Saturday, March 1, 2008

Hitchens on Buckley

Christopher Hitchens, my favorite writer on matters political, wrote a great obituary piece on the late William F. Buckley, "A Man of Incessant Labor," where he illustrated his observance and experiences of the man. The article is included in the current issue of the Weekly Standard, which has a section dedicated to the life of Mr. Buckley. Here's a taste:

Some years ago, Peter Robinson invited us both to be guests on his show Uncommon Knowledge, which had been tipped as a sort of successor to Firing Line. The subject was a retrospective of "The Sixties," and the question to each of us was: What did we most regret about the positions we had held then? I won't bore you with my answers. Buckley said that he now wished that the United States had never become involved in Vietnam to begin with, and added that he would still oppose the passage of the Civil Rights Act but not in the same terms or for the same reasons as he had then. (His updated view was that the legislation had caused more trouble than it was worth--"like the Civil War.")

At the time I was a little stunned by both admissions, but I can also see how they make sincere self-critical sense. Vietnam was too much of that "big government" that he had reluctantly accepted, and state-enforced civil rights took too little account of the libertarian principles that were dear to him. In a sort of coda to the sixties, it was National Review that published the first major symposium calling for the decriminalization of at least the "softer" narcotics.

No comments: