Monday, October 30, 2006

William F. Buckley's Courageous Fight for Principle--NOT

In "Conservatism in America Since 1930: A Reader" edited by Gregory L. Schneider (2003), one of the readings is William F. Buckley's "Statement of Intentions" for his National Review magazine (pp. 195-200). Buckley lists as "Among our convictions" the following: "The competitive price system is indispensable to liberty and material progress. It is threatened not only by the growth of Big Brother Government, but by the pressure of monopolies--including union monopolies. What is more some labor unions have clearly identified themselves with doctrinaire socialist objectives. The characteristic problems of harassed business have gone unreported for years, with the result that the public has been taught to assume--almost instinctively--that conflicts between labor and management are generally traceable to greed and intransigence part of management (sic). Sometimes they are; often they are not. National Weekly will explore and oppose the inroads upon the market economy caused by monopolies in general, and politically oriented unionism in particular; and it will tell the violated businessman's side of the story."

Ah, now here is a breathtakingly courageous stand for principle against the current of popular opinion! In the United States of America, a society more enthralled to the values and interests of business than any other society in world history, Buckley took a stand for the "harassed" and "violated businessman's side of the story." Only in America where a president (Calvin Coolidge) could say "The business of the American people is business", or Secretary of Defense (and former CEO of General Motors) Charles Wilson could say "What's good for General Motors is good for the country", are the people as a whole so remarkably captured by the values and interests of a business culture. So it must have taken great personal fortitude for the son of a wealthy "oil baron" to take such a brave stand. Here is Wikipedia's descriptive account of William F. Buckley's childhood:

"Buckley was born in New York City to lawyer and oil baron William Frank Buckley, Sr., of Irish Catholic descent, and Aloise Steiner, a southerner of Swiss-German descent. The sixth of ten children, young Buckley moved with his family to Sharon, Connecticut. He soon moved to Paris where he attended first grade and learned French. By age seven, he had received formal training in English at a day school in London. As a boy, Buckley developed a love for music, sailing, horses, hunting, skiing, and story telling. All of these interests—and his strong Roman Catholic religious faith—would reflect in his later writings. He is also an accomplished amateur harpsichord player. He attended St John's Beaumont in England at age 13 just before World War II."

My goodness, I shudder to contemplate the courageous self-denial it must have taken for this privileged afficionado of "sailing, horses, hunting, skiing" and private schooling, to stand up publicly for the interests of his own all too privileged class. Buckley doesn't mention business monopolies; no, he is mainly concerned with "union monopolies"--and this in a country where it took unions until 1938, just 16 years before Buckley was writing, to gain adequate power to organize and fight for working interests. On the other hand, business corporations were given huge aids to their development for decades prior to 1938. The courts, government and police were biased against labor unions throughout most of the period while corporate collectivism was feeding gluttonously.

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