Thursday, February 28, 2008

For Some it Begins With Williams F. Buckley, Jr.

There are a pair of satirical memoirs of the libertarian movement by Jerome Tuccille, It Usually Begins with Ayn Rand and It Still Begins with Ayn Rand. For me, at least, it began with William F. Buckley, Jr. Buckley was, of course, considered conservative, not libertarian, but it was a distinction without a difference as could be seen, for example, in his 1995 statement to the New York Bar Association on the «War on Drugs»:

I have not spoken of the cost to our society of the astonishing legal weapons available ow to policemen and prosecutors; of the penalty of forfeiture of one's home and property for violation of laws which, though designed to advance the war against drugs, could legally be used -- I am told by learned counsel -- as penalties for the neglect of one's pets. I leave it at this, that it is outrageous to live in a society whose laws tolerate sending young people to life in prison because they grew, or distributed, a dozen ounces of marijuana. I would hope that the good offices of your vital profession would mobilize at least to protest such excesses of wartime zeal, the legal equivalent of a My Lai massacre. And perhaps proceed to recommend the legalization of the sale of most drugs, except to minors.

Perhaps the greatest way Buckley's loss will be felt is in not having someone to make such an eloquent, conservative case against the excesses of wartime zeal in the current War on an Abstraction.

My Comment: The above is from fellow blogger "Tom Rants" and expresses my sentiment also. While Buckley is often portrayed, by those who are only casually acquainted with his body of work, as a stanch anti-communist, committed Catholic, and a traditionalist, Buckley's political philosophy also was generously sprinkled with libertarianism. He occasionally annoyed the more traditionalist wing of the movement by his more libertarian positions. In the 60's when the generation gap was at its peak and many conservatives were spending time fighting long hair and marijuana use rather than the ideas of the left, the mischievous Buckley admitted that he had smoked marijuana. He said he sailed out beyond the three mile territorial waters of the US to do so however, in order avoid violation of American law. Buckley could make light of marijuana use and advocate decriminalization of marijuana and still hold the various strains of the movement together. Buckley was able to hold the economic free-marketeers, religious and cultural traditionalist, and libertarians in a coalitions and make the movement a coherent whole. He defined was was modern conservatism.

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