By: Zach Young
The following essay was the winner of the Buckley Program’s spring semester essay contest. The topic was “What can we learn from William F. Buckley, Jr. today?”.
“The best defense against usurpatory government is an assertive citizenry.”
– William F. Buckley, Jr.
Upon exiting the 1787 Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin purportedly encountered an excited group of citizens, who asked him which form of government the delegates had chosen. “A republic,” Franklin replied curtly, “if you can keep it.” Franklin’s answer inverted an age-old power structure. Rule by elites, he suggested, was to be supplanted with government of, by, and for the people. 230 years later, this experiment has proven successful in the United States and influential abroad. Yet there remains no guarantee that American citizens will continue to “keep” their republic. Today, with the advent of social media and proliferation of online news, America faces a crisis of public discourse. To resolve it, the public would be well served by consulting the legacy of William F. Buckley, Jr. His 57-year career provides a compelling illustration of the potential of vibrant, productive debate. Continue reading