The Heart of Conservatism


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Long time readers have no doubt perused the page Conservatives versus Libertarians. In referencing their differences, the article points to what each holds dear, and what is sacred.  Namely, it declares life sacred and individualism dear for conservatives, whereas Libertarians see individualism as the more sacred principle. While this is true, the differences go much more deeper.

The Classical Liberal of yesteryear was a creature dedicated to the greatest freedom with the least amount of government. Much in line with today’s libertarians, the Classical Liberal held individual liberty as nearly sacrosanct. Many classical liberals, like libertarians today, were agnostic or even atheist. Unmoored by any true religious tenants, many easily slipped into progressivism at the turn of the twentieth century. The most famous of these converts was John Stuart Mill.

Conservatism, in the tradition of Edmond Burke’s followers who were first christened such, is of a different stripe. As Russel Kirk pointed out, the word’s origin comes from conservator, or protector, not conserve/preserve. Digging deeper, one finds the heart of conservatism not preservation, but dedication. To be put in the clearest terms possible, the word duty must be employed. An inherent duty to society that overrides all else. Society, not as it is envisioned by liberals, but the people that make up the past, present and future generations.

This sense of duty means putting aside self for the greater good. This stands in stark contrast to feel good now attitude of liberals. Where liberalism today seeks acceptance of anything under the sun in the name of being sensitive to others, the reality is what they are seeking is acceptance of self-indulgence. All the world needs to bow down to this fetish or that life style, but there is never a demand that individuals control their desires in the name of the greater good.

Paul, the apostle, spoke of avoiding doing that which he felt was okay to do in order prevent offending others. This is a quintessentially conservative statement. A good example is making out on a public park bench. It is not usually against the law, but most people realize it is not acceptable behavior. The reason to avoid doing it is out of simple respect to our fellow man. There are other examples, take foul language to uncovered breast feeding. The first might fall under freedom of expression, and the other a natural part of being human, but refraining from doing that which brings discomfort to others is an essential part of a civil society (Even if one feels it is there “right” to do so).

As shown by the calls for destroying old statues, the left wants to erase much if not all of the past. As Robert E. Lee, who did more after the war to mend the nation than any person of that period, is ripped from podiums the left cheers. Yet, for conservatives, a nation stands on the shoulders of these imperfect souls. While it might be worth re-evaluating to whom monuments are merited, a society should never lose respect and gratitude towards those who sacrificed so much. Additionally, it is not becoming to dwell on their shortcomings, many of which mirror our own. Instead, celebrate their virtues in a spirit of humble gratitude.

These are not merely nice things to do, but necessary duties. Mankind’s responsibility towards their fellow man, and the generations that will follow. While the PC crowd worries about pronouns, and redefining what she and he means, they lose track of the bigger picture. It is not about them. In fact, it is not about any single individual or group of individuals. It is about the responsibility of each person to put the needs of others before the their own selfishness. A sense of duty that sees the world in light of “how will my actions effect others,” and not individual rights.

It is this sense of duty that calls men to defend their nation, and bread winners to go to work. It means not throwing trash out the window, not because it is illegal but to avoid being a burden on those you will never meet. It is taking pride in a job well done, and showing patience to a child. American and British conservatism is, at its heart, a belief that purpose is found outside one’s self. A truly worthwhile life is one that is spent dedicated to being considerate, caring, and responsible. In short, doing one’s duty to God, country, community, and family.

“The Conservative Mind”

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