Sunday, November 14, 2010

When I met Mr. Buckley

'T'was many and many a year ago, in a kingdom by the sea, that Cat Stevens sang "...I know that it's not easy, taking time...when you know something's going on..."
That's the way I feel right now. There is so much going on out there in the world--the real world, and the world of ideas, I hardly know where to start. I'm playing catch-up ball trying to figure it out.
For instance, I just found about Hayek. That's Friedrich Hayek, the fellow who was, during the 1930's, trying to divert the pump-priming impulses of John Maynard Keynes.
I still haven't read any of Mr. Hayek's work yet, but I have caught wind of it through an old aquaintance of mine, William F. Buckley. Thus have I found that there is an alternative way of viewing macroconomics out there, something that is a far cry from Keynesianism.

What if there were a million small pumps turning instead of one big one? That's the something that is "going on" that's got my valves lifting. But it is hard to do when you're holding down a 40-hour gig.

You see, in this free society we have a tendency to transfer the (as Mr. Buckley called them) heavy responsibilities of freedom to the government, instead of cherishing, and developing, those obligations among ourselves. We assign (as Mr. Hayek had earlier termed them) vague, extralawful mandates to people of political authority.
Mandates like, presumably, making sure everyone is fed and employed. But the state cannot effectively handle such grand philanthropies. Or--put it this way-- if the state (government) does try to handle all these responsibilities that free people should be willing to accept, the state ends up, over the long haul, robbing us of our freedoms in the process. Slowly they fall, one by one, to the wayside.

Think about this: which do you prefer? Freedom, or Security? Guess what. They cancel each other out. Well, maybe not totally; that's a long story and its a can of worms to boot. It does seem, though--and this is what I now discover has been "going on"--that Keynes and this guy Hayek were having this debate back in the '30s when all the detritus from the first great depression (as differentiated from the second great depression which we are now entering) hit the fan.

I was online listening, yesterday (Nov 12, 2010), to Peter Robinson of the Hoover Institution interview Gary Becker, who was, I think, a founder along with Milton Friedman, of the "Chicago School" of economics, to which most of the elite media these days pay lip service but effectively disdain in their subliminal biases.
Mr. Robinson mentioned, as he spoke to Mr. Becker, Mr. Buckley's first book, God and Man at Yale. Mr. Robinson said that he had found therein that (something going on here) Buckley identifies the postwar economics faculty at Yale as the source of our indecipherable but constrictive drift toward erecting statist solutions against every societal problem instead of handling them ourselves as responsible citizens.

Well, when Peter Robinson mentioned William F. Buckley, that set me off on a trip down memory lane.
When I was a sophomore at Louisiana State University, I somehow managed to serve as chairperson for our student union National Speakers committee. My student boss, so to speak, was Tom Levitan, a fellow light years ahead of me in familiarity with the issues of our time, which was 1970-71. Tom served as Lyceum area coordinator. He used to toss around names like "Buckminster Fuller" and "Leonard Weinglass" as if they lived just down the hall in the dorm. I learned a lot from Tom that year.

One of the things Tom helped to do was recruit speakers during that school year. We brought in Dr. Spock and Dick Gregory. Even though I was relatively uninformed about everything that was "going on" at the time, I nevertheless introduced those two well-voiced gentlemen to the students and faculty who were present--maybe 1200 or so people in each case.
I remember Dr. Spock telling someone in a post-speech conversation that he had been recently heckled by some "Maoist girls," and laughing about it.
Funny what memories stick with you. And Dick Gregory wanted a bowl of fruit instead of a big meal. And of course, he, being a comedian before he was a serious voice in the cause of justice, made th audience laugh. In fact, he made a joke about me--probably something about how I obviously didn't know what the hell I was talking about when I introduced him. Anyway...

The Young Republicans, God bless 'em, started making noise afterward. They were protesting we had weighted our speaker selections totally toward the left. They were right (haha) or course. So I, being the Speakers chairman, told them that if they could get William F. Buckley on campus for us, we'd put him on. They retorted that they could, and so they did.
But I challenged them further than that. I had too. I had to tell them that we had (wouldn't ya know it) just about blown the budget on the liberal speakers, and if they wanted us to pay Mr. Buckley his usual, quite princely, fee, they'd have to come up with half the money.
They did and we did.
I'll have to say this about those Young Republicans, and their chapter President, Mike Connally. They were firm believers in their cause. Which is admirable, and quite different from the reaction that liberals would likely have shown; methinks they would have demanded more university money on the basis of unfair treatment.

So that's how I met Mr. William F. Buckley. Yet I was clueless at the time about the immense significance of his project to propel and redefine American conservatism. We got him at the airport. I remember talking to him in his hotel room as he tied a skinny tie around his neck. He was smiling, obviously very happy about the work he was doing.

And what he was doing--he was very good at it. Clueless as I was, I neverthless introduced him to the packed house. I remember he made the people laugh a lot, while delivering a very serious message about the power of the individual to make changes in him/her self and thus make changes in society.

One last thing: Now I'm trying to figure out how my intuitive conservatism squares with our emerging awareness of the need to save our fragile earth from destruction by us humans. I really think it has much to do with each person taking responsibility for whatever piece of it (large or small) is given to him/her. It hinges more on that, I believe, than what the EPA or the UN mandates about such things.

One more last thing: I offer a phrase from an old song, not the Cat Stevens one I mentioned in the first line above, but a line from a favorite singer who is, like me, originally a Baton Rouge boy, Stephen Stills, who had sung in 1967..."There's something happening here, what it is ain't exactly clear..."
Carey Rowland, author of Glass half-Full

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