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In today’s world politics is often delineated by who is on the left or right with middle ground folks being those who seem to waddle back and forth. Even America itself is often called a center-right country. The fact is few if any political ideas fit neatly on this irrational left/right line
For those devoid of any understanding where such terminology comes from (which probably covers most of those graduating public schools today) the term left and right refers to how members of the French Legislative Assembly who divided themselves physically from one another. Those that wanted radical social change and hated religion were on the left and those that supported the monarchy and the Catholic church were on the right. From this arrangement came the terms left and right.
In England at the time of the American Revolution Parliament was divided too. The Tory’s of the period supported the king and in fact many were on his payroll. The opposition party, led by the formidable Edmond Burke, were the Whigs**. Here it was not a fight between radical change and the status-quo but between those that had adopted the continental view that the King’s position was of divine origin and his word should be law and those who embraced the traditions of their Anglo-Saxon heritage. A heritage that included common law and certain individual rights. One stood against the encroachment of the monarchy on individual freedom the other supported it.
It was Burke and his followers that supported the petitions of the American colonies before the King and Parliament. It was also he that spoke out against the rambling stench rising over Paris during the French Revolution. He supported religion, common law and saw eye to eye with Adam Smith, the father of economics and capitalism. It was his followers that would take up the mantle of conservative.* The term conservative was taken from the term conservator or protector (Example the conservator of a will). Conservatives were and are protectors of society, protecting it from the railings of those would tear asunder all that has been gained and those who would enshrine the latest folly into law.
From the English and American standard, conservatives are quintessentially centrist. The axle in a storm of political infighting that keeps the society from spiraling off into the ether. People built on foundations of experience and thoughtful tradition. Not opposed to change but not for changes sake nor are they supporters of the rash and not well thought through. A constraining force against radicalism. Libertarians, anarchist, socialists, progressives, liberals and other societal renegades need to be constrained by the strings coming from a conservative hub if society is to be kept from flying apart.
The idea that conservatives are right wingers, something often accepted even by conservatives, is out of step with reality and history. In fact the very basis of left and right, the French Legislative Assembly, has no historical connection to conservatism in the American and British tradition. None at all!! The fact is in the French Assembly the choice was between two groups of statist; one supporting very limited liberty controlled and administered by the king and the other absolute tyranny of the majority. Neither of these represent the ideas of conservatism nor in fact have any connection to it!
The truth is any attempt by the left to put a radical stamp on conservationism is a case of the pot calling a spoon black. Connecting words like fanatical, radical and extremist to conservative is like saying hot snow or hard down; such attempts are nothing more than nonsensical babblings from those wishing to avoid the labels being put rightfully on them. The truth is conservatives are in fact the foundation and bedrock upon which this nation was built. Moderates in the truest form of the word. Constitutional centrist or what Douglass Gibbs of The Canadian Free Press calls classical centrist. People who even today stand against the radical ideas and an out of control government. Vanguards trying to keep afloat a ship of state over two hundred years in the making.
The ideas of Left and Right may make good fodder for those wishing to make that which is inherently radical seem reasonable by playing on the ignorance of others but it is in fact often nothing more than incoherent nonsense. The fact is radical statist like socialist and fascist or social radicals like libertarians and anarchists are, and always have been, the forces that threaten to pull society apart. In America it is only its conservative center that keeps them from doing so.
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*Some uninformed minds like to portray Burke as a liberal, an idea that has no historical basis. Charles Fox, a Burke contemporary, was one of the founders of British liberalism and a man Burke crossed swords with many times.
** It must be noted for historical purposes that the Whig philosophy (also called Whiggism) as epitomized by Burke was thrust out of the party by the liberals who took it over and destroyed it. The Tory’s on the other hand were slowly relegated to defending British society from the onslaught of liberalism, especially after the reforms of 1832 (which extended voting rights). These turn of events resulted in Tory’s becoming a conservative party. A fact that would remain true for most of the nineteenth century. Because of this many modern liberals like to claim that conservatives were Tory’s at the time of the Revolutions, a claim that could not be further from the truth.