Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

WFB, RIP, second version

I never had the fortune of meeting William F. Buckley, or hearing him in person, but I find myself envying those who did. You can read plenty of reminiscences and appreciations over at The Corner, which will, I’m sure, be draped in black for the foreseeable future (as well it should be).

Lots of people will be using this occasion to take stock of the state of American conservatism, which wouldn’t have been widely acknowledged as a three-legged stool without Buckley’s efforts. Whether it will continue to be so understood is, I think, an open question. For the moment I can’t ask you to do anything more than to read Patrick Deneen’s reflections as a point of departure. I don’t agree with everything he says, or at least with the way he says it, but he seems to me to frame some of the issues quite well.

Discussions - 3 Comments

I wonder if our "creeping and creepy libertarianism" is itself a vindication of Tocqueville, contra Prof. Lawler? Tocqueville famously worried about the softly despotic state, but he also worried (in ways similar to Mill) about the despotism of public opinion, where democratic man, anxious about his understanding of the world, throws himself in with whatever the majority seems to think. One could read all of Alan Wolfe's work, for example, as a kind of encomium to precisely that tendency - which is also, perhaps, why the Reagan (or should we call it the Buckley) coalition seems frayed: it depends above all on individuals and families who are capable and willing to care for themselves and others without recourse to state resources. Once we all become weak-kneed libertarians (as opposed to the strong-willed Randians) we may not be coerced by a despotic state, but we come to depend on it nonetheless, since we ask it to fund the responsibilities we have decided to eschew. It is only when we are willing and able to take responsibility that limited government and social conservatism/traditionalism seem like allies.

Is that our choice set? Weak kneed libertarians or strong-willed Randians???

(Laughing) Yes, not happy alternatives.

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