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William F. Buckley and American Conservatism:

William F. Buckley, who passed away today, was a major figure in the history of American conservatism. Buckley was not a great original thinker; but he was an outstanding and extraordinarily successful intellectual organizer.

Buckley's most important achievement was the role he played in making conservatism intellectually respectable again. When he founded the National Review in 1955, conservatism was almost completely marginalized in the intellectual and academic world. Buckley and the talented writers he gathered at the Review played a key role in changing that. He did so in three ways that today's conservatives and libertarians would do well to keep in mind.

First, he distanced intellectual conservatism from the conspiracy-mongering and anti-Semitism which had been an important element of the pre-Buckley American right. For example, Buckley played a crucial role in banishing the conspiracy-oriented John Birch Society from the mainstream conservative movement.

Second, Buckley tried very hard to create a genial and friendly image for conservatism as opposed to one that projected anger, intolerance, and rage. This posture was a natural extension of Buckley's friendly personality. But, more importantly, he understood that it would be impossible for conservatives to be taken seriously in the liberal-dominated intellectual world without it.

Third, like his longtime associate Frank Meyer, Buckley was a strong believer in "fusionism," the alliance between conservatives and libertarians. He himself was a fusionist in his own thinking, albeit in a less systematic way than Meyer. On some issues that divide libertarians and conservatives, Buckley actually leaned to the libertarian side - notably in his longtime advocacy of drug legalization. Although the conservative-libertarian alliance contained serious tensions, neither group would have been able to achieve as much without it. Today, both conservatives and especially libertarians are increasingly disillusioned with the fusionist project. It remains to be seen whether it can survive.

Unfortunately, Buckley's far-sighted rejection of conspiracy theory and anti-Semitism was for a long time not matched by similar enlightenment on racial issues. Not only did the early National Review claim that federal intervention to protect black civil rights violated constitutional federalism principles; it also contended that Jim Crow segregation was actually a good and justifiable policy (see, for example, this 1957 editorial defending southern states' denial of black voting rights). In fairness, several of the early National Review writers were opposed to segregation and favored efforts to change it (especially at the state level). But the magazine's editorial line - set by Buckley - was generally segregationist. Buckley and some of his NR associates were far from the only 1950s conservatives with a blind spot on black civil rights; but they were particularly important because of their status as founders of the modern conservative intellectual movement.

By the late 1960s, Buckley and NR stopped defending segregation and embraced official color-blindness. However, their failure to fully repudiate and apologize for their earlier stance made the later embrace of color-blindness seem strategic rather than principled and fed liberal suspicions that conservative color-blindess is just a pretext for promoting white privilege under another name. Eventually, Buckley did - to his credit - acknowledge that he had been wrong and that federal intervention to protect black rights against state governments had been necessary; but by that time it was very difficult to reverse the harm caused by his earlier stance. Although later generations of conservative intellectuals had no part in NR's early embrace of segregationism and many are probably unaware that it ever happened, the issue continues to stain conservatism's reputation in the intellectual world. By all accounts, Buckley was personally tolerant in his attitude toward racial minorities; but his public record on racial issues for a long time failed to reflect that.

Despite this serious blind spot, Buckley left American conservatism in far better shape than he found it. On balance, his shortcomings were definitely outweighed by his achievements.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. William F. Buckley and American Conservatism:
  2. William F. Buckley, Jr. (1925-2008):
Scott Scheule (mail) (www):
Ilya,

The main point of the linked piece on black voting rights is that voting should not be allowed when it leads to unenlightened outcomes. Many people can agree with that. I take it that what you find problematic is rather not that principle, but the empirical assumption it was based on, that blacks would vote in an unenlightended manner.

Not knowing much about the time period, I don't know if those fears were justified.

As to federal intervention protecting black civil rights interfering federalism, is that really a bad argument? The sources for the power would be either, I take it, the enforcement clause of the 14th or the Commerce Clause. Now, most libertarians and many conservatives, seem justifiably suspicious of such wide interpretations of Congress's Commerce Clause power—Professor Barnett comes to mind. And the 14th had been gutted in The Slaughterhouse Cases. So federal intervention would rest on Commerce Clause power—of which there is justifiable suspicion—or on 14th amendment power—which Supreme Court precedent stated was quite limited. NR's skepticism may have been justified.

Of course, I don't know the form their arguments took, so perhaps they got to a justifiable position by unjustifiable means. Perhaps you know.

Though I do admit, reading that piece gave me a bit of the heeby-jeebies. Still, some of it was strangely admirable:


The South confronts one grave moral challenge. It must not exploit the fact of Negro backwardness to preserve teh Negro as a servile class. It is tempting and convenient to block the progress of a minority whose services, as menials, are economically useful. Let the South never permit itself to do this. So long as it is merely asserting the right to impose superior mores for whatever period it takes to effect a genuine cultural equality between the races, and so long as it does so by humane and charitable means, the South is in step with civilization, as is the Congress that permits it to function.
2.27.2008 5:04pm
Ilya Somin:
The main point of the linked piece on black voting rights is that voting should not be allowed when it leads to unenlightened outcomes. Many people can agree with that. I take it that what you find problematic is rather not that principle, but the empirical assumption it was based on, that blacks would vote in an unenlightended manner.

It's not just a question of how enlightened black voters were. It's also (and far more importantly) a question of the fact that the denial of black voting rights enabled southern whites to ruthless oppress them in a wide range of ways.


As to federal intervention protecting black civil rights interfering federalism, is that really a bad argument? The sources for the power would be either, I take it, the enforcement clause of the 14th or the Commerce Clause. Now, most libertarians and many conservatives, seem justifiably suspicious of such wide interpretations of Congress's Commerce Clause power—Professor Barnett comes to mind. And the 14th had been gutted in The Slaughterhouse Cases. So federal intervention would rest on Commerce Clause power—of which there is justifiable suspicion—or on 14th amendment power—which Supreme Court precedent stated was quite limited. NR's skepticism may have been justified.

The federal intervention at issue in this 1957 piece was justified under the enforcment clause 15th Amendment, which clearly forbids discrimination in voter registration on the basis of race.

Other federal intervention against Jim Crow was justified under the Fourteenth Amendment's enforcement clause with respect to the Equal Protection Clause (which, unlike, the Privileges and Immunities Clause had never been gutted).

Finally, it's important to recognize that NR not only said that federalism concerns should block federal enforcement of black rights; it also argued that segregationist policies were actually justified - not just with respect to voting but also on a wide range of other issues.
2.27.2008 5:11pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Still, some of it was strangely admirable:

You find this "white man's burden" claptrap admirable? It is base racism and bigotry. That was the same tired old argument used over one hundred years earlier to justify slavery. If you find it admirable you must be quite the closet racist yourself.
2.27.2008 5:13pm
Anderson (mail):
The great majority of the Negroes of the South who do not vote do not care to vote, and would not know for what to vote if they could. Overwhelming numbers of White people in the South do not vote. Universal suffrage is not the beginning of wisdom or the beginning of freedom. Reasonable limitations upon the vote are not exclusively the recommendations of tyrants or oligarchists (was Jefferson either?). The problem in the South is not how to get the vote for the Negro, but how to equip the Negro--and a great many Whites--to cast an enlightened and responsible vote.

I wonder if this is what the NYT had in mind in its obit, where it said that Buckley argued that blacks and uneducated whites shouldn't vote? Pretty close.

Scott: Still, some of it was strangely admirable

If by "admirable" you mean "despicable b.s.," then yes, I agree. Nowhere in the South was segregation undertaken with an eye to the enlightenment of the black population, Buckley's colonialist fantasies notwithstanding.
2.27.2008 5:15pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Ilya:

You seem to be singling out Buckley among conservatives and right-wingers for not opposing racial segregation in the 1950s. Were there other significant leaders of the conservative movement at the time who were actively engaged in opposing racial segregation?

To be explicit, I think this issue is a major stain on the record of the U.S. conservative movement in general. Which is not to suggest that the liberal/left has no stains, but rather that this wasn't some deviation from a more enlightened conservatism on this issue by Buckley.
2.27.2008 5:23pm
Archon (mail):
Blacks get the right to vote, then vote as a block and elect fellow blacks, and in areas of heavy black populations, namely the cities, are now some of the worst places in the world to live.

Maybe NR was on to something back in the 50's.
2.27.2008 5:23pm
Scott Scheule (mail) (www):

It's not just a question of how enlightened black voters were. It's also (and far more importantly) a question of the fact that the denial of black voting rights enabled southern whites to ruthless oppress them in a wide range of ways.


I agree, but as I quoted, the NR piece you referenced specifically advocated against such ruthless oppression. Maybe that advocacy was dishonest (I don't know from the evidence) or maybe NR's sin was ignorance of either how widespread such ruthless oppression was (I don't know) and/or a miscalculation of the weight of such ruthless oppression vs. unenlightened voting (with NR thinking the latter outweighed the former, and you, apparently, thinking the former outweighed the latter--or perhaps not believing in the latter's existence at all).

Your opinion on the legal issues is correct. My apologies for overlooking the 15th Amendment justification and the Equal Protection Clause (there is a state action issue here, though, correct?). I'll take your word on NR's positions.
2.27.2008 5:24pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
What were Buckley's religious views? Does anyone know?

