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  • 21

    William Buckley's Permanent Thing
    History; Posted on: 2008-02-28 12:23:13 [ Printer friendly / Instant flyer ]
    WFB dies at 82

    by Christopher Westley

    William Buckley seemed to relish writing obituaries.

    In fact, the death of a Milton Friedman or a Strom Thurmond or even of an obscure Manhattan socialite would provide a forum for Buckley to write about, well, himself – about how witty he once was in that person’s company, or how important he came to be in that person’s life.

    So when news arrived that Buckley himself had died, I wondered how he would like his own obituaries to be written. He’d no doubt take great pride in his death being noted on the front page of his beloved New York Times. He’d be glad that his death coincided with a Republican in the White House, practically guaranteeing an official statement from a sitting president.

    For someone who reproduced his Who’s Who citation in one of his books, the validation that mattered came from the secular establishment.

    But he’d surely know that some elements of the conservative movement would remember his life’s work with great regret. These would be the elements of the Old Right that (thanks to the Internet) animate much American political discourse today, characterized by conservatives and classical liberals and libertarians who believe that a free society demands that government be either severely limited or nonexistent.

    These are the people who agreed with the social critic Albert Jay Nock that the enemy of civilization was the State itself. They knew that large, centralized governments – whether in the East or the West – can only nurture dependency and division, and that their very existence threatens an order defined by private institutions and property, voluntary interactions, mutual interdependencies, and social betterment. The Old Right knew that war was the health of the state, and that this reason alone justified opposition to Wilson’s and FDR’s wars as events worth avoiding because they would, in the end, grow the government and make us less free.

    But after World War II, and during the height of President Truman’s unpopularity emanating from the U.S. government’s first undeclared war, there was serious concern among the State’s partisans that a freedom movement would reassert itself politically, squelching the justification for government growth that the nascent Cold War brought about. A trumped-up international confrontation with the Soviets may have provided meaning and jobs to many, but it also required dismantling constitutional constraints on power necessary for a free republic.

    News Source: Christopher Westley

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