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Creating Conservatism Inc., Continued

James Buckley (right) with brother William F. Buckley in New York City on election night, November 3, 1970.
National Review Institute helps preserve Bill Buckley’s legacy and sustain the movement he created.

This article is the second of a two-part piece by John O’Sullivan

When Bill Buckley founded National Review, the original Conservatism Inc., he created not just a new publication but an entire movement that has been, and is still very much today, a force for good. Bill always intended NR to be a cause bigger than himself, much more than a mere fortnightly.

Thirty-six years after NR’s founding, National Review Institute was created to support the NR mission and nurture the movement WFB founded. As Rich Lowry has noted, NR and NRI together comprise a “mutual enterprise devoted to what makes this country great and what will keep it great.”

The NR writers are at the core of this enterprise. The long list of conservative luminaries that have graced the pages of National Review is a glittering parade of the skills of thinking, writing, and amusing. And today, many of NR’s top writers are NRI fellows supported by the Institute. Yet, as I mentioned in the first part of my piece yesterday, it arouses only the scorn of people who see it as a kind of defeated circus that exists for its own sake and without notable good effect. If I may sum up the complaints about Conservatism Inc., they go as follows:

You said that you would stand athwart History yelling Stop. But History hasn’t stopped. In fact it’s getting worse. Resign.

Well, no, history hasn’t stopped. And you don’t have to scan the fine print to see that we never promised that it would. After all, if history were to stop, we would presumably all stop with it. A nuclear bomb might be able to stop history. We want a better outcome than that. No, we promised to stand athwart history yelling stop because it was going in a direction we didn’t like and we could see a terrible smash-up coming.

So we tried to divert history in a different direction. Did we succeed in that? Not everything has gone well. It never does. Still, consider this: Twenty-five years after we started yelling, Ronald Reagan was elected. Three years after that the American economy began an upward curve that continued for almost three decades of prosperity. Six years after that the Berlin Wall came down and Communism collapsed. And in the remaining years the world economy expanded and put billions (not a typo, billions) of poor people on the path to prosperity.

That seems to me a fulfillment of that early promise.

But history, having been diverted in a better direction, has indeed carried on and got distinctly worse on some issues. That is the nature of history. But we still need to shout a warning Stop! when we see things going wrong and believe we know how to put them right. Here are a few at random: the rise of China and the need to rethink U.S. foreign policy; the continuing scandal of America’s unlimited abortion right; the Democrats’ push for open borders and their hostility to the nation-state; America’s artificial but long-running constitutional crisis; the unraveling of religion and in particular Christianity; the spreading sickness of cultural self-hatred that afflicts the richest and freest nation in the world and the wider Western civilization of which we are a part; and, strangest of all, the heedless rush to allow gender-confused children to undergo sex-change medical procedures when they are too young to understand their permanent life-changing consequences in deference to a theory of gender that denies the facts of biology and the understanding, of sexual complementary of Man and Woman, that has marked all civilizations since Genesis.

Each one of these crises is currently being analyzed with skill, sensitivity, and knowledge by someone working with or helped by National Review Institute. The NRI Thomas L. Rhodes Journalism fellow, Theodore “Teddy” Kupfer, is covering the new world of U.S. foreign policy under President Trump that faces a rising China and a resurgent Russia — he recently wrote a well-researched profile of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, having accompanied him on a bout of shuttle diplomacy. NRI fellow Ramesh Ponnuru keeps a constant and shrewd watch on how the media shape public-opinion findings as between pro-life and pro-choice policies and coolly dissects their distortions. NRI fellow Andrew McCarthy, with his rare expertise as a federal prosecutor, has been the nation’s most reliable commentator on the legal and political maneuvers of the Democrats and the media to oust Trump from the White House by any means discreditable. NRI fellow Kathryn Lopez keeps us aware of ultimate ends for which humans are created and destined in her regular reporting on Christian lives. NRI fellow Victor Davis Hanson digs deep into the history of our civilization since the Greeks to demonstrate that the free peoples of the West have time and again defeated apparently stronger external enemies once they have defeated their own internal neuroses. And NRI Buckley Journalism fellow Madeleine Kearns has written — in her “Tragedy of the ‘Trans’ Child” — a superb investigative article on how children and/or their parents across America are being encouraged to undergo unalterable sex-change surgery and drug programs on the basis of extremely dubious research evidence pushed aggressively by advocacy groups but increasingly questioned here and abroad by doctors and psychologists who see it as another kind of child sex abuse that in time will generate personal tragedies and medical-malpractice lawsuits.

These immensely gifted writers, all NRI fellows, carry on Bill’s legacy, and advance conservatism, thanks to the support of National Review Institute and the Institute’s generous donors. You too can contribute to their work — and play an important role in the story of Conservatism Inc. — with a tax-deductible gift to NRI’s End-of-Year Fund Appeal.

Bill set up NRI in to continue the work he had begun at NR, at Firing Line, and in his columns and books. He couldn’t foresee the current problems and evils listed above, let alone the revival of those of his own day such as Communism. But he knew that fighting them would require able and good people to work together on lines he had laid down. That’s what NRI does across an even wider range than Bill did in his day. And it’s why you should support it.

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