The death on February 27 of William Buckley provoked a surprising outpouring of praise, not limited to conservatives. The praise was mixed with hyperbole. He was credited with having created modern American conservatism, with having united free-market economists with social and other noneconomic conservatives, with being the person without whom there would never have been a Reagan presidency, and with being a formidable intellectual. I doubt that any of those things is quite true. He was colorful, rich, good-natured, a skillful polemicist and influential "public intellectual" (in my book Public Intellectuals: A Study of Decline ) he ranked number 20 in "media mentions" for the period--long past his period of greatest influence--1995 to 2000), a bricoleur, defined by Wikipedia as "a person who creates things from scratch, is creative and resourceful: a person who collects information and things and then puts them together in a way that they were not originally designed to do." What he put together were conservative Catholicism; McCarthyism; belligerent, even militaristic anticommunism (roll back the Iron Curtain rather than contain the Soviet Union)--a position related, like his McCarthyism, to his religiosity, which made communism particularly odious to him--defense of the southern states' resistance to racial integration; hostility to big government' and (the basis of his hostility to the "nanny state") individualism, as expressed for example in his advocacy of legalizing marijuana and other mind-altering drugs (though I don't know when he began advocating legalization), and entrepreneurship. All but repealing the drug laws were ingredients of an American conservatism of the 1950s that was outside the mainstream of the Republican Party of the time, though it stopped short of the John Birch Society. Apart from his libertarian streak, Buckley's policy positions were not, for the most part, sound. Joseph McCarthy appeared on the scene after the communist penetration (which was considerable) of the government had been eliminated by the Truman Administration. The southern states' rights movement was disreputable. Containment was probably the most sensible response to Soviet expansionism. And religion is not, in my opinion anyway, a good basis for public policy. Moreover, Buckley was a journalist, working under deadlines that resulted in most of his opinions being merely asserted rather than also well-supported. His policy positions were not fully coherent: His enthusiasm for rolling back the Iron Curtain did not sort well with his dislike of big government, since wars and heavy defense expenditures increase the size of government, as President Eisenhower was well aware. The suggestion in the obituaries that he united free-market economists with other conservatives is especially misleading. Free-market economists have always been on a different track from the kind of political and social conservative that Buckley exemplified. He was a friend of free markets, but on moral grounds rather than because he thought the market a more efficient method of allocating resources than the government, though he thought that also. The conservative economic movement has had two major streams, which are convergent. One is the Austrian school, whose best-known exemplar was Friedrich Hayek. Hayek argued powerfully that socialism doesn't work, because it does not enable the aggregation of the information required to operate a modern economy; for that, the price system is necessary, because prices impound and transmit information far more effectively than a centralized economic controller can do. Hayek's insight was vindicated by the collapse of the communist system. But his influence has been mainly in Europe, where it has been, however, considerable, especially in the nations transitioning from communism. The other stream, largely independent of the Austrian, originated with maverick economists, such as Milton Friedman, Aaron Director, and George Stigler, who at the height of the 1930s depression, when free-market economics was in the dog house and the Soviet Union's collectivist economy was widely admired including among economists, had the temerity (like Hayek) to argue that collectivist regulation of the economy was inferior to leaving the regulation of economic activity to the market. The school expanded slowly after World War II; Ronald Coase, a brilliant English economist who moved to the United States, was an influential critic of regulation. While Director and Stigler mounted a strong challenge to conventional views of antitrust, Stigler and especially Friedman challenged a wide range of governmental policies. Other economists, and even a few economics-minded law professors, joined the free-market movement. But the movement received virtually no hearing during the 1960s, the era of the "Great Society" programs of Lyndon Johnson. However, the stagflation of the 1970s exposed the failure of conventional ‚Äúliberal‚Äù (in the welfare-state sense) policies, promoted increased acceptance of free-market economics, and stimulated the deregulation and privatization movements, which began in the Clinton Administration and expanded in the Reagan and (first) Bush Administration, continuing into the Clinton Administration, notably with welfare reform. All this had nothing to do with William Buckley. Most of the causes dearest to his heart were unrelated to economic policy, such as his belief about the proper strategies for defending against the Soviet Union, expelling Soviet agents from the federal government, or defeating our current enemies. Buckley was a strong opponent of abortion, whereas economists, while they can tote up the costs of forbidding or permitting abortion, do not, as economists, have any position on whether a fetus should have the same legal status as a newborn child. Economists might think that particular religious beliefs, such as Calvinism, with its emphasis on frugality and saving, promote social welfare, but they have no position on the truth of religion. They value markets because markets are efficient, not because people have a moral entitlement (as John Stuart Mill believed) to engage in any and all conduct that does not create a palpable harm to other people ("my rights end where your nose begins"). Markets to an economist are just instruments, and for solving particular problems there are sometimes better instruments. What is true is that a political movement based solely on free-market economics could not have achieved political power under conditions of modern American democracy. Modern conservatism, to the extent that it is a coherent movement, combines free-market economics (to a degree) with political and social conservatism (tough on crime, strong on national defense, friendly to religion, critical of liberal social values, hostile to trial lawyers and judicial activism). It was not a movement created by Buckley, able journalist and polemicist though he was.