I previously spoke on the Aftermath of the 2012 election. In order for the Republican party to forge ahead towards really and truly defeating the Leviathan of the left, we need to keep in mind the words of Sun-Tzu:
“It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.”
What is “conservatism”?
Perhaps we should start with Edmund Burke. He was a member of British Parliament in the late 18th century, and , sided with the “colonies” during the American Revolution. He argued that it was the British Parliament that wanted to impose change on the colonies by interfering with internal matters that they generally had never interfered with before.
Burke believed that there was much good in society, and we ought to eliminate what evil there is, but only press those changes necessary to eliminate that evil itself, without wrecking the rest of society. Burke noted that even during English revolutions that “the nation had lost the bond of union in their edifice; they did not, however, dissolve the whole fabric. On he contrary, in both cases they regenerated the deficient part of the old constitution through the part which were not impaired.” Upheaval was not meant to tear down society and impose some leftist fantasy, but “to preserve our antient indisputable laws and liberties.”
In contrast to the modern Progressive left, Burke did not believe in the strict “contract theory” of society/government, and that a temporary majority (or even a plurality) did not have a fundamental right to reorder society upon a whim. More accurately:
“It is a partnership in all science; a partnership in all art; a partnership in every virtue, and in all perfection. As the end of such a partnership cannot be obtained in many generations it becomes a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are dead, and those who are to be born.”
Ultimately, the wisdom of conservatives is based on the collective wisdom of the ages. As Burke put it: “In old establishments various correctives have been found for their aberrations from theory. Indeed they are the results of various necessities and expenditures. They are not often constructed after theory; theories are rather drawn from them.”
This is part of what makes America (and the Anglosphere in general) exceptional. Our society has organically evolved such that we have the rule of law and use it to protect our true liberty. To put it another way, we have the liberty to do wrong, but the virtue to choose right. This is not something that cam be constructed ex nihilo, from ideas divorced from reality that were developed in vacuo, and used to treat people like they were but simple geometric proofs.
An excellent summary was written by one Christopher Taylor over at the Ace of Spades HQ:
“Maybe, just maybe social traditions aren’t just arbitrary rules set down by the elite – but are solutions to common human problems that have been worked out over millennia.
“No no tradition and wisdom teach us nothing, we must all throw it out and never look back. We’ve evolved past those white European male phallocratic rules, anyway. History will teach us nothing, didn’t you listen to Sting? You aren’t the boss of me, fascist!!!!
“The truth is, the biggest problem we ran into as a people is when we stopped passing down WHY we believed in and did certain things and just started living them by pattern and tradition. Then when young people asked why, parents had no answers.
“When you combine that with a generation (cough*BOOMERS*cough) that refused to trust wisdom and tradition because they weren’t given an answer they liked, well disaster results.
“The truth is, some things you just have to trust people who’ve gone before you on. Some things can’t really be explained rationally but have been experienced and the knowledge painfully gained. Kids hate that, and they’re all taught every day to ignore authority and doubt parents to begin with.”
Once lost, it can not be rebuilt. That is why our liberty, our mores, and our society are so precious to us, and must be conserved and protected from those who would destroy it.
Others have tried to define “conservatism.” Russell Kirk, for example, had six “canons” of conservatism:
- A belief in a transcendent order, which Kirk described variously as based in tradition, divine revelation, or natural law;
- An affection for the “variety and mystery” of human existence;
- A conviction that society requires orders and classes that emphasize “natural” distinctions;
- A belief that property and freedom are closely linked;
- A faith in custom, convention, and prescription, and
- A recognition that innovation must be tied to existing traditions and customs, which entails a respect for the political value of prudence.
Frank Meyer believed American conservatism was based upon seven principles:
- The existence of an objective moral order based on ontological foundations;
- The primary reference for political thought and action is the individual, not the collective;
- The limitation of government power;
- Opposition to state control of the economy;
- Firm support for the Constitution of the United States as originally conceived;
Probably one of the most eloquent declarations of liberty was the Sharon Statement, the founding document of Young Americans for Freedom, signed on the Sharon, Connecticut estate of William F. Buckley, Jr.
Ultimately it is about the unique and exceptional combination of Virtue and Liberty, which, once lost, would doom us to dark tyrannies.