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What Is Conservatism?

November 7, 2015

I’m thinking in the Anglo-American philosophical, social, and political tradition of conservative thought, policy, and action.

Since the 1700s, with the planting of a germ of a middle class, urban shopkeepers, small businessