The Presupposition of Freedom

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Reason and facts have a decisive vote in the long run, so long as they are brought effectively to bear.

After once again wrangling justice from the imperfections of man and our legal system, Perry Mason was summing up. Asked why he had been so relentless in defending a client whom everyone believed — and all the superficial indications appeared to confirm — was guilty, Mason turned to investigator Paul Drake and omnicompetent assistant Della Street and stated simply that he has “faith in what Judge Learned Hand called the eventual supremacy of reason.”


Just as Perry Mason began his run as America’s most popular lawyer, William F. Buckley, Jr. began his career as America’s most dynamic conservative intellectual. The vehicle he created to advance his mission was one that also was founded on faith in the eventual supremacy of reason: National Review. That mission has endured and prospered for 65 years. In 1991, Bill augmented the toolbox with which to fulfill the National Review mission by creating the not-for-profit journalistic think tank National Review Institute.

At NRI, we take the National Review mission on the road, if you will. The ideas and principles embedded in Western civilization, and set as the foundation stones of the American Experiment in ordered liberty, are the raw materials with which we work. NRI fellows apply these classical conservative ideas and principles as medicinal balm to the perverse wounds that scar today’s Public Square. The fellows do not merely compose elegant sentences behind a desk; they engage with sundry friends and joust with benighted foes across the fruited plain. The NRI fellows present these ideas at NRI conferences, in debate and speeches, at appearances with our conservative allies, through podcasts, and at NRI’s Burke to Buckley seminars. Their work is possible only through the tax-deductible contributions of those who share our commitment to the National Review mission.


When Douglas Murray is “Fighting the Great Derangement of Our Times” at NRI programs and retreats, NRI is at work. When John O’Sullivan presides over an “Across the Pond” conversation, NRI is on task. When Andrew Stuttaford is “Making the Case for Capitalism” and NRI Trustee David Bahnsen is recording his weekly Capital Record podcast as part of the National Review Capital Matters project, NRI is advancing our mission. When Andrew McCarthy is covering the legal machinations of politicized ne’er-do-wells, asking, “Don’t Let Them Turn Back the Clock on Law and Order,” NRI is on duty. When Kathryn Lopez reminds us of William F. Buckley, Jr.’s profound belief in gratitude and of the centrality of faith in community life, NRI is making its presence felt.

National Review Institute enables the perspicacious endeavors of twelve NRI fellows and three young journalism fellows. NRI sponsors the highly influential Ideas Summit; we convene the conservative universe at our annual William F. Buckley, Jr. Prize Dinner. Our fund for long-form journalism sponsors special essays by an array of renowned authors. We conduct the WFB Communicators Program for students in the fields of communication arts.



National Review Institute is indispensable to the conservative mission: advancing our cause in a variety of ways on numerous fronts. We think things through; we marshal arguments; we clarify the stakes; we make the case; we promulgate; we persuade.

Our modern politics are vibrant and competitive, as they ought to be in a democratic society. They are also messy. Political rhetoric is saturated with foggy sentiment and tendentious self-righteousness, often untethered either to principle or reality. Even so, reason and facts have a decisive vote in the long run, so long as they are brought effectively to bear. Self-government under law presupposes an openness to persuasion based on clear thinking. One might say that conservatives believe in the eventual supremacy of good arguments. This is the business of National Review Institute.

Yes, conservatives have the best arguments: for economic freedom, limited constitutional government, and a principled, but unsentimental, foreign policy. And, we honor the timeless values of faith, which assert that every one of us is a special child of God, and not merely an assembly of deterministic identity characteristics. Actually, as conservatives, we understand that reason is not enough. Our journeys of faith, and the social value of tradition that sustains families and communities, are bulwarks of a decent society. But these values, too, must be defended by reasoned argument.

Perry Mason was a classic advocate for justice; National Review Institute is a classic advocate for conservative ideas. We share Judge Hand’s faith in the eventual supremacy of reasoned argument, based on facts and principle. Call us ingenuous if you wish, but we are profoundly practical; such a faith is the presupposition of self-government and, therefore, of human freedom.


The simple fact is that, if you believe that conservative principles need persuasive and relentless advocates who will expound our case zealously; if you value the widely distributed and clear expression of conservative principles; well, then, there is no better way to enable that advocacy and that expression than to support NRI. We are coming to the close of our fiscal year and would greatly appreciate your robust (and tax-deductible) contribution to National Review Institute before June 30.

It is an honor for me, as chairman of the Board of Trustees of National Review Institute, to ask you to help sustain us in our venerable mission, and to ensure that our faith in the presupposition of freedom is well-founded. Your gift, and your prayers, make our endeavors possible.


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