He always came across as subdued and intellectual, but he famously hosted a Firing Line on the subject of evolution and came down on the creationist side.
2.27.2008 5:25pm
Ilya Somin:
You seem to be singling out Buckley among conservatives and right-wingers for not opposing racial segregation in the 1950s. Were there other significant leaders of the conservative movement at the time who were actively engaged in opposing racial segregation?

I agree Buckley was not alone. Few conservatives were actively involved in the civil rights movement.

However, there is a difference between not being "actively engaged in opposing racial segregation" and openly supporting it - as Buckley and many others at NR did. By contrast, Frank Meyer and Barry Goldwater, for example, criticized segregation even though they also thought that federal intervention to prevent it at the state level was constitutionally forbidden in many situations.

Libertarians like Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand were highly critical of segregation at a time when Buckley and National Review were still supporting it.
2.27.2008 5:27pm
Thales (mail) (www):
Seeing Scott's comment, I think that perhaps we have not come as far as I thought, despite being perhaps about to make history (notwithstanding some standing athwart yelling "Stop!") by electing a black President. Jim Crow statutes were forbidden under any honest reading of the post-Civil War amendments and their attached enforcement power. Take them collectively if you like, but really no further authorization was necessary to gut that kind of legislation. The Buckleys and George Wallaces of the world were simply being dishonest bigots, even if some of them later reformed--can we admit that and move on?
2.27.2008 5:29pm
Scott Scheule (mail) (www):

You find this "white man's burden" claptrap admirable? It is base racism and bigotry. That was the same tired old argument used over one hundred years earlier to justify slavery. If you find it admirable you must be quite the closet racist yourself.


That's possible, though I've never had much reason to think so. I suppose, I judge that particular claptrap to be admirable compared to what I imagine is the contemporary background of far more virulent racism, racism that would deny both the potential of cultural equality between the races, or allow inhumane treatment of blacks.

I grant that may be setting the bar pretty low. And, for the record, I don't agree with any of the premises the view is based on.
2.27.2008 5:33pm
Anderson (mail):
What were Buckley's religious views?

Roman Catholic.
2.27.2008 5:34pm
Scott Scheule (mail) (www):
Thales,


Jim Crow statutes were forbidden under any honest reading of the post-Civil War amendments and their attached enforcement power. Take them collectively if you like, but really no further authorization was necessary to gut that kind of legislation.


I agree an honest reading would have preserved a large enforcement power under the 14th. However, the Supreme Court didn't read them honestly, and if that's the interpretation people were relying on, well, relying on Supreme Court precedent doesn't strike me terribly unjustified.


The Buckleys and George Wallaces of the world were simply being dishonest bigots


I don't know enough to say so. I do think that's a possibility.
2.27.2008 5:40pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Thanks for the response, Ilya. I still think that the general conservative response to racial segregation in the 1950s was poor. Whatever she thought, Rand was politically irrelevant. And even folks who found segregation personally distasteful but couldn't imagine that the federal government had the power to do anythig about certainly seem to have been on the wrong side of a vitally important historical change.

Archon:

Assuming you're not a troll, even accepting your gross generalizations as accurate factual premises, one could respond, "gee, it's a good thing no other ethnic group ever acted that way."
2.27.2008 5:44pm
Skyler (mail) (www):

. Buckley was not a great original thinker;


Hmm. A very dubious and disrespectful way to begin a eulogy. Geez, the guy just died today. Say nice things and be done with it. There's no need to hide whatever bigoted views he held (and which were never evident in my lifetime), but to start your second sentence thus is unnecessary. Maybe he isn't an "original thinker," whatever that means, but he was more than just someone who was not an "original thinker" and you really didn't need to start that way.

By the way, can you really come up with a useful definition of "original thinker?" I don't know of any thinking in politics that has really been "original" since Thucydides, and even he was just recording the ideas, not inventing them.
2.27.2008 5:46pm
Anderson (mail):
By the way, can you really come up with a useful definition of "original thinker?"

For that matter, if you're an "original thinker," can you really be a conservative?

(Cf. Bierce: "CONSERVATIVE, n. - One enamored of existing evils, in contrast to a liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.")
2.27.2008 5:54pm
Cornellian (mail):
Second, Buckley tried very hard to create a genial and friendly image from conservatism as opposed to one that projected anger, intolerance, and rage.

Reagan and Bush 1 did a pretty good job of this, but the history of the past decade or so suggests Buckley's efforts have had little long-term effect on this issue.
2.27.2008 6:04pm
Ilya Somin:
Hmm. A very dubious and disrespectful way to begin a eulogy. Geez, the guy just died today. Say nice things and be done with it. There's no need to hide whatever bigoted views he held (and which were never evident in my lifetime), but to start your second sentence thus is unnecessary.

I don't see how it is either dubious or disrespectful to say that someone was "not a great original thinker" - especially in the case of a person like Buckley who didn't claim to be original. The statement was simply put in to situate Buckley as an intellectual organizer, which was his main contribution.
2.27.2008 6:12pm
hattio1:
Prof Somin says;

Unfortunately, Buckley's far-sighted rejection of conspiracy theory and anti-Semitism was for a long time not matched by similar enlightenment on racial issues.


anti-Semitism is not a racial issue? Okay, I know I'm nit-picking, but it did strike me as funny.
2.27.2008 6:35pm
Ricardo (mail):
I agree, but as I quoted, the NR piece you referenced specifically advocated against such ruthless oppression. Maybe that advocacy was dishonest (I don't know from the evidence) or maybe NR's sin was ignorance of either how widespread such ruthless oppression was (I don't know) and/or a miscalculation of the weight of such ruthless oppression vs. unenlightened voting (with NR thinking the latter outweighed the former, and you, apparently, thinking the former outweighed the latter--or perhaps not believing in the latter's existence at all).

This is kind of like a communist criticizing the excesses of some communist governments but claiming that communism works when well-intentioned people head the government.

It is especially questionable for a conservative to be making this kind of argument considering that one of the starting points of Anglo-American conservatism is the notion that humans are inherently flawed creatures who need to live in a society governed by the rule of law. If you give one group of people power over another in a given society, what happens should not be a mystery to anyone at this point. No self-described conservative who claims to be shocked by how people treat each other in that society should be taken seriously.
2.27.2008 7:04pm
Boris A.Kupershmidt (mail):
There are many things to remember
Buckley by.
For me, it's the obituary he wrote
on the death of Murray Rothbard --
the most vile and venomous piece
of trash ever to grace the genre.
Ever since I thought of him as a phony
and a poseur.
2.27.2008 7:17pm
DDG:
What were Buckley's religious views?

Roman Catholic.

Very, very Catholic.
2.27.2008 7:21pm
Ilya Somin:
anti-Semitism is not a racial issue? Okay, I know I'm nit-picking, but it did strike me as funny.

Anti-Semitism is not a racial issue because Jews are not a separate race. There are black Ethiopian Jews, white Jews, Middle Eastern Jews who are racially similar to Arabs, and so on. Jews could be considered a separate ethnic or religious group. But not a racial one.
2.27.2008 7:23pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones."

Evidently some people regard WFB's 1950s writings on race as an indelible stain, the ultimate sin for which no forgiveness is possible. But let's remember that Abraham Lincoln said,

"I have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the black and white races." "I as well as Judge Douglas am in favor of the race to which I belong, having the superior position."
From page 32, Lincoln Speeches and Writings, by Abraham Lincoln, Don E. Fehrenbacher, ISBN 0940450631.

Then we have Woodrow Wilson who as President of Princeton University discouraged blacks from even applying for admission. When a delegation of blacks protested his discriminatory actions, Wilson told them that "segregation is not a humiliation but a benefit, and ought to be so regarded by you gentlemen." In 1914, he told the New York Times, "If the colored people made a mistake in voting for me, they ought to correct it."
2.27.2008 7:28pm
Ilya Somin:
Zarkov,

Wilson's record on segregation was indeed a serious stain on his legacy.

As for Lincoln, you have to remember the enormous difference in political context between the 1850s (when most blacks were enslaved and there was practical chance of full equality) and the 1950s, when full legal equality had finally become a live issue and Buckley and NR chose to oppose it. It's also worth noting that unlike Lincoln and Wilson, Buckley was not running for public office and therefore didn't have to cater to the racial prejudices of the white voters of the day.
2.27.2008 7:52pm
Archon (mail):
JosephSlater -

What city would you like to live in these days? Detroit, St. Louis, Los Angeles, Philadelphia? Sure you might be able to find one nice part in each of these cities (with Detroit I'm not so sure though), but by large these cities are cesspools of crime and poverty. They certainly weren't like that in the 1950's....

Yes, some cities are now actually livable. But, again, that is because they got so bad that a Republican finally got into office and fixed it up (just compare New York under Democrats in the 70's and 80's to under Republicans in the 90's.)

Think for a just one second Slater - why does the downfall of the American city have such a time relation to the civil rights movement?
2.27.2008 7:53pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"It's also worth noting that unlike Lincoln and Wilson, Buckley was not running for public office and therefore didn't have to cater to the racial prejudices of the white voters of the day."

That's one way of looking at it. But I think it's much worse for a president to take such positions because he sets an example and is supposed to represent all the people. On the other hand, Buckley was still basically a columnist and one who frequently played devil's advocate at that.
2.27.2008 8:06pm
Wugong:
just compare New York under Democrats in the 70's and 80's to under Republicans in the 90's.

