Tuesday, February 17, 2009

William F. Buckley: Gone but not forgotten!

Bill Buckley has been gone now for almost a year but an essay he wrote in 1952 still has meaning to the Republican Party as we enter our "Wilderness Years"

....The question that hotly follows is why. Why does the Opposition Party refuse to offer a genuine opposition? At this juncture the Statists leap to their most favorite answer to the query. They tell us that the anarchistic, uncivilized, uncharitable rugged individualism associated with the pre-Roosevelt era is forever discredited by the American people. The social revolution of the New Deal is a fait accompli and no political party could rally any enthusiasm in 1952 for a genuinely anti-Statist program.

My own diagnosis does not totally contradict this one. To begin with, I see the issue primarily as one of freedom or non-freedom. To the extent that a fraction of the individual's time, which we will for convenience equate with his earnings, is a priori mortgaged to the government and against this will, then he is to that same extent not free. Since there is no money except the individual's money, and since his money represents his labor or his savings or the produce of his tools, the assessment of that money by the State represents a direct levy on that individual's freedom. Now, if it is true, as the Liberals would have it, that the Repubitican Party could not evoke any support for a program that calls for extracting from the individual only that money necessary to carry on the minimum functions of government (loosely, defense, courts, and conservation), then it must follow that the American people no longer value maximum individual freedom.

Now this may well be the case. Most human beings respond to education, and freedom has been depreciated in the nation 's schools for some years now. The responsibility of the State to regulate and nourish individual lives is not only acknowledged, but eloquently and insistently affirmed by an increasing number of the most efficacious of influence-molders: the teachers.

And yet, there has been no dramatic showdown. There is no tangible proof that the Republican Party would indeed fail to win over the people to a platform of freedom. And even if it should fail, it would have succeeded in alerting the people to the fact that there still exists, in theory at least, an alternative to State Paternalism. And this would seem to be a noble enough and a traditional service for a political party whose birth and early success grew out of its refusal to condone human slavery.

One thing we know: in the past we have temporized with collectivism, and we have lost. And after 'the campaigns were over, we were left not with the exhilaration and pride of having done our best to restore freedom, but with the sickening humiliation of having failed to seduce the American people because we were pitted against a more glib, a more extravagant, a more experienced gigolo.