WFB at 88

by Roger Kimball

It is hard to believe that Bill Buckley left us five years ago. He departed before the Age of Obama, before, that is, a president of the United States set about “fundamentally transforming” the country. What changes there have been! In five years, the federal debt has grown by more than 50 percent, from less that $10 trillion to well over $16 trillion. The federal government has intervened in, Oh! so many departments of life. It has nationalized, i.e., socialized, health care, insinuated itself into large swathes of the auto industry, the production (or, rather, the non-production) of energy, and assumed a bloated, swaggering gait as it arrogates to itself more and more social and economic prerogatives. Bill started NR with a defiant promise to “stand athwart history yelling stop!” Part of Bill’s genius was the uncanny ability to combine that invigorating yelp of resistance with an inveigling geniality. The combination was irresistible. For myself, it is the geniality — and the unstoppable generosity — I remember best about Bill. But when it comes to the lessons and advice he has for us today, we cannot do better than recall this stern admonition from the 1950s: “I will not.” Bill wrote, “cede more power to anyone, not to the state, not to General Motors, not to the CIO. I will hoard my power like a miser, resisting every effort to drain it away from me. I will then use my power, as I see fit. I mean to live my life an obedient man, but obedient to God, subservient to the wisdom of my ancestors; never to the authority of political truths arrived at yesterday at the voting booth. That is a program of sorts, is it not? It is certainly program enough to keep conservatives busy, and liberals at bay. And the nation free.” We need more voices echoing that astringent admonition. I observe sadly that there seem to be fewer and fewer such voices in the cultural landscape these days. 

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