Politics & Policy

NRO Provided Me a Free Education, but It Didn’t Come Cheap

I wasn’t always a conservative — at least not in the way I am now. Growing up in England to parents who liked to talk about how life had been before Mrs. Thatcher, I inherited some instinct toward free markets and individual rights. But I didn’t really know why, and in practice I didn’t apply this thinking to anything important. As far as I was concerned, a large government was necessary and normal; national social programs were rational, the preferences of local communities be damned; speech and self-defense and due-process rights needed abridging for the collective good; and democracy, not liberty, was the highest achievement of mankind. In part because of 9/11 and in part because I went to university and discovered John Locke and Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry, these politics began to change when I reached my late teenage years, and, bored by the tepid social democratic offerings that were all around me at Oxford, I started to look for something else.

And that’s when I discovered National Review.

Here, online and available for free, was a repository of fresh, and often brave, thinking — thinking that has been mostly lost where I am from. The United States is now the sole repository of the classically liberal values that originated and were refined in Britain and Holland, and National Review exists primarily to defend them. At home, my friends rarely asked big questions or reasoned from first principles. “Is this the role of government?” is not an inquiry, let’s say, that you will hear on the BBC. Nor, for that matter, is “what does history teach us here?” With style, wit, and erudition, NR takes on issues that are both timeless and fleeting, and it argues them with vim. I was thrilled by my discovery.

The United States is now the sole repository of the classically liberal values that originated and were refined in Britain and Holland, and National Review exists primarily to defend them.

Reading the site was a guilty pleasure at first, but before long it became my homepage and my morning routine. As I saw it at the time, NRO was effectively a daily magazine, with an up-to-the-minute ticker-tape analysis service (The Corner) running alongside the traditional articles. I read them all, never paying a dime for the privilege. Were the knowledge I have gained to have been delivered by a university, goodness knows what a hefty bill I would have run up.

That bill, however, has been paid by someone else: you. From afar, I didn’t really understand how NR functioned. I didn’t know that not everybody who writes on the site works daily in the same office, which led to my imagining rows upon rows of desks filled with bickering luminaries — Thomas Sowell next to Rich Lowry; Victor Davis Hanson next to Kevin Williamson; Ramesh Ponnuru next to Jonah Goldberg; and so on. I also didn’t know that NR has never in its history turned a profit, and that it relies therefore upon the support and generosity of those who benefit from its continuing existence and who believe in its vital mission. That “Three Martini Lunch”? It’s a tuna sandwich.

We couldn’t do what we do without you, and what we do matters a great deal. All across the country there are people like me who, unless they had been shown a better way, would have continued plodding along under a cloud of anemic incomprehension. To reach them we need help. For your generosity we are eternally grateful.

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