William F. Buckley
Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., is competing for king-of-the-walk hyperbole. His opposition to permitting Social Security participants to deploy their savings elsewhere than in government IOUs took the form of: "Would Mr. and Mrs. America prefer to have had that 20 percent of their savings in federal deposits in the last six months or in the NASDAQ?"

Waal, senator, that's certainly setting up the choices in a way that shuts up Adam Smith, David Ricardo and John Stuart Mill in one sweep, they who spoke about the fruits of individual allocations of economic energy. He might as well have observed that the man dropping from the mountain ledge, if asked in mid-air whether he'd rather have stayed in place, would have answered conventionally.

Sen. Daschle is asserting himself very vigorously in Washington these days, and on Wednesday, in a dramatic rejection of President Bush's declaration in favor of anti-missile development, said that Mr. Bush had begun "one of the most important and consequential debates we will see in our lifetime." That's a pretty good launch -- an epochal debate by a young president to whom Mr. Daschle and his colleagues condescended for so many months -- for President Bush, and a crystallization of the elements in that debate is badly needed. Is Mr. Bush investing the entire defense establishment in the NASDAQ?

One demurral doesn't deserve very much time, though it is the fault of some conservatives that it was given any time at all. There is the school of thought that says the ABM Treaty is no longer binding on the United States for the very simple reason that it was negotiated with a national entity now dead. The Soviet Union, with which the pact was signed in 1972, does not exist. Some people argue that therefore there is no surviving treaty. Treaties with the government of Louis XVI were no longer inhibiting in Europe after Napoleon took over. But the problem with that glib line of reasoning is that various treaties with Moscow have in fact continued in place since 1991, and we are on record as having recommended to President Yeltsin that it should be so.

William F. Buckley

William F. Buckley, Jr. is editor-at-large of National Review, the prolific author of Miles Gone By: A Literary Autobiography.

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