The venerable James Buckley addressed a group of roughly 60 attendees at the Heritage Foundation last week. Mr. Buckley has been in the DC area for some time and happens to be the only living person with a “hat trick in politics”, which interviewer Dr. Lee Edwards explained is serving in all areas of government.
Because Freedom at Risk, Mr. Buckley’s book, was recently released in book stores it made for a great topic of conversation, and for very practical purposes he entitled the discussion the same. He posed the rhetorical question, “Do Adam Smiths insights still have relevance today?”
Mr. Buckley wanted to make sure that those attending knew that the concentration of power that we see today in Washington is what Smith and Jefferson warned us about in their writing. He then went on to explain just how big this concentration has become since the New Deal went into effect. As a member of the Federalist Society, Mr. Buckley, is an ardent supporter of traditional interpretations of our founding documents and the defense of them, but even he confessed that federalism is no longer a restraint on power. He said the people have to take control of the government by “subordinating individual gain for public good”. Where the states used to have more pull in national matters, they too have abused their power by accepting bailouts, causing them to “become more dependent on handouts,” Mr. Buckley claimed.
In a way that cut through all of the political unrest, Mr. Buckley said, “the nicest thing a federal government can do is deny help to the state”.
The reason we cannot see this issue of balance correctly is because “we have a lack of civility in the Senate,” indeed “civility is lost.” Overall, we need to “reduce the number of issues that distract and splinter our thinking and talking.” These things get us into meaningless bickering gets us no-where, he argues. He told the audience “there could not be a better more glorious position than U.S. Senator 100 years ago”; it was a respected position not because of the title but because the person who held the title acted in a way that was worthy of it. Once we start talking, thinking and acting with civility then we can start to regain our freedom.