Available Now! (click cover)

America's Counter-Revolution
The Constitution Revisited

From the back cover:

This book challenges the assumption that the Constitution was a landmark in the struggle for liberty. Instead, Sheldon Richman argues, it was the product of a counter-revolution, a setback for the radicalism represented by America’s break with the British empire. Drawing on careful, credible historical scholarship and contemporary political analysis, Richman suggests that this counter-revolution was the work of conservatives who sought a nation of “power, consequence, and grandeur.” America’s Counter-Revolution makes a persuasive case that the Constitution was a victory not for liberty but for the agendas and interests of a militaristic, aristocratic, privilege-seeking ruling class.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

William F. Buckley Jr., RIP

William F. Buckley Jr. died yesterday. Looking over his rich biography, I can't help but take away the impression that one of his goals in life was to make the pro-liberty, anti-state movement safe -- unthreatening to the establishment. This partly explains his early efforts to "purge" Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard from the ranks of "respectable" champions of freedom. He was particularly hard on anti-militarists (Rothbard and John T. Flynn), although anti-militarism and anti-imperialism are integral to the historical movement for individual liberty.

I realize he expressed admiration for the work of Mises and Hayek, but even if Buckley had gotten everything he wanted politically (perhaps with the exception of drug decriminalization), the status -- statist-- quo would have been left fundamentally intact. He was distinctly unradical, despite the fact that individual liberty has always been and remains a radical idea. While he occasionally and inexplicably embraced the word "libertarian," he advocated totalitarian U.S. government during the Cold War, a showdown with the Soviet Union (which his own early mentor, Frank Chodorov, said would extinguish liberty), and compulsory national service, among other anti-libertarian positions. On top of all this, his pretentious elitist manner, which attracted so many young conservatives, was unbearable.

The primary consequence of his long career (which included a stint in the CIA) was to seduce budding radical libertarians into an insipid "hip" conservatism that functioned largely as a defender of big business and the intrusive national-security state. We are eternally grateful.


Anonymous said...


I am going by memory here, but didn't Buckley or at least his magazine advocate "A Federal Drugstore". I assume that is what you mean by drug decriminalization. You would agree that he did not favor a free market as Szasz does.

Mupetblast said...

Hip Conservatism? No such thing. Ah wait, perhaps those retired CIA operatives in their hawaiian shirts downing beers in Baja is what that's all about. Blah.

Andrew said...

Re your first paragraph, one of the recent sympathetic books about Buckley and "National Review" (I think it was Jeff Hart's) made the point that Buckley never saw himself as anti-Establishment at all. He wanted to move the Establishment rightward, and more or less explicitly desired NR to be the voice of that Establishment.

Sheldon Richman said...

Anon, I've seen quotations that indicate Buckley wanted a free market in "most" drugs for adults. I hope someone will correct me if I am wrong.

Andrew, I am not surprised. Thanks. He was essentially an apologist for what it is, wishing only to tinker at the margins to keep things from veering to the "left."

Jimi G said...

Buckley was in the CIA? That explains it. Buckley was a black op.