23 Apr In Memory of William Buckley (and the triumvirate that shaped me)|
Though business travels, tax season, and routine family commitments have delayed this article from being drafted, I really wish I had completed this just after the death of William Buckley. I fear that the delay in getting this out will dilute the message I am trying to communicate herein, and to me, it is a crucial message. On February 27, God took William F. Buckley Jr. home. As I commented to my wife that night, the last several years have brought about the passing of Ronald Reagan, Milton Friedman, and now, Bill Buckley. With the passing of Buckley, the triumvirate that these three men represent is no more. The world is a worse place for it.
I have written in the past what Ronald Reagan meant to me as a young person. Though not an intellectual per se, we certainly see in the publications that have come about since his passing what a true ideologue Reagan was. Unlike our current President, the man governed with a clear, distinct, and forceful philosophy in place. And while President Bush may have such in the world of foreign policy (one I largely agree with, for that matter), he has been the most non-philosophical President in recent memory in the world of domestic and economic policy. Ronald Reagan believed in the principles that Milton Friedman argued for throughout his entire illustrious career. Friedman started with the sociological reality that countries which have embraced political freedom end up receiving economic prosperity – time and time again. From there, Friedman developed a comprehensive economic worldview that was firmly rooted in principled philosophy. Friedman and Reagan believed that the individual was unique, was powerful, was capable, and left to his own devices apart from the intervention of burdensome government bureaucracy, was a force to be reckoned with. Friedman knew monetary policy better than anyone whom has ever lived (I include in this contrast both the fallacy-ridden Keynesian school, and the mystifying Austrian school). He taught with a clarity and persuasiveness that is practically non-existent in contemporary dialogue. Ronald Reagan adopted much of the great Friedman’s ideology, and surrounded himself with a Friedman-soaked economic team. The result was the greatest economic boom and prosperity the world has ever seen. As Larry Kudlow refers to it, it truly is “the greatest story never told.” I have absolutely no doubt that the vast majority of economic privilege we enjoy today has come about as a result of the philosophy of Milton Friedman and the governance of Ronald Reagan. They not only shaped my thinking as a very young conservative, but they changed the world. I can not imagine my life without Friedman or Reagan. Neither can Western Civilization …
So with words so flowery for the first two members of this triumvirate, you may wonder what I could possibly have to add about William F. Buckley Jr. As a matter of fact, it is my contention that even more than my aforementioned heroes, Buckley deserves the lion’s share of praise for what has become the conservative revolution of the last fifty years. Reagan applied much of Buckley’s philosophy and Friedman’s economics to his day-to-day governance of the country. The result was the victorious end of the cold war, and the reduction of marginal income tax rates that spurred an economic boom. Friedman taught a generation of economists, teachers, investment bankers, and policy hounds, that laissez-faire economics works, and that the Libertarian approach to domestic policy warranted substantial consideration. These are huge accomplishments. However, I propose to you today that, were it not for the ideological influence of Bill Buckley, the popularizing efforts of National Review, the ethically-driven foundation that created all Buckley ever did, neither Friedman or Reagan would have ever had their day in the sun. Indeed, there is no Milton Friedman without Bill Buckley. And there certainly was no Ronald Reagan without Buckley.
I first read Mr. Buckley at the age of 9, when a glorious senior citizen in my church, Dorothy Curll, shared National Review with me for the first time. I would rather have missed toys in childhood than this periodical – this life-changing bastion of freedom, hope, ethics, and anti-Communism. When I was 9 years old, Communism was not dead. In fact, many in our own country were perfectly willing to co-exist with Communism in perpetuity. Buckley worked from 1955 through 1989 to see that wall fall, and it happened, and his ideological crusade is why. Reagan said as much, and only an historical illiterate would deny what Buckley contributed to this effort.
But here is the thing: many men fought Communism, and many men played a role in what we now call the “Reagan Revolution”. Though I am a Protestant through and through, it is the devout Catholicism of Bill Buckley that I most respect. His foundation of faith, of obedience, of family, of law, and of duty, is so intertwined in his religion and his career that it is incredible. This man, a powerful pen if there ever was one, never compromised the fact that a Trinitarian faith guided his socio-political worldview. There is a 0% chance, I fear, that one of his acumen will surface in the near future. Fortunately, he has offspring. Dinesh D’Souza, Rich Lowry, Larry Kudlow, Victor Davis Hansen, and many others – they all come from the ideological bosom of William Buckley. Those names alone are enough to change the world.
I am not 9 years of age any more, but I still feel a zeal and passion for impacting the world. My formative triumvirate (Buckley, Friedman, and Reagan) are all gone. But the ideas they believed in are hardly gone. I pray that Mitchell and Sadie will grow up in his rich foundation. May I maintain the zeal of Buckley, pursue the intellect he possessed, and most importantly, never forget that faith and culture and politics are not just mutually allowable items; they are requirements. Mr. Buckley, I will never forget what you have contributed to the cause I believe in. God Bless America. And say hello to my dad, please.