As has been well-documented, the huge drop in crime in NYC began under Dinkins, a black democrat. The continued good fortune NYC enjoyed in the 90's was more a result of national economic trends (most major cities had similar drops in crime but without the police brutality and ridiculous over-enforcement that Rudy introduced) that took place under a democratic White House than of any particular republican or Caucasian attributes of Rudy.

Do you really think Detroit's woes are due primarily to the race of its elected officials?
2.27.2008 8:11pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"What city would you like to live in these days? Detroit, St. Louis, Los Angeles, Philadelphia?"

With the notable exception of Botswana, almost all black majority countries in sub-Saharan Africa are cesspools of corruption, crime, and poverty. With one or two exceptions the same can be said about black Caribbean countries. The crime level has risen dramatically for South Africa since black rule commenced.
2.27.2008 8:17pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"The continued good fortune NYC enjoyed in the 90's was more a result of national economic trends (most major cities had similar drops in crime but without the police brutality and ridiculous over-enforcement that Rudy introduced)"

The drop in crime was more pronounced in New York City than in most other big cities.

Here is a personal story. It's well known that for many decades the Mafia controlled commercial trash collection. Circa 1996 I rented a dumpster from a commercial trash collector to clean out an apartment. This owner really took his business seriously and we chatted for a while. He told me that the Mafia was now completely out of the commercial trash collection business because Giuliani simply enforced the laws already on the books.
2.27.2008 8:25pm
Arkady:

With the notable exception of Botswana, almost all black majority countries in sub-Saharan Africa are cesspools of corruption, crime, and poverty. With one or two exceptions the same can be said about black Caribbean countries. The crime level has risen dramatically for South Africa since black rule commenced.


And your point is?
2.27.2008 8:39pm
Archon (mail):
Do you really think Detroit's woes are due primarily to the race of its elected officials?

I'm going to put on my laywer hat here. Now if almost all city governments and inner city public schools are run by mostly black people and almost all cities and government schools are corrupt, poorly run, fail to meet even modest standards, and are fail to protect/educate its citizens; then it is a far cry to say there must be some relationship?
2.27.2008 9:00pm
Wugong:
Now if almost all city governments and inner city public schools are run by mostly black people and almost all cities and government schools are corrupt, poorly run, fail to meet even modest standards, and are fail to protect/educate its citizens; then it is a far cry to say there must be some relationship?

Well, come out and say what you think the relationship is. Do you think that blacks are somehow inherently more corrupt? Are they just dumb? Should we now trot out the innumerable examples of corruption, idiocy, etc. In places that are predominantly Caucasian? Been to Appalachia and snorted meth with some of the fine upstanding young men there? Are you going to tell me that the city governments, police departments, etc. in major US cities were not corrupt when they were dominated by the Irish or Italians? Or perhaps you don't think the governments of the USSR and its Eastern Europe satellites could have been corrupt as they were run but fine upstanding white folk. If this is really your "laywer (sic) hat" that you're putting on here, I'd hate to be your client.
2.27.2008 9:10pm
Archon (mail):
Wugong -

For someone that types that much, you still didn't answer my question.
2.27.2008 9:13pm
frankcross (mail):
The drop in crime was not more pronounced in NYC. Very similar in many big cities, I think LA and Houston had bigger crime reductions ratewise than NYC.

Zarkov, I'm curious about your point on Africa and the Caribbean. Is it a racist one or are you just pointing out a random coincidence?
2.27.2008 9:18pm
Archon (mail):
Why is it "racist" to point out that cities run by different races have divergent living situations?
2.27.2008 9:27pm
rfg:
Archon: Now if almost all city governments and inner city public schools are run by mostly black people and almost all cities and government schools are corrupt, poorly run, fail to meet even modest standards, and are fail to protect/educate its citizens; then it is a far cry to say there must be some relationship?

Yes, it is a far cry to say there must be a relationship. Correlation is not causation. I suspect that economic changes such as the loss of manufacturing jobs, the shrinking revenue base as wealthier residents left for the suburbs, etc. had a bigger impact.

I would find it difficult to believe that modern cities are any more corrupt than other cities in times past when whites held most political power (such as NYC in Tammany days for example).

Laying that aside, I always found Mr. Buckley's columns to be pleasant and interesting. I did not always agree, as a matter of fact I feel that he was quite wrong on a number of issues, but he was so articulate and persuasive that he was a joy to read.
2.27.2008 9:30pm
rfg:
Archon: Why is it "racist" to point out that cities run by different races have divergent living situations?

It isn't.

Racism is saying the divergent situations are caused by the different races running the cities.
2.27.2008 9:34pm
Archon (mail):
RFG -

What if one of the main factors behind divergent situations is race and it can be proven in a scholarly way. Why would you want to censor this type of debate by smacking a "racist" label on it and dismissing it?
2.27.2008 9:39pm
finec:

Archon:

It's pretty unlikely that it can be proven one way or another in a "scholarly way." Even if you could prove that a change in racial composition is causal for city outcomes (and I doubt that you understand the difficulty of doing this), it's not clear what this conclusion would mean. Is it because different races have different innate characteristics (your view, perhaps)? Or is it because other causal factors for which it is impossible to perfectly control happen to covary with race?

As with many questions we have no prospect of answering, questions of race and city outcomes (or race and intelligence, etc.) serve as a useful Rorschach test. Most people who respect the scientific method won't touch them with a ten-foot pole, except to debunk the obvious fallacies committed by the methodologically clueless and mostly racist commentators who insist on trying to answer them.
2.27.2008 10:04pm
ReaderY:
Some contributors to this blog are as confident that they know the difference between civilization and barbarism today as Buckley was in 1957, and as confident in their chosen means of preventing a barbarous majority from having a say in society as Buckley was. There is admittedly a difference between a court preventing a majority from having a say in their lives and their society and a mob, but when either one or the other acts based only own idea of what is "civilized" and not the law, the difference is diminished.

Libertarians who believe courts should enforce libertarianism because they are certain it is right and the law be damned, should remember how previous philosophies have been the subject of similar certitude. Free political speech and voting rights are specially protected because they are the means by which people can persuade each other that philosophies formerly held with certainty are wrong. Beyond that, courts have an obligation to uphold even laws they think barbarous enacted by people they think barbarous -- whether those perceived barbarians are "Negros" are anyone else -- if they are not inconsistent with the written Constitution.
2.27.2008 10:11pm
DangerMouse:
I would wager that most failing big cities run by black Americans are failing because those leaders in such cities are Democrats, and chase industry and businesses out of the cities with crippling regulation.

I'd imagine that the failing states of Africa are failing for the same reason, because they're quasi-socialists or don't respect private property.

It has nothing to do with race.
2.27.2008 10:11pm
karrde (mail) (www):
With respect to comments about Detroit (and its associated Metro regions)--
The city of Detroit proper has long had a growing ratio of Black-skinned people to White-skinned people.

Sometime in the late 1970's and early 1980's, a Black-skinned mayor took office with a promise to "drive whitey out" of the city.

Since that time, the population of Detroit fell from approximately 1.5 million to 980,000. For much of the time between then and now, Detroit had the dubious title of "Murder capital of the United States" (said position was taken by Washington, D.C. under Marion Barry, and was, if I remember right, claimed by L.A. during the year that Rodney King died...).

Public services in the city have suffered, businesses have departed, entire neighborhoods have gone empty, other neighborhoods have seen their standard of living decline towards poverty, and the school system has declined in quality of results (in tandem with education all across the United States...but that is another story).

It is unclear whether this was caused by politicians of Black skin color, politicians who were incapable of doing good for the city, politicians who valued their personal good above the good of the city, or citizens who tires of politicians of any of the above types. However, the kind of corruption, incapacity, and ideological error that are destroying the city of Detroit is a dominant pattern in the culture that exists among urban Blacks in America.

For clarity, I'll repeat: it is the political culture, not the skin color, that ruins such cities.

Detroit has at least one disadvantage with respect to Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York. It has been observed the cities in North America which were founded by French settlers have historically have greater corruption in city government than cities founded by English settlers. Detroit was established as the French-run Fort Ponchartrain du Detroit in 1701. (For the trivia hounds, what Michigan cities predate Detroit? Is there anything distinctive about the political culture of those cities?)

However, such observations lead me back to the concept of culture. The political culture in Detroit is now dominated by Black-skinned people, and the city itself is over 80% Black. The Black middle class has been migrating to the suburbs recently, following in the wake of the White middle class that had been migrating away for some time.

Of course, Detroit-area politics have long been heavily affected by the big business known as the United Auto Workers, and the companies who contract labor from the UAW (Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, and the former American Motors). The business health of those companies has a significant impact on the health of the city, and vice versa.

It's a tangled mess, and racially-demarked culture is only part of the puzzle.
2.27.2008 10:23pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"Zarkov, I'm curious about your point on Africa and the Caribbean. Is it a racist one or are you just pointing out a random coincidence?"

What do you think? Just a coincidence?
2.27.2008 10:42pm
RIP:
Many people once held views now thought to be wrong. When those people outlive the debate, it is now thought good form to tar and feather them with their position when they die. The tar is some outmoded view they once held, and the feathers are the little smug remarks lesser men make at about their now-deceased elders and betters. By pouring the tar of old error over the corpse of William F. Buckley, and covering him with self-congratulatory, patronizing feathers, the mediocre man makes the great man appear like so great a chicken. Which must make the first man feel tremendously better about his mediocrity.

