Up from liberalism

In some ways William Buckley’s Up From Liberalism (1959) is a dated book, but Richard Brookhiser quotes the book’s timely penultimate paragraph:

I will not willingly cede more power to anyone, not to the state, not to General Motors, not to the CIO. I will hoard my power like a miser, resisting every effort to drain it away from me. I will then use my power, as I see fit. I mean to live my life an obedient man, but obedient to God, subservient to the wisdom of my ancestors; never to the authority of political truths arrived at yestereday at the voting booth.

Brookhiser adds: “All we would have to change is that General Motors is the state.”
In the concluding section of the book, Buckley makes other still timely observations, such as this one:

The tendencies of liberalism are every day more visibly coercive, as the social planners seek more and more brazenly to impose their preferences upon us. Here, I believe, is a practical distinction at which conservatives should hammer hard–the distinction between the kind of welfarism that turns dollars over to people, and that which turns services over to them. The former kind is embodied in legislation such as social security, unemployment compensation and old age assistance. The latter in federal aid to education, to housing, to rural electrification, small business,etc.; and the proposed “insurance” programs, e.g., health, accident, etc.

Why the distinction? Among other points, Buckley notes that in making money grants “the government is prevented from taking active control of industries or social services, or from having the deciding hand in the creation or development of social institutions.”
“I judge this to be significant,” Buckley adds, “because as long as one is free to spend the money with reference to one’s desires, the government’s control is at least once removed.”
Not done yet, Buckley arrives at the lesson for today: “And then at the tactical level, the longer one can hold off or slow down such grandiose ambitions of the welfarists as free health services…the more difficult it will be for the government to establish such enterprises.”


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