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.