Actually, it rather makes him feel better about his moral superiority--not because he possesses any actually virtuous quality, such as the courage to be wrong, but because of the happenstance of being born after the argument had been concluded. These are the same people who never let mention of Thomas Jefferson (or at least not invocation of Jefferson in support of a point they oppose) pass casually through a conversation without reminding us that Jefferson owned slaves. That's just tiresome. Worse, it insults the listener, who knows perfectly well that not every man's moral views are proved correct by history. Nevertheless we have something to learn from Jefferson; and taking the day of Buckley's death to dwell on his mistakes rather than his tremendous accomplishments seems to be me a symptom of some kind of character flaw. You know, to be frank about it.
2.27.2008 10:49pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
Amen, RIP.
2.27.2008 11:37pm
John Thompson (mail):
"The South confronts one grave moral challenge. It must not exploit the fact of Negro backwardness to preserve the Negro as a servile class. It is tempting and convenient to block the progress of a minority whose services, as menials, are economically useful. Let the South never permit itself to do this."

I agree absolutely that such a condescending attitude towards blacks is unacceptable and in fact is extremely destructive to all parties to such thinking. I write, however, to point out that such thinking still exists today and not where the race-warriors would suggest. Interesting when one considers that attempting to exploit alleged "inferiority" of blacks is precisely what liberals/dems have done via the Faustian bargain that has been struck between liberals/dems and so many black Americans over the last 40 years. Daddy government (no daddy at home) will confiscate the money earned by others to provide the essentials of life, and the new plantation dwellers will be excused from responsibility for their own lives' success/failure, encouraged to believe that attempting to become educated or better oneself through one's own efforts is "acting white", deluged with the debilitating mantra "whatever it is its not your fault its whitey's fault", virtually guaranteed admission to elite schools and promotion to partnerships etc. for simply showing up and doing "C" work, and generally treated like children incapable of participating in society as responsible adults, competing with everyone else, or obtaining or holding a job without special help from their beneficent betters. In essence the contractees have set up a new plantation where votes are sold rather than cotton produced, while dignity and hope are destroyed just as of old. George Washington Carver, Fredrick Douglas, Booker T. Washington and other great black figures of the later nineteenth and earlier twentieth centuries must be spinning in their graves. Sad. And spare me the knee-jerk "racist" remarks. They are a mark of puerility and intellectual vacuity and a non-sequitor to boot.
2.27.2008 11:56pm
MarkField (mail):

Many people once held views now thought to be wrong.


The flaw in this argument is that many people at that time (1957) thought those views were wrong. It's not like the right view was arcane or required intellectual brilliance to grasp.

And it isn't just "being wrong". There are degrees of error. We don't attach blame to those who were slow to accept Einstein. But just as it's fair to criticize, say, Heidigger for his Nazi ties, it's fair to criticize others for their racism.
2.27.2008 11:56pm
RIP:

Many people once held views now thought to be wrong.



The flaw in this argument is that many people at that time (1957) thought those views were wrong. It's not like the right view was arcane or required intellectual brilliance to grasp.

And it isn't just "being wrong". There are degrees of error. We don't attach blame to those who were slow to accept Einstein. But just as it's fair to criticize, say, Heidigger for his Nazi ties, it's fair to criticize others for their racism.



Mark: It's not that I don't agree with you on the merits, it's that I think it's tremendously petty and small to take the death of a man who transformed the political landscape of his nation over the course of nearly 60 years--a person generally regarded as thoughtful, brilliant, and kind--and emphasize the fact that some 51 years ago, he took a wrong moral stance that plenty of his contemporaries thought was right. It lacks all sense of proportion, and betrays a need to belittle that I find pretty distasteful and, as I have suggested, sniffingly superior.
2.28.2008 12:10am
Michael B (mail):
"He always came across as subdued and intellectual, but he famously hosted a Firing Line on the subject of evolution and came down on the creationist side." Chris Bell

Oh dear, the ideological fideist and fundamentalist registers his disapproval. The reality, the truth, is a bit different though. What Buckley "famously" did is reflected in this piece by W. F. Buckley, written exactly, or nearly so, a year ago, a piece recalling that very Firing Line episode. The following excerpt is revealing of his purpose, Buckley writing and my emphases:

"My own forensic involvement took place nine years ago as host of Firing Line. The two-hour, nationally televised debate on the topic "Resolved: that the evolutionists should acknowledge creation" featured seven professors. Four of them took the establishmentarian scientific position. It is, essentially, that not only is [philosophical] naturalism established as verified science, but any interposition into the picture—of inquisitiveness, let alone conviction that there might have been design in the evolution of our world—is excluded."

[...]

"In outlining epochal events in this quarrel, Johnson quoted the official directive on teaching evolution as it appeared in the 1995 position statement of the National Association of Biology Teachers. "The diversity of life on earth is the outcome of evolution: an unsupervised, impersonal, unpredictable, and natural process.""

[...]

"But the intelligent liberal community should not impose on anyone a requirement of believing that there is only the single, materialist word on the subject, and that only contempt is merited by those who consent to appear at think tanks composed of men and women prepared to explore ultimate questions, which certainly include the question, Did God have a hand in creating all of this?"

Then again your comment, Chris, is in fact more attuned to a certain ideological faith and philosophical dogma than anything very probative relative to that debate and episode. Iow, Buckley was more simply - and honestly - proposing that intellectual inquisitiveness, in philosophical and scientific areas, is - shockingly, to be sure - permissable. Indeed, Buckley appeared to be broadly accepting of evolutionary processes, to the extent the empirical evidence supported it at least. What he resisted was that very ideologically and philosophically invested dogma. That pretty much sums up what he "famously" did during that episode.

That's shocking, though, only for philosophical/ideological fideists and fundamentalists unwilling to countenance thought - the mind - applied to those more basic and larger issues; that's the particularly ripe, and telling irony here. But he was Catholic; another sin of his in the eyes of those ideological fundamentalists and fideists, no doubt. Tisk, tisk.

After all, it's not as if the difference between a methodological materialism vs. a physicalism or philosophical materialsim is somehow arcane or abstruse, certainly not at a broadly conceived level. Likewise, no matter how it's packaged, smarm is not smarts and philosophical dogmas are not substitutes for more genuine and more probative forms of intellectual inquiry.
2.28.2008 12:30am
Thomass (mail):
Better shape than he found it? Did it even exist before him? "Conservative" was simply a progressive / socialist slur before him. He created American Conservatism as a real philosophy… in part by incorporating libertarian and classical liberal ideas along with traditionalist. This tendency to deny this by 'libertarians' (which, along with 'conservative' is another left wing term distortion… which you ought to push back against) to press out a separate space is counter productive in my opinion. You ought to push the fact that US conservatism is based on a bedrock of your / classical liberal ideals...
2.28.2008 1:17am
Thomass (mail):
RIP:

"It lacks all sense of proportion, and betrays a need to belittle that I find pretty distasteful and, as I have suggested, sniffingly superior."

That and it's the man's death day...
2.28.2008 1:58am
David Friedman (mail) (www):
"Buckley actually leaned to the libertarian side - notably in his longtime advocacy of drug legalization."

Not all that longtime--the link is to a position that appeared in National Review only in 1996. When he was running for mayor of New York, Buckley argued for locking up heroin addicts on the theory that they should be treated as carriers of a contagious disease.
2.28.2008 2:50am
Ilya Somin:
Not all that longtime--the link is to a position that appeared in National Review only in 1996. When he was running for mayor of New York, Buckley argued for locking up heroin addicts on the theory that they should be treated as carriers of a contagious disease.

He took similar positions as far back as the 1970s. It is fair to observe that he said otherwise when he was running for mayor of NYC in 1965.
2.28.2008 3:29am
Ilya Somin:
I think it's tremendously petty and small to take the death of a man who transformed the political landscape of his nation over the course of nearly 60 years--a person generally regarded as thoughtful, brilliant, and kind--and emphasize the fact that some 51 years ago, he took a wrong moral stance that plenty of his contemporaries thought was right. It lacks all sense of proportion, and betrays a need to belittle that I find pretty distasteful and, as I have suggested, sniffingly superior.

I spent several paragraphs discussing WFB's achievements before even mentioning the racial issue. But his position on race was not merely a minor mistake he made 51 years ago. It was a huge one on the most important moral issue of the day and one that affected not just him but also the entire conservative movement he helped create. And NR's pro-segregationist position lasted well into the 1960s and was not just a matter of one or two editorials in 1957.
2.28.2008 3:32am
Ilya Somin:
Better shape than he found it? Did it even exist before him? "Conservative" was simply a progressive / socialist slur before him. He created American Conservatism as a real philosophy… in part by incorporating libertarian and classical liberal ideas along with traditionalist.

Buckley indeed made a major contribution. But he certainly did not create American conservatism. Writers like Russell Kirk, Weaver, Hayek, Nisbet, Milton Friedman, Any Rand, Albert Jay Nock had all already published major works outlining conservative and libertarian ideas well before Buckley founded NR in 1955. Buckley played an important role as an organizer and editor. But he certainly did not invent the core ideas of modern American conservatism.
2.28.2008 3:35am
Arkady:

"Zarkov, I'm curious about your point on Africa and the Caribbean. Is it a racist one or are you just pointing out a random coincidence?"

