Culture

National Review at 60: Onward

William F. Buckley Jr. in the magazine’s early years

Sixty years ago, WFB said of this brand-new journal that it “stands athwart history, yelling Stop” — in the spirit not of a bearded zealot carrying a hand-lettered sign, but of serious advocates who had better ideas and practical suggestions for achieving them.

How much has been achieved. The Republican party, the all-too-human vessel of most conservative politicking, is more conservative than at any time since the 1920s, possibly more intelligent than at any time since the Civil War, and, in terms of offices held, in Congress and state capitals, impressively successful. In the world of high-end deep thinking, the managed economy envisaged by John Maynard Keynes is no longer the universally accepted ideal, and socialism is not the Great Good Place where economists keep their consciences. Careful reasoning and painful experience have taught useful lessons. Most important, the Soviet Union and its Eastern European empire — what NR called back in 1955 “the century’s most blatant force of satanic utopianism” — is a memory, having ended even before the century did. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Lech Walesa, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin and John Paul II all played major roles in this astonishing denouement. We played our own role, smaller but vital.

At 60, people start thinking of early retirement. NR does not have that luxury. Old challenges remain or have mutated, while new ones arise.

Because error is evergreen, the economics of Santa Claus still wins votes. As we go to press, one candidate in the Democratic presidential race calls himself a socialist while another smiles and calls herself progressive. Conservatives meanwhile must consider how a free society can find productive work for the mass of men and women who are not and never will be tech-savvy. Too many in the business community would say: Import foreign workers, who will labor for even less. But that is not an option for a republican citizenry.

There may be more freedom and variety at the heights of certain academic disciplines, but the mass of the teaching profession, from college on down, is in bondage to a crazed ethic of sexual and racial favoritism. It uses the language of equality but seeks to create a patchwork of fiefdoms, like Bantustans in apartheid-era South Africa. Student debt may bring colleges down, but will the survivors in the rubble know better?

The election of a black president has done nothing for racial healing. The more Americans talk about race, the less they say. Even as the black population shrinks relative to the whole, it remains the political property of turf-protectors and hustlers, while conservatives have hardly tried appealing to it (and what benefit, in the short run, is there?).

#share#Playboy magazine, two years our senior, announced that it will no longer run pictures of naked women. That is because doing so is now superfluous, the sexual revolution having become an empire, omnipresent and unshakeable. Neither culture nor law any longer respects the ideal that children deserve a father and a mother, and the Supreme Court has read the new dispensation into the Constitution. Fifty-six million human beings have been consumed by the abortion Moloch. After a generation of legalized abortion, polls show sentiment turning against it, even among the young. Will it take another generation before we stop bleeding lives, and humanity?

Every other week in print, and daily online, National Review will try to sort it all out — and to have a good laugh, and to honor beauty and poetry when we find them.

Although the world is free of an international Communist movement, China (still Communist) and Russia (now Putinist) behave like amoral great powers. More dangerous, because unconstrained by ordinary calculations of survival, is Islamist terror. The Soviet Union never killed 3,000 Americans in one morning. A nuclear-armed Iran or a nuclear-armed ISIS may do it again, or worse. To meet both challenges, the United States needs a large, resilient military and a foreign-policy establishment that knows who our enemies are.

We live in an age of faith. The Catholic Church has been energized by recent popes, and the worldwide Evangelical revival continues. (Mainline Protestant churches and Eastern Orthodoxy are less healthy, afflicted by liberalism and caesaro-papism respectively.) Islam too partakes of the revival, in noxious forms, leaving a trail of corpses — most of them Christian — at its periphery, and — when Sunnis battle Shiites — within. Sectors of the Western world meanwhile give themselves to pseudo-religions — Earth worship and, among a handful of contrarians, the new atheism. Religious conflict is generally deadly, always confusing.

So every other week in print, and daily online, National Review will try to sort it all out — and to have a good laugh, and to honor beauty and poetry when we find them. Why not be in good spirits, when we enjoy the support of our readers, the freedom in America to do what we do, and the grace of God for both?

— This article originally appeared in the November 19, 2015, issue of NR.

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The Editors comprise the senior editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

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