William F. Buckley, Jr. passed away today. How very sad. For some libertarians, it all started with Rand. For me, it started with Buckley.
WFB was my guiding light through those formative years in the 1960s when the “anti-war” (pro-Hanoi) movement, the New Left, and the counter-culture were in full cry.
Though vastly outnumbered in high school by peers and teachers mouthing cliches of socialism, appeasement, and moral relativism, I confidently debated any and all comers, armed with facts and arguments from National Review, Firing Line, and a slew of books by WFB and other NR columnists, and emboldened by his courage, brilliance, and wit.
Very likely I would not have read Mises and Hayek in my teens, attended Claremont McKenna College (a school hospitable to conservative students and faculty), studied there with Harry Jaffa (the great Lincoln and Aristotle scholar whom Buckley esteemed), or pursued graduate studies in political philosophy had WFB not opened my young eyes to the perils of statism and the excitement of the war of ideas.
WFB’s contribution to American politics and civilization should not be underestimated. Would the Reagan Presidency–critical to the demise of Soviet communism–have even been possible without the conservative movement WFB did so much to found and nurture? I doubt it.
Although never personally associated with WFB, I always felt a personal fondness for him that went beyond admiration for his talents and contributions. I’m sure many others share this feeling. He will be missed.