What do you think? Just a coincidence?


So, it's a racist one, right?
2.28.2008 3:57am
Public_Defender (mail):
Buckley (in the linked editorial), wrote:


the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced [r]ace. It is not easy, and it is unpleasant, to adduce statistics evidencing the median cultural superiority of White over Negro. . . .

How repulsive. This is a side of WFB that I did not know.

It also reinforces the fact of the racist roots of modern conservatism, including its hero, Ronald Reagan. Remember, Reagan heartily praised the early National Review. He also claimed that he started his career as a Democrat, but that the Democratic party left him. Hmmm.
2.28.2008 5:41am
not a racist really i'm not (mail):
It's interesting that this thread, devoted to the memory of William F. Buckley, devolves into a discussion of racial politics. (Of course, the original post bears the responsibility/blame for this.)

Is it possible to acknowledge the complexity of race in the South, and racial realities in the present, without being tagged a racist? Even using the term "racial realities" will get me tagged as a bigot.

Here's one for instance. I've always admired MLK Jr., in part because my father participated in the March on Washington. I grew up hearing great stories about his work and legacy. I still think he was a great man. But in Birmingham, he and the other civil rights leaders encouraged young black students to leave their schools and march into town, where they were met with fire hoses and dogs. When I learned this, my thought was, "Shouldn't the kids have been in school? If you're going to march, then march. If you're going to show courage, do so. But why take kids out of school, and put them in harms way?"

I wish MLK had told the black kids of that day, "Stay in school." Even more, I wish he had said, "Don't sleep around. Don't father kids you can't raise." Instead, he encourated them to march. Today there are lots of black people willing to march for their rights (and more power to them), but how many are willing to study hard, despite being accused of "acting white"? How many black parents are willing to spend hours with their children, helping them with their homework? That's not possible if you father a bunch of kids out of wedlock, and take no care of them. That's not racist, that's reality. And that can't be blamed on the white man.
2.28.2008 6:26am
A. Zarkov (mail):
So, it's a racist one, right?

Do you think coincidence and some invidious theory of race are the only possibilities? Can you compute the probability of coincidence? Hint: use the multinomial distribution.
2.28.2008 7:42am
Hoosier:
"Remember, Reagan heartily praised the early National Review."

Yeah, but be honest, Pulic: You don't believe he actually *read* it, do you? (I'm not entirely kidding, either.)

I'm not a Reagan fanatic. But no one has ever shown me evidence that he had any racist sentiments at any point in his career. Many people accused him, and many more *assumed* that he was a bigot. But where's the evidence?
2.28.2008 9:04am
Breier (mail):
From a NYT interview of Buckley biographer Sam Tanenhaus:

Q: Did he ever recant his opposition to the civil rights movement? —Chris
A: Yes, he did. He said it was a mistake for National Review not to have supported the civil rights legislation of 1964-65, and later supported a national holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whom he grew to admire a good deal, above all for combining spiritual and political values

Q: Did Buckley ever change his 1950's pro-Segregation stance? —Bill
A: See above. He did, strenuously. He debated George Wallace quite strenuously in the late 1960s. It may seem odd, but Buckley, whose parents were both Southerners, actually inherited views on race that were fairly progressive for his time and place.

link to article
2.28.2008 9:07am
Steve Burton (mail) (www):
By what standard was segregation etc. in the '50's and early '60's "the most important moral issue of the day?"

Personally, I would have thought the struggle against left totalitarianism was a much, much bigger deal.
2.28.2008 9:26am
Anderson (mail):
Brad DeLong, a persistent critic of Buckley's past racism, passes along this from Jeet Heer:

Despite this dismal stance, Buckley did in fact change and renounce racism by the mid-1960s, in part because his horror at the terrorist tactics used by white supremacists to fight the civil rights movement, in part because of the moral witness of friends like Garry Wills who confronted Buckley with the immorality of his politics.... There are a host of other issues on which Buckley moderated his politics. In the 1980s, he said that if he were a black South African he would probably support the ANC, a statement that shocked fellow conservatives. This independence of mind continued to the end of his life. Not too long ago, he admitted that the Iraq war was a ghastly mistake, again annoying his intellectual fellow travelers. He was learning until his last days....
2.28.2008 9:30am
occidental tourist (mail):
It's absurd to blame this thread for bringing up this serious question. No one debates Buckley's central importance to the creation and accomplishments of the modern conservative coalition. Unlike the New York Times, a certain respect for his accomplishments can be reasonably taken for granted here -- if subject to criticism.

That Buckley innately feared the threats to stable society of swift and unconditional political liberation for blacks does not seem surprising. In defending the status quo, he was an apologist or enabler for its illegitmate manifestations, even where he claimed to distance himself from such practice.It ought to haunt his legacy the same way that another generation of reverse discrimination should haunt Sandra Day O'Connor's.

Given his pivotal accomplishments in laying the intellectual and institutional foundation for the modern conservative coalition I can't see this as some kind of fatal flaw although I think the possibility that it has seriously hampered the movement he sought to nourish is quite worthy of discussion.

Is it possible that more subtle views of federalism as articulated by Goldwater, for instance, might have better forestalled the worst excesses of the 'great society' and built a stronger, wider conservative coalition had they not been saddled with the baggage of a more purely states rights view? Certainly, but this is akin to saying better shingles on the roof wouldn't have leaked after the strong foundations of the house prevented it from being swept away in the flood.

The separatist ideal itself demonstrated more than oppression and indeed continues to be embraced by some blacks, e.g. Reginald Jones, who point to historic success of black communities during the Jim Crow era that put the lie to the idea that black political fraternity was incapable of manifesting stable and successful society.

The reactions of both the left and the right have been to interfere. McWhorter I think details this well. The positivist goal of the 'great society', while arguably admirable in some rhetorical sense, was no less condescending in its manifestation nor devastating in actual result then enforced segregation. (I certainly recognize that some would fairly criticize the violent enforcement of white prerogatives in the Jim Crow south as distinguishing the two eras. Certainly in the sense of directed violence this is so, but speaking by qualitative analogy, the indiscriminate violence of the current urban environment is visited heavily on blacks. In the 'unintended consequences department, the violent effect is the same. And since these consequences have been known for some time, characterizing them as 'unintended' is getting a bit old. I would concur that this result should impeach the architects of both trends. Well, that has pretty well happened with regard to segregation and Jim Crow, but it hasn't sunk in with regard to institutionalized poverty and destruction of the nuclear family attending our 'great' society.)

Neither of these legacies truly conformed to our rule of law, the law had to made to bend to their design rather than the vice versa.

It is plausible to say that Buckley's intransigence at that time may have had the effect of pushing blacks into coalition with progressive collectivists. But I believe that black individuals have the same ability to overcome the messenger problem in finding intellectual concert in conservative and libertarian ideals. Certainly there is a strong social prohibition militating against this trend, but there are organic factors that support it. And given that social prohibitions have broken like dams in the past, I don't think that Buckley, on balance, has bequeathed us an untenable position.

Brian
2.28.2008 9:47am
JosephSlater (mail):
Archon: You are a racist. Not a term to be bandied about lightly, but it fits.

Detroit -- I grew up in Michigan, my wife is from Detroit, and I live near it now. The problems of Detroit come not from black leadership, but from economic woes stemming from the decline of the U.S. auto industry. One can debate why GM can't make cars that U.S. consumers want to buy, but whatever the answer to that is, it isn't "because of black mayors."
2.28.2008 10:25am
anon non-detroiter (mail):
But Joseph, there was a black mayor in Detroit who took pleasure in making comments snidely suggesting that white people should leave. A lot of jobs (having nothing to do with the auto industry) left with them.
2.28.2008 10:30am
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
Michael B: In that Firing Line episode, which is available online, Mr. Buckley did not hew quite so closely to these more nuanced views. As even the resolution suggests:

"Resolved: that the evolutionists should acknowledge creation"

Does acknowledge mean (1) admit is logically possible, or (2) recognize is true? In the piece you linked to, Mr. Buckley mainly pushed for #1. In the debate, you find both ideas strongly intertwined.

Reread the last paragraph of the linked piece. #1 or #2?

- - -
All of which is to say that #1 doesn't require 'embracing creationism', but #2 does - and Mr. Buckley (surprisingly?) did both. It's the difference between these two statements:

- Scientist have refused to look at certain information, and perhaps they would find interesting things if they did.

- Scientists have refused to look at certain information, so what they do look at is wrong and they are missing what I know is the right answer. (God!)
2.28.2008 10:38am
ellisz (mail):
I'm fairly conservative, but agree with those who find Buckley's 50s remarks hard to swallow, even allowing for the times. I guess I just can't see how anyone who is fair minded could quarrel with the notion that a person's race should be beside the point when it comes to his status as a citizen.

Buckely did some great things, and merits the praise he's getting. but he was way off on civil rights.

JSlater - Coleman Young didn't do much to help Detroit either. Not because he was black, but because he was a hack.
2.28.2008 10:39am
frankcross (mail):
Zarkov, you ducked the question. What's your explanation for the correlation? Any third variables you think should be considered?
2.28.2008 10:39am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
My God, there are some ugly racists on this thread who cling to discarded theories about white racial superiority and dismiss the complex and shameful history of racial strife and colonialism in the rush to blame all black people all over the world for their relative lack of advancemnt.

