Buckley, conservatism, and the battle of good and evil

In GAMAY’s preface, Buckley wrote his two most historically important sentences. “I myself believe,” he declared, “that the duel between Christianity and atheism is the most important in the world. I further believe that the struggle between individualism and collectivism is the same struggle reproduced on another level.”

Thus did Buckley conflate economics and religion. The world was engaged in an existential struggle between good and evil, and purity in Christianity and laissez-faire economics were essentially intertwined and part of the good. As Buckley saw it, John Maynard Keynes was not merely incorrect in arguing that some governmental regulation of the economy was desirable. He was leading the West down a path to perdition.

One cannot understand the modern conservative movement without appreciating this sentiment. That is what it is — a sentiment — rather than an articulated argument. But sentiments are more powerful than logic or analysis…

The crusading sentiment made more sense during the Cold War, when America faced a truly collectivist, atheistic and nuclear-armed adversary. It is becoming increasingly discordant with the times, and that is why some Republican candidates with considerable support strike non-conservatives as weird.