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William F. Buckley

Founder and editor-at-large of National Review Magazine, columnist and commentator, host of the television program Firing Line, author of God and Man at Yale (1951) and others

Books by William F. Buckley
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God and Man at Yale (1951)
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Nearer, My God: Autobiography Of Faith
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Liberals... are generous with other peoples' money, except when it comes to questions of national survival when they prefer to be generous with other people's freedom and security.

Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views.

Conservatism is the politics of reality.

First principles, to be sure, don't always work. They are largely ignored in wartime, for instance. But since we are not at war, we tend to magnify lesser problems and to appropriate military rhetoric in discussing them, as of course the wars on poverty, drugs, racism, etc. If we were at war, we would reorder our priorities and subordinate our complaints. Gratefully we aren't at war, but this shouldn't mean that we have license to neglect priorities that are built into the market systems.

Jun. 4, 2001 - from "Oh What A Mess!", published by Universal Press Syndicate
I would like to electrocute everyone who uses the word 'fair' in connection with income tax policies.

The state is a divine institution. Without it we have anarchy, and the lawlessness of anarchy is counter to the natural law: so we abjure all political theories which view the state as inherently and necessarily evil. But it is the state which has been in history the principal instrument of abuse of the people, and so it is central to the conservatives' program to keep the state from accumulating any but the most necessary powers.

from The Catholic
I am obliged to confess that I should sooner live in a society governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the two thousand faculty members of Harvard University...

1963 - from "A reply to Robert Hutchins", Rumbles Left and Right, p.134
One must bear in mind that the expansion of federal activity is a form of eating for politicians.

Sep. 08, 1964 - from his column in National Review
I profoundly believe it takes a lot of practice to become a moral slob.

How can the modern relativist exercise tolerance if he doesn't believe in anything to begin with? It is not hard to exhibit toleration toward a point of view if you have no point of view of your own with which that point of view conflicts.

from Up From Liberalism
Back in the thirties we were told we must collectivize the nation because the people were so poor. Now we are told we must collectivize the nation because the people are so rich.

Idealism is fine, but as it approaches reality the cost becomes prohibitive.

It is widely assumed by the other side on the drug question that to decriminalize drugs would be to register a social assent to drug consumption. [I] ... stress the contrary. The initial problem is to make clear that to license an activity is not to approve it. We license the publication of Hustler magazine even as we gag at the knowledge of what goes on within its covers.

Apr. 5, 1995 - quoted in the Buffalo News
I was 19 years old when the Cold War was ignited at Yalta, and the year the Berlin Wall came down, I became a senior citizen. Thus the Cold War lasted throughout my adult lifetime, which meant that tens of millions lived their adult lifetimes in the bitter, seemingly endless cold of tyranny. The lessons are two: first, that great strategic ends can take generations to realize; second, that at least some element of impatience is owed to ideals envisioned and realizable.

Nov. 01, 1997 - from a speech delivered to the International Conservative Congress, as quoted in National Review Magazine
A difficulty of American conservatives at this moment is that we are without a harnessing bias, which the Cold War gave us; and we are not completely comfortable with the metaphysics of democratic order. If our vision is unencumbered by conscientious qualifications or skepticism, then why can't we march forward?

Nov. 01, 1997 - from a speech delivered to the International Conservative Congress, as quoted in National Review Magazine
A man who fathers a child whom he proceeds to ignore is a second-class citizen. How should we discourage second-class behavior? Isn't this a fruitful concern of conservatives whose stake is so large in the preservation of the family?

Nov. 01, 1997 - from a speech delivered to the International Conservative Congress, as quoted in National Review Magazine
We are so concerned to flatter the majority that we lose sight of how very often it is necessary, in order to preserve freedom for the minority, let alone for the individual, to face that majority down.

Reagan had the best intuitive sense of priorities of any president in the postwar period, when it became a constant struggle to know what to pay attention to. His designation of the Soviet Union as an 'evil empire' froze the blood of international diplomacy, but agitated the moral imagination and did more to advance U.S. national objectives than a year's Pentagon spending ... who, more resonantly than he, made the case against Big Government? Could he have known that a Democratic president, seven years after Reagan left office, would serve as an echo chamber on the matter of an end to Big Government? Reagan belongs on Mount Rushmore, and he'll be there, after the carpers die off.

Mar. 1997 - quoted in "There You Go Again", by Alvin S. Felzenberg, published in Policy Review
The gravamen of the liberals' case against America has always had to do with the free-market society's disposition to let people make out on their own. We are preached to, cajoled, and thundered at concerning the care we must take for those who do not learn to read and write, or to refuse drugs, or to resist criminal temptation, or to engage in libertine sex. Is it a special responsibility of conservatives to adopt correlative attitudes toward failures of a certain character?

Nov. 01, 1997 - from a speech delivered to the International Conservative Congress, as quoted in National Review Magazine
World War is the second worst activity of mankind, the worst being acquiescence in slavery.

from On the Right
Socialize the individual's surplus and you socialize his spirit and creativeness; you cannot paint the Mona Lisa by assigning one dab of paint to a thousand painters.

from Up From Liberalism
In non-revolutionary situations, most voters are not drawn to reductionist formulations.

Feb. 09, 1997 - from a collection of essays published under the title "On the Future of Conservatism" by Commentary magazine
The government of the United States, under Lyndon Johnson, proposes to concern itself over the quality of American life. And this is something very new in the political theory of free nations. The quality of life has heretofore depended on the quality of the human beings who gave tone to that life, and they were its priests and its poets, not its bureaucrats.

Aug. 7, 1965 - from his column in National Review
The best defense against usurpatory government is an assertive citizenry.