First of all lets not forget that it is white people that were responsible for most of the great genocides in history--and that in the twentieth century we outdid ourselves, launching the two most destructive wars in the history of mankind. As for Africa and the Caribbean, you might want to delve a little into the brutal and incredibly exploitive history of colonialism before you condemn the people of countries who have only been free for fifty years or less. Remember in this country and others dominated by people of European ancestry we were able to reduce the native populations to a position of irrelevance. Much of your disdain for the problems of black African nations would apply equally to South America, the Middle East (if they didn't have oil) and much of southeast asia.

As noted by others, our cities are certainly much less corrupt today than they were when they were run by Europeans. Just because there were major demographic shifts after WWII that impoverished many cities, it does not follow that it was because blacks ruined the cities. In many, if not most instances, the suburbanization of our country was driven by exploitation of racism and deliberate policies to encourage white populations to flee the more racially mixed cities (through "block busting", redlining and defacto segregation).

But of course it is much more comforting for you to spin your little racist fantasies of lazy, shiftless black folks taking advantage of affirmative action and automatic admission to Ivy League schools to destroy all incentive and drive.
2.28.2008 10:44am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
I'm not a Reagan fanatic. But no one has ever shown me evidence that he had any racist sentiments at any point in his career. Many people accused him, and many more *assumed* that he was a bigot. But where's the evidence?

Making up stories about welfare queens driving around in Caddilacs? Much like John Thompsons mythical modern "plantation dwellers who:


will be excused from responsibility for their own lives' success/failure, encouraged to believe that attempting to become educated or better oneself through one's own efforts is "acting white", deluged with the debilitating mantra "whatever it is its not your fault its whitey's fault", virtually guaranteed admission to elite schools and promotion to partnerships etc. for simply showing up and doing "C" work, and generally treated like children incapable of participating in society as responsible adults, competing with everyone else, or obtaining or holding a job without special help from their beneficent betters.
2.28.2008 10:49am
JosephSlater (mail):
Mayors say dumb things all the time. That doesn't cause cities to go inot decline. Detroit went into decline because of the decline of the auto industry.

Plus, the whole concept of "race" being used above is incoherent. "Blacks" as used in U.S. political parlance are not a "race" in any meaningful scientific sense (there are groups with similar DNA patterns, but those groups aren't the same as what people mean by "race" in the discussions above).

Plus, other immigrant and ethnic groups have run corrupt city governments throughout U.S. history.

Plus, there have been a good number of excellent black elected leaders, locally and nationally.

In sum, to suggest that there is something about being "black" which produces uniquely bad political leadership is scientifically, socially, economically, and politically ignorant. Oh yeah, and racist.
2.28.2008 10:50am
JosephSlater (mail):
"into" not "inot."
2.28.2008 10:51am
Thales (mail) (www):
"Unlike the New York Times, a certain respect for his accomplishments can be reasonably taken for granted here -- if subject to criticism."

I suppose a certain automatic disrespect for the New York Times is unfortunately taken for granted here, but the lengthy obituary and the appreciation published on the editorial page (i.e. not an op-ed) today were fair and respectful. There's a single short, accurate paragraph on Buckley's early segregationist views. The rest is a pretty strong recognition of his prominent place in American politics and letters. We should all be so lucky to have such an obit.
2.28.2008 11:04am
rarango (mail):
So much about not speaking ill of the dead. This thread is genuinely revolting. RIP had it right. Bemoan the man's passing or STFU and wait for a decent interval of time before passing on your half baked sanctimony assertions and ignorance. What a bunch of creeps.
2.28.2008 11:09am
abcdefg (mail):
If only there had been no colonialism or imperialism, Africa and the Caribbean would be thriving utopias, just like they were before the Europeans showed any interest in them.
2.28.2008 11:17am
non-detroiter with friends who fled detroit (mail):
Take a look:
http://www.detroitblog.org/?p=519
There's a lot more posts like that. Great blog.
2.28.2008 11:20am
Mark Field (mail):

Mark: It's not that I don't agree with you on the merits, it's that I think it's tremendously petty and small to take the death of a man who transformed the political landscape of his nation over the course of nearly 60 years--a person generally regarded as thoughtful, brilliant, and kind--and emphasize the fact that some 51 years ago, he took a wrong moral stance that plenty of his contemporaries thought was right.


Fair enough. I'm mostly a nihil nisi bonus type, myself. There's an urge, I think, when someone like Buckley dies to use the obituary to put his life into historical context.
2.28.2008 11:24am
Christopher Cooke (mail):
Buckley always struck me as more of an elitist than a racist. He favored segregation and denial of voting rights on elitist grounds --blacks are not educated enough to vote smartly --more than racist grounds--i.e., they are too dumb to vote smartly. I think that is why he could switch positions later, because it would only cause him to shift to thinking that many white southerns weren't well educated and were part of the "mob" that his elitism always abhorred. But, I give him credit for being smart and entertaining.


Now, contrast him to George Wallace, who was a thorough racist, but who repented late in life. Wallace, unlike Buckley, was never a snob.
2.28.2008 11:30am
Randy R. (mail):
"Unfortunately, Buckley's far-sighted rejection of conspiracy theory and anti-Semitism was for a long time not matched by similar enlightenment on racial issues."

Buckley never came around to any support of gay rights, and his magazine to this day never misses an opportunity to take a cheap shot at gays.

Regarding the cities, I really wish people knew a little something about what they spout off on. Having been born and raised in Buffalo, NY, I can tell you that we never had a black mayor until just a few years ago. The city declined from the 60s to the present because of white flight to the suburbs, and the decline of manufacturing jobs in the city. It left the city with a majority black population that was poor. Ditto many other cities, such as Cleveland, Toledo, Syracuse, and so on.

If you want to blame somebody, blame the white mayors who ran these cities into the ground in the 60, 70, and 80s, the whites who fled to the burbs, and whoever caused the US to loose it's manufacturing base. Perhaps black mayors exasperated the situation, but they certainly did not cause it.
2.28.2008 12:12pm
Michael B (mail):
Chris Bell,

It ("Resolved ...") was a debate topic in the manner debate topics are often framed and in the manner debates are used to "test" rhetorics, propositions, hypotheses, etc. Regardless, my own position is what I was representing and I can't presume to know the nuances or specifics of Buckley's position, beyond what I was inferring, which admittedly are only inferrences - as are your own, btw.

As to the following,

"Does acknowledge mean (1) admit is logically possible, or (2) recognize is true? In the piece you linked to, Mr. Buckley mainly pushed for #1."

I would say (1) (as I suspect Buckley would), but would also re-word it and state it as "is just as philosophically tenable as physicalism".
2.28.2008 12:12pm
Randy R. (mail):
I quote from another commentator regarding the death of Buckley:

I recall watching William F. Buckley, Jr in a TV debate,
once. With a great show of intellectual discipline, he
objected to the notion that homosexuals have no rights
at all.

"A homosexual has a right not to get hit by a truck",
he said. All the casual condescension of a French aristocrat
looking down his nose at dirty, unwashed peasants, as
if they were just so many animals.
2.28.2008 12:20pm
Michael B (mail):
It wasn't forwarded in that manner at all, Randy. As far as any condescension, you'd be the one to preach on the subject, obviously; the difference is your condescension carries politically correct "bona fides" and is therein, putatively at least, innoculated from the charge.
2.28.2008 12:40pm
Randy R. (mail):
If you scroll down the VC, you will find a thread entitled No Mohawks in Kindergarten. It's about a boy who wears a mohawk to school, and the school threatened to kick the kid out for being disruptive to the class for having an unapproved haircut, and the mother, in response, moved her son to another school. Most everyone commented that both are idiots.

Yet, Buckley says we should entrust ourselves to the 'wisdom of the comman man.'

What sheer baloney.
2.28.2008 12:43pm
Brian Mac:
Randy R:

"A homosexual has a right not to get hit by a truck",
he said. All the casual condescension of a French aristocrat
looking down his nose at dirty, unwashed peasants, as
if they were just so many animals.


I didn't see the interview, but is that necessarily condescending? Without any context, it's plausible that he was arguing that gays and straights share the same inaliable rights (in other words, just voicing an opposition to affirmative action, albeit in a pretty crude way).
2.28.2008 12:44pm
NRWO:
WFB on the ideal president.

"The next president of the United States would ideally combine the best features of Julius Caesar …"

Marvelous stuff; and the delivery -- wow.

He was a man of intellect and grace -- the former characteristic can be found in relative abundance; the latter, not so much; both characteristics, almost never.

