The Danger Of Political Dogma

Apr 5 2012 @ 8:44pm

Geoffrey Kabaservice remembers Bill Buckley's famous repudiation of the John Birch Society: 

Buckley-bikeIn his later years, Buckley believed that the Republican failures in Iraq stemmed from a … tendency to engage in ideological wishful thinking instead of hard analysis. He also cautioned against the tendency of conservatives to transform the cautious insights of supply-side economics, for example, into theological certainties, and to move toward ever more narrow and rigid definitions of doctrinal acceptability. Fanaticism and obsession, he believed, ultimately represented a surrender of individual freedom. As the high priest of the conservative movement, Buckley had latitude to advance unorthodox proposals such as the legalization of marijuana without being condemned for apostasy, but he also sought similar indulgence for other conservative thinkers. 

Above all, Buckley wanted conservatism to be a responsible and effective governing philosophy. He recognized that a movement that delegitimizes its opponents as Communists and traitors is doomed to be irresponsible and ineffective. He warned against conservative triumphalism and refusal to compromise. He had been mentored by Whittaker Chambers on the need to balance the ideal with the practical, and to strive for conservative advances that inevitably would fall short of utopia. To live, Buckley reminded conservatives, is to maneuver.

(Photo via Ride the Machine