WFB: God, Man, and Liberty
No short obituary can do justice to the role Buckley played in both the conservative and libertarian movements—two movements he tried to “fuse” together. Some libertarians loathe the man, although it’s hard to personally dislike someone who by all accounts was a witty, cosmopolitan, generous-hearted individual. The loathing comes from ideological positions that clash with “pure” libertarianism. I differed with some of Buckley’s positions but who else could get a national airing of major issues of his day: taking the anticolonial position against Reagan on the Panama Canal Treaty, moderating a roundtable on the need to decriminalize drugs, and much more.
Unlike Ayn Rand, who created a following of True Believers, Buckley’s “followers” were a diverse lot. And he influenced many dewy-eyed socialists—myself included—by challenging our cherished beliefs with wit and verve.
Buckley exposed many—even liberals—to libertarian and conservative ideas. He also challenged the notion that to be a libertarian, one must be opposed to God (as if God would take notice of our opposition!). Indeed, as I have grown older and researched the history of liberty, one wonders at the great role the Christian faith has played in so many libertarian movements. That is one of the themes of my forthcoming Race and Liberty: The Classical Liberal Tradition of Civil Rights (Independent Institute).
And, boy, could he write!
Rest with your Heavenly Father, WFB.