The Week

Ten Years Gone

William F. Buckley Jr.

Many times in the past ten years we have had occasion to wonder what William F. Buckley Jr. would have made of the latest development: of the ubiquity of smartphones, or the North Korean challenge, or the election of President Trump. We have to make our way forward knowing only the principles and dispositions he would have brought to bear on the questions.

What we can say is that the intellectual and political movement that Buckley midwifed continues as a live and embattled force. The current administration is deregulatory in economics and traditionalist in social policy: a combination that is not inevitable, and descends directly from the coalition-building in which Buckley engaged from the 1950s onward. But while collectivist ideology has been defeated, the axioms of a free society are perhaps more poorly understood than ever. Government continues to grow and the West drifts farther away from its Christian roots.

Luckily Buckley imprinted on conservatism enough of his personality to protect it from triumphalism or despair. The lot of conservatives today is to appreciate what is good and lovely in our inheritance, to build on it, and to protect it from both external attack and internal decay. To the extent we can follow his example we will do it with wit, intelligence, and good cheer — and with gratitude for his enduring legacy.

— This editorial appeared in The Week section of the March 5, 2018, issue of National Review.

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