Saturday, October 14, 2023

"Standing athwart history, yelling Stop!"

National Review was founded by William F. Buckley Jr. in 1955. In that first issue, Buckley wrote "It stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it." Then and since the magazine was a fortnightly (it was published every two weeks). With this November's issue, the magazine has become a monthly. The editors have thought it appropriate to reiterate some of their priorities. I think Buckley would have been perfectly comfortable with them:
The United States grew from seedbeds in Athens, Rome, and Jerusalem, and especially in the English traditions of accountable government, from Magna Carta to the Glorious Revolution. America built on the best of this inheritance through the colonial experience, the Revolution and the Declaration of Independence, the drafting and ratification of the Constitution, and seminal events since—including the Civil War and the extension of civil rights—to create a great experiment in self-government and a truly exceptional nation.

All our efforts are geared toward preserving that experiment and the foundations of American exceptionalism—in particular, the ordered liberty that reflects the Founders’ belief in our ability to govern ourselves as well as their clear-eyed view that we need institutional and cultural constraints, personal virtue, and, above all, religious faith to maintain the predicates of freedom.

Our priorities include:

Constitutional Government
The U.S. Constitution is the best governing document created by man. Its protection of rights, its latitude for democratic decision-making constrained by guardrails, its balance among the branches of government and between the federal and state governments, and its allowance for the diversity of a vast continent-spanning country within a framework of national cohesion reflect a work of genius. The Constitution must always be defended as the foundation of the American republic.

Free Enterprise
Without economic liberty, people cannot be free and cannot express their God-given creativity and drive. Free markets have made possible the extraordinary economic and technological advances that have made us prosperous and powerful. Economic freedom and its associated elements—the rule of law, property rights, and social trust—are necessary to a free, just, and vibrant society that has ample opportunity for individual advancement. In debates about government intervention in the economy, our presumption should always be in favor of freedom.

Moral Bedrocks
Freedom depends on an intrinsic moral order and fundamental virtues, without which lives lose meaning and society loses cohesion. The traditional two-parent family is the most basic building block of our society. All human beings, born and unborn, deserve the equal protection of the laws. Personal responsibility is foundational to individual achievement and orderly social life. Community is a guard against atomized individualism and a source of countless other social goods. Belief in objective truth is necessary to pursue the higher things and to protect against relativism and nihilism. Religious faith is not only useful as a check on selfishness and a pillar of self-confidence; America’s faith in God is a conduit of blessing upon the nation and its enterprises.

A Strong Defense
Peace through strength is an enduring American idea beginning with the strategic thought of George Washington. It is the approach to national security most consistent with a realistic appreciation of human nature and the protection of our sovereignty, interests, and values. It depends on a strong military, a vibrant military-industrial base, and technological innovation. We must preserve a forward-leaning posture abroad—better to counter threats before they come to our shores—and an American-led system of alliances as a force multiplier. Our overwhelming priority is advancing our national interests. When it is consistent with that priority, we should be friends of the true advocates of freedom everywhere.

Love of Country
Patriotism is the lifeblood of a nation. We should revere our national symbols, heroes, and traditions, as well as our founding documents. America’s survival depends on teaching our children to do the same and protecting the schools from ideologically driven distortions of our history. Our patrimony deserves civic and cultural institutions dedicated to our national memory and highest ideals. Military service should be encouraged and honored. Whatever America’s imperfections, we can never forget that she is great and good.

Defending Western Civilization
We need to know the sources of our civilization in the ancient, medieval, and early-modern world. We must defend the West from its enemies in academia and popular culture, restore to our schools the teaching of Western Civ, and ensure that our children know about—and engage with—the statesmen, thinkers, artists, and writers whose extraordinary contributions changed the world.
National Review, Novenber 2023. Consider subscribing.

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