WFB: You'll be missed.
2.28.2008 12:44pm
whit:
"most major cities had similar drops in crime but without the police brutality and ridiculous over-enforcement that Rudy introduced) "

i've seen no evidence, that rudy introduced and./or presided over unusual levels of police brutality or overenforcement

statistically speaking, NYPD has low levels of brutality and excessive force, and that was true under rudy.

otoh, to some people - enforcing the law and reducing crime is prima facie evidence of brutality and over enforcement so...

and yes, i know about louima.
2.28.2008 12:46pm
Randy R. (mail):
Michael B: " As far as any condescension, you'd be the one to preach on the subject, obviously; the difference is your condescension carries politically correct "bona fides" and is therein, putatively at least, innoculated from the charge"

Um, if you want examples of expert condescension, please read the TNR, the magazine he created and edited, especially when it comes to any gay issues.
2.28.2008 12:46pm
whit:
"Buckley never came around to any support of gay rights, and his magazine to this day never misses an opportunity to take a cheap shot at gays. "

i haven;t seen this at all.

and furthermore, jonah goldberg has repeatedly offered support for civil unions, and even gay marriage.
2.28.2008 12:53pm
Thales (mail) (www):
"and furthermore, jonah goldberg has repeatedly offered support for civil unions, and even gay marriage." I wonder if he thinks this viewpoint is "fascist" since it originated with "liberals".
2.28.2008 1:21pm
whit:
i would argue it originated with libertarians, not liberals.

and i think jonah would say the same.

actually, he says that gay marriage, or at least civil unions is consistent with a libertarian viewpoint, and i agree.

it has nothing to do with fascism.

there's plenty of examples of liberal fascism, thales. you don't have to invent them.
2.28.2008 1:38pm
Randy R. (mail):
TNR oftens makes fun of gays and gay rights in their "Commentary" Section.

I recall an episode of Nightline back in the 80s. There was a blind man who was going to sail the Atlantic Ocean, apparently a first. As I recall, the man made the mistake of saying that he wanted 'to see' the ocean. Buckley heard about this and wrote that found it an effrontery for a blind man to state that he would 'see' anything, and said so. This lead to some sort of public spate, and so Ted Koppel invited both on his show.

The blind man was quite angry that Buckley say such a thing, apparently thinking that Buckely was saying he shouldn't or couldn't do this adventure, which clearly wasn't the case. But Buckley stuck to his guns, saying that in no way can a blind man see anthing any more than a deaf man can hear a Mozart symphony. This went on for half an hour back and forth.

At the end of it, I thought that although the blind man got it wrong, is it really so important to rub his face in the fact that he can't see? And perhaps he meant 'see' in a way that refers to something other than eyesight? As for Buckley, couldn't he just be gracious and admit that this is a terrific adventure, and that sometimes people use language slightly differently from himself, and still be correct? And was it worth spending 30 minutes of valuable tv time over such an inane issue? (Remember, this was the 80s, before tv really debased itself).

I came away wondering, is this the guy that everyone worships so much? He's a great bore.

On the other hand, I do recall his intros to the tv series "Brideshead Revisited" He was much better on that topic. It didn't enlighten too much, but he showed us how much fun it is.
2.28.2008 1:38pm
Randy R. (mail):
And yes, the magazine has been supportive of gay marriage. But Rich Lowry has been very much against gay rights and has written many anti-gay columns, especially with regards to the catholic priest scandals and the Boy Scouts.
2.28.2008 1:41pm
Archon (mail):
First of all lets not forget that it is white people that were responsible for most of the great genocides in history--and that in the twentieth century we outdid ourselves, launching the two most destructive wars in the history of mankind.

I always love the people that use the argument that you can blame whitey as a race, but you can't even discuss the concepts of group and race about anyone else unless the subject is oppression (from whitey.)

JF Thomas -

If it wasn't for Western Civilization and Europeans you would probably be sitting on a dirt floor in a Wigwam smoking the peace pipe only after you used your bow to hunt a deer (if you were even here at all.)

Western Society explored the entire world and civilized it, settled America, invented modern democracy, developed the philosophical breakthrough of the social contract, set up the free market, and basically set up the intellectual and societal structure that is responsible for the modern world today.
2.28.2008 1:59pm
Arkady:

So, it's a racist one, right?

Do you think coincidence and some invidious theory of race are the only possibilities? Can you compute the probability of coincidence? Hint: use the multinomial distribution.


What bullshit. The entire thrust of your comments is racist and you know it.
2.28.2008 2:15pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
I always love the people that use the argument that you can blame whitey as a race, but you can't even discuss the concepts of group and race about anyone else unless the subject is oppression (from whitey.)

My point was is that western civilization, for all its achievements, is also capable of extreme brutality on an industrial scale something that we seem to gloss over.

As for civilizing the world--Europe a thousand years ago was hardly the most advanced society on the face of the earth--not even close. To imply that there was something special about the innate intelligence or ability of Europeans that put them on top of the heap by the end of the nineteenth century is rank racism. Luck (both bad and good) and a couple technological breaks put us where we are.
2.28.2008 2:33pm
real person (mail):
J.F. Thomas, please compare and contrast:
1) Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, et al.
2) African tribal music.
2.28.2008 2:48pm
Hoosier:
J F Thomas--No, that is not sufficient evidence of Reagan's alleged racism. The link between race and poverty--especially urban poverty--is clear. But what is NOT clear is that any criticism of the welfare system, or of the culture of the underclass, is racist.

I don't agree when people try to smuggle the one in under the guise of the other. It makes honest discussion of urban policy impossible.
2.28.2008 2:54pm
whit:
just for the record, if you are referring to national review, it's "NR".

"TNR" usually refers to "The New Republic" magazing.

from context, it appears you are using TNR to refer to national review, but it's not entirely clear.
2.28.2008 2:55pm
whit:
"As for civilizing the world--Europe a thousand years ago was hardly the most advanced society on the face of the earth--not even close. To imply that there was something special about the innate intelligence or ability of Europeans that put them on top of the heap by the end of the nineteenth century is rank racism. Luck (both bad and good) and a couple technological breaks put us where we are."

i would argue, to use a Sowell'ism, that it's cultural capital.

that's why blacks with high cultural capital tend to do much better than natively born blacks in the US. it's also why US born japanese americans do much better on average than whites, blacks, or most anybody else - cultural capital.

it's why jews, on average, do much better than gentiles in education, etc.

etc. etc.

arguing for the superiority of some cultures over others is not race, since your race says exactly zero about your culture.

i have more in common, culturally with a black catholic surfing cop from california than i do with a white urban jewish accountant from yonkers, despite the fact that i share neither race nor religion with the former, and both with the latter.

guns, germs, steel and all that.
2.28.2008 3:00pm
Hoosier:
"To imply that there was something special about the innate intelligence or ability of Europeans that put them on top of the heap by the end of the nineteenth century is rank racism. Luck (both bad and good) and a couple technological breaks put us where we are."

You are right in your first staement, because you qualified it with "inate" and "intelligence." But it is NOT racist to propose that there are cultural factors that led to differing results for different cultures.

What the West has been very good at doing over the course of the last 4 or 5 centuries is finding ways to apply practical knowledge to the solution of problems. Especially when those solutions involve technology. That ability came along with the rediscovery of the western Classical heritage. And one may well suspect--without being racist--that such things as Aristotelian logic, the law of non-contradiction, etc., facilitated this development.

This is fully compatible with your reservations about western culture. We have been the perpetrators of the most efficient genocides for exactly thiese reasons: We are the most efficient managers and have the most advanced technology. So we've become really effective at applying these tools to "problems" like the existence of Jews, American Indians, and so on. (I don't think for a moment that westerners are on average more MORALLY advanced than, say, Africans.)

It is, after all, streching the historical record to ascribe the relative rise of the West to "luck and a couple technological breaks." No culture is THAT lucky.
2.28.2008 3:05pm
Hoosier:
Archon--Do you really think that the Chicago of "Boss" Daley was run better than the Chicago of Harold Washington?

Washington was not much of mayor. But he got City Hall out of the business of killing off economic development within the city limits, and strangling the Loop with regulation worthy of NYC in the 1970s.

The Loop could have gone the way of Downtown in Detroit or Buffalo. The current Daley has done quite a lot for the city. But the comeback started in the 1980s under Washington, who knew enough to allow it to happen.
2.28.2008 3:13pm
whit:
"What the West has been very good at doing over the course of the last 4 or 5 centuries is finding ways to apply practical knowledge to the solution of problems. "

you mean they apply a racistsexistheterosexistcorporatistfascistimperialist eurocentricphallocentric westerninsectevilcapitalist empiricist approach to the solution of problems

which clearly discriminates against more holistic/natural/crunchy nativefemininecollectivistcooperative way of knowing.

which is way more in tune with gaia.
2.28.2008 3:13pm
ellisz (mail):
Randy R. - one can support the right of the Boy Scouts to choose who they want as scout masters without being a bigot. surely you see this.

J Thomas - in addition to what others have noted about culture, it's also changeable. as you note, 1000 yrs ago Western culture was technologically behind several others, and arguably ethically as well. that changed, presumably it will change again.
2.28.2008 3:22pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Hoosier:

I've got no problem with being critical of certain parts of cultures, underclass and otherwise. But the "welfare queen" remark was meant specifically to associate welfare with a particular, racist stereotype of black women. And that wasn't the only appeal to the racist impulses of some white voters that Reagan made.

This is far off the point now, so I'll just add, William F. Buckley, RIP.
2.28.2008 3:24pm
Archon (mail):
I don't think that any race, by the virtue of their skin color, is in any way either inferior or superior to each other. In the end, we are all humans.

But, simply ignoring the concept of race (by race I mean shared culture; part of which is identified by skin color) is just plain stupid. We should be able to look at situations and be able to use race as a lense to analyze it.

Why do black have higher incidents of STDs?

Why do whites die of heart disease more then Asians?

Does race have anything to do with IQ?

Does race have anything to do with the inability of African country to set up and sustain a functioning government?

