-27 12:36:37 PM
He will be sorely missed. One need not agree with all of his views to see that he was a great conservative thinker and a great anti-communist who used solid thought to fight the left liberals. you are also right to point out the great ongoing cancer facing conservatives . . . lack of resilience and confidence in some political circles about their own principles. The watering of the wine is an ongoing problem.
Posted by: Liam O'Brien | 2008-02-27 1:17:35 PM
You, sir, are a blind and blithe dupe of neoconservatism.
Buckley INVENTED Big Government Conservatism.
He ran Ayn Rand out of the American "right".
Goldwater, flawed as he was, REVILED Buckley.
Here is a quote from your hero, you sanctimonious little fraud:
"we have got to accept Big Government for the duration–for neither an offensive nor a defensive war can be waged...except through the instrumentality of a totalitarian bureaucracy within our shores."
Therefore we must accept, "large armies and air forces, atomic energy, central intelligence, war production boards and the attendant centralization of power in Washington..."
You, like most neconservatives, are proponents of the Big Lie, and/or simply do not know whereof you speak.
Buckley, to the extent that more than even .00000001 % of the population knows who he is, will be forgotten even before his body goes cold. Ayn Rand will remain a giant -- a giant who threatend your false god Buckley.
Mr. McGuire, a period of silence -- a loooooooooooooooong period of silence -- from you would be most welcome.
Posted by: Freedom Never Takes a Vacation | 2008-02-28 12:03:40 AM
We could have cetainly used some Buckley types in Canada in the 1960s and 70s.May he rest in peace.
I have to quibble a bit with your third and fourth paragraphs. Diefenbaker indeed ran to the left of St-Laurent in 1957, but he ran against Pearson in 1958. In the 1950s Canada had a smaller government and a more conservative society than the United States. It was Pearson and Trudeau who drove the unfortunate move away from that happy condition; St-Laurent was a very good Prime Minister, and Harper is the first good one we've had since.
Posted by: CJ | 2008-02-28 2:10:36 AM
Buckley brought forward an "intellectual society" among Conservative-oriented (mainly business people) in America.
While he was likely not as Conservative as Senator Barry Goldwater (who attracted support from the true heart of American free market-successful business-oriented society) or nearly as clear spoken as Ronald Reagan (a true business success and a patriot, who gave of himself extensively for many years prior to his seeking-achieving political office), Buckley developed the voice in the mass communications media to answer the uniformly Leftist tilt of communications "personalities" and others who produce nothing except self aggrandizement and who have no loyalty except to their own desires.
This achievement by Buckley, to develop and deliver an answer and a "think tank" sort of entity which deliberately used the media in their own game or format, did huge good service to the preservation of individual liberty, based on property rights and the dignity of the human person (i.e sanctity of innocent human life), which is the essential ingredient in American culture.
I didn't particularly like Buckley, as a "personality" (he was too erudite and intellectual for my attention span, when he was at the height of his powers and audience appeal), but I always appreciated him as an important contributor "on my side" of the argument.
Reagan was probably the best example of synthesis of Goldwater and Buckley, producing hybrid vigor.
Our American Founding Fathers were actual giants in comparison with even these three fine Conservatives, now all part of American history, but it is the inspiration of potential within each individual human which is the real gift of the Conservative philosophy; exactly the opposite of the negative loser dependent on others ideas which the Leftists "main stream media" succeed in promoting among materialists (aka females, are the easiest targets) and Atheists.
Posted by: Conrad-USA | 2008-02-28 9:02:59 AM
Conrad: I don't get the "intellectual" moniker.
Chomsky beat him like a rented mule and everything he's ever said doesn't stand up to scutiny.
True, he looks, acts, talks like an intellectual. But, an intellectual should be seen as such because of the strength of his arguements. Not by the facade of the speaker.
Posted by: Veteran | 2008-02-28 10:50:14 AM
I'll take Buckley over Ayn Rand and God over both of them, although He is only over Buckley in the organizational sense of conservative thought.
As for being beaten like a rented mule, that must have been like the time communism beat the free world in the cold war.
Some imaginary time, in other words.
Posted by: Peter O'Donnell | 2008-02-28 3:56:08 PM
Here's another Obit:
Posted by: Snowrunner | 2008-02-29 9:53:43 AM
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