Buckley Program Essay Contest – Fall 2014


This year’s theme is James Burnham’s Suicide of the West. Entrants should write approximately 700–900 words on one of the following prompts:

  1. “Liberalism, with its optimism about human nature and social progress, its confidence in science, its rejection of non-rational modes of knowledge and its democratic egalitarianism, is secularist in outlook and goal. It is secularist philosophically, in the definition of its ideal as something to be realized in this world, not the next; its paradise is earthly; the purpose of society and government is the improvement of the material life of mankind through the elimination of poverty, hunger, slums, oppression, physical suffering and war.”

Often, modern liberalism seeks good moral ends. But is there something wrong, for instance, with its understanding of, and approach to dealing with, such matters as poverty and oppression? Is there a better understanding and approach?

  1. “There is another key difficulty in the liberal belief that the removal of ignorance, as the key obstacle, will bring the good society. Suppose we ask, how is the ignorance to be overcome? By universal institutionalized schooling, presumably. This is the remedy that the liberals have always advocated, where they have not taken it for granted. By its own rules, liberalism cannot accept as the proper method for eliminating ignorance the sort of educating in traditions, conduct, folkways and uncritical beliefs that a child gets from home and family, or the religious educating done through the church: on the contrary, home, church and family are seen as likely sources of the errors, superstitions and prejudice that proper education must overcome.”

How important are private spheres (i.e., family and intermediary institutions) in educating citizens? What are the fundamental elements of a good education, and does modern liberalism address them adequately?

  1. “Liberalism is the ideology of Western suicide.”

This bold statement is Burnham’s principal argument in Suicide of the West. Define and diagnose the state of modern liberalism today and its impact on culture and civilization.

Top Prizes

1st Place: $1,000

2nd Place: $500

3rd Place: $250


The deadline for all submissions is Saturday, October 18 at 5:00 p.m. Essays will be scored by three Yale Faculty members. All entries should be sent to BuckleyProgram@gmail.com.