Also, concerning city governance, even though the cities were corrupt when a bunch of white guy ran it at least you could live comfortably and safely in most cities. When blacks took over city governance in the late 60's it was the beginning of the downfall of our cities. (Of which, I blame mostly on the liberal policies they bought into that chased businesses out and brought criminals in.)
2.28.2008 3:29pm
Mark Field (mail):

What the West has been very good at doing over the course of the last 4 or 5 centuries is finding ways to apply practical knowledge to the solution of problems. Especially when those solutions involve technology. That ability came along with the rediscovery of the western Classical heritage. And one may well suspect--without being racist--that such things as Aristotelian logic, the law of non-contradiction, etc., facilitated this development.


Ironically, I agree with your first sentence, but the rest is a bit too quick. If by "Western classical heritage" you mean Aristotle, that took place in the 12th C and was fully incorporated by Aquinas in the 13th.

There must be more than this to the rise of the west (to coin a phrase), however, because Western Europe still trailed China and even the Arab countries in wealth and knowledge until long after Aquinas (how much later depends on which comparison you make).

While I wouldn't deny the importance of cultural factors -- in fact, I think they're critical -- it's pretty hard to isolate them and correlate specific ones to Western economic and military predominance.
2.28.2008 4:26pm
Hoosier:
Mark--A couple clarifications:

1) I wasn't trying to make a sufficient cause argument. I was simply raising Aristotle's logic as an example. In some ways, the reverence for the Classical greats was a hinderance, especially when it came to scientific research, as opposed to detached academic speculation. Galen was the last word on medicine for a very long time.

And even here, deference to the past masters was only part of the story. The other element was the disdain for hands-on research, which smacked of manual labor, and thus wasn't suitable employment for a man of learning.

2) On Aristole and Aquinas: Yes, Aquinas made extensive use of Aristotle's ideas. But within the context of its application to Medieval European Chrisitan theology. The intellectual enthusiasm for the Classical world as a civilization came later. As did the sense of security that a Christian could study the pagan Greeks and Romans without being corrupted.

Petrarch was a forerunner to all this, but we're really talking about some time well into the 1400s, and especially after 1500. So around the time that that monastery in Italy burned down, together with the greatest library in Christendom. (Umberto Eco wrote about this. So it MUST be true.)
2.28.2008 4:54pm
Randy R. (mail):
"Randy R. - one can support the right of the Boy Scouts to choose who they want as scout masters without being a bigot. surely you see this."

Perhaps, IF they were a private organization. But being an organization that is chartered by Congress and receives public subsidies, they should play by the same rules as any other organization that receives public money. And if local law prohibits discrimation based on sexual orientation, then they have to follow that. Surely you can see this as well.

However, to eliminate an entire class of people not only as scout masters, but as scouts as well for no reason other than, "we don't like you," pretty much falls into the category of bigotry.
2.28.2008 4:56pm
Randy R. (mail):
"J.F. Thomas, please compare and contrast:
1) Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, et al.
2) African tribal music."

What an idiotic statement. But I'l bite: The music of Bach, Mozart and Beethovan always used one rhythm at any one time. (Exception: The occasional use of 2 against 3). AFrican tribal music, however, is often poly rhythmical, an achievement the west didnt' make until STravinsky. It became more common in jazz later on. So as regards rhythm, African trival music was far more sophisticated.
As far as melody and harmony goes, the west was far more sophisticated in these aspects. But that doesn't mean that African tribla music wasn't either. They had melodies and counter melodies long before the west discovered you could do such a thing (ie, the middle ages, and even then it wasn't common until the renaissance).

Then there is the part that is improvised. Bach and Mozart, even Beethovan were great improvisers, but after Beethovan, that art was completely lost in the west. So in that aspect, we regressed. However, jazz rediscovered the art of improvisation (jamming) and carried it to new heights.

Now, if you want to compare black jazz musicians with whitey, there is a consensus that ragtime, jazz and (mostly) swing were invented almost solely by black musicians, and were it's greatest performers of it and composers. So I suppose over all, you are comparing apples and oranges, which is why it's an idiotic statement meant to show your smug superiority of white culture over black, but even on your own terms, you're argument is a tough one to make.
2.28.2008 5:09pm
Randy R. (mail):
Archon: " When blacks took over city governance in the late 60's it was the beginning of the downfall of our cities."

Except that this isn't true. Buffalo had white mayors until recently, but you ignored that. NYC had white mayors until Dinkins, but you might recall that NYC in the 70s was a place to avoid. Remembers Ford to New York: Drop Dead?

Atlanta has a black mayor, and they are doing great. Maine never had black mayors or governors, and yet its economy was devastated during the 80s and 90s. That's because they used to produce lots of shoes, but that was all lost, and now Maine produces virtually none.

But obviously , no amount of information or facts will dislodge your belief that black mayors destroyed American cities.
2.28.2008 5:13pm
whit:
"but as scouts as well for no reason other than, "we don't like you," pretty much falls into the category of bigotry."

that's where your post went from logical to illogical.

it's simply not why boy scouts exclude gays as scout masters. but it's what you want to believe, since it proves your point, so you simply assert it without evidence.
2.28.2008 5:27pm
Randy R. (mail):
The Boy Scouts exclude all gays, whether scout masters or scouts themselves. Please read their website, which makes it abundantly clear:

"The BSA reaffirmed its view that an avowed homosexual cannot serve as a role model for the traditional moral values espoused in the Scout Oath and Law and that these values cannot be subject to local option choices."

Moreover, any scout may be gay and may participate in as scout, provided he is completely closeted. If he tells anyone he is gay, he is to be expelled.

To the BSA, gays do not exhibit 'tradional moral values,' whatever those might be. Sure, somce gays lie and cheat, but so do some hetero people, but I don't see them denying heteros as a group the right to participate in scouting.
2.28.2008 6:03pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
I quote from another commentator regarding the death of Buckley:

I recall watching William F. Buckley, Jr in a TV debate, once. With a great show of intellectual discipline, he objected to the notion that homosexuals have no rights at all.

"A homosexual has a right not to get hit by a truck", he said. All the casual condescension of a French aristocrat looking down his nose at dirty, unwashed peasants, as if they were just so many animals.
And if a thirdhand comment about what some guy on usenet "recalls watching" isn't evidence, what is?
2.28.2008 6:10pm
Randy R. (mail):
Okay, I give up. I'll say what you all have been itching to say:
William F. Buckley was one of this century's greatest proponent of gay rights. He fought on the front lines to allow gays to get married. He argued ferociously that all gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered should be protected from discriminatory hiring, firing and housing practices. He deplored the catholic church's demonization of gay priests and even watched Will and Grace with glee.

ARe we all in agreement now?
2.28.2008 6:18pm
MarkField (mail):
Hoosier, fair points all. Sometimes I get too picky about what are, after all, blog posts, not books. And LOL re Eco. But I do love that book, being both a huge Sherlock Holmes fan and an amateur historian.
2.28.2008 6:25pm
Hoosier:
Mark--Totally with you on TNOTR. I have read that novel over and over, which is rare for me. And I'm also an avid Holmes reader; have been since I was about 11 or 12. (Back then, as I remember, all those late-Victorian British words confused the hell out of me. "I've heard of brides. I've heard of grooms. But what the heck is a 'bridegroom?' ")

But I'm a professional historian, so *I'm* not supposed to be enjoying historical novels. I mean, a Benedictine novice in the care of a *mendicant*?! Ha! How lacking in verisimilitude . . .

On the other hand, if Adso had also been a Franciscan, no one in the abbey would have told him a thing. And if William of Baskerville had been a Benedictine, he would have stayed back home in England.

So that would have made for a kinda crappy plot, since the murders took place in Italy.

But perhaps he could have solved the mystery by correspondence.
2.28.2008 8:03pm
keypusher (mail):
As with many questions we have no prospect of answering, questions of race and city outcomes (or race and intelligence, etc.) serve as a useful Rorschach test. Most people who respect the scientific method won't touch them with a ten-foot pole, except to debunk the obvious fallacies committed by the methodologically clueless and mostly racist commentators who insist on trying to answer them.

We respect the scientific method by refusing to use it?
2.29.2008 4:50pm
markm (mail):

I would wager that most failing big cities run by black Americans are failing because those leaders in such cities are Democrats, and chase industry and businesses out of the cities with crippling regulation.

I'd imagine that the failing states of Africa are failing for the same reason, because they're quasi-socialists or don't respect private property.

It has nothing to do with race.

OTOH, Chicago was run by Democrats for most of the 20th century, and yet it thrived - Daley and his cronies were grossly corrupt, but they were not incompetent. Black voters often re-elect city governments that are both corrupt and incompetent, e.g. Marion Barry in DC and Nagin in New Orleans. IMO, their toleration of such "leaders" is another reflection of something badly broken in black American culture.
2.29.2008 6:49pm
Michael B (mail):
Gray Davis represented a certain type of incompetence and Boss Tweed or even a Pendergast a certain type of corruption. They were all white and I doubt anyone is going to deduce anything about the "white race" from such examples. Those signaling the primacy of culture (i.e. social/political economy and, yes, morality) are on the mark. Culture can variously coincide with "race" based categories, but that's co-incidence. (And "morality" is the right word. Deconstruct and trace the lineage of it all one cares and the fact will remain that legislation - all of it - is, directly or indirectly, based upon moral concerns and categories.)
3.1.2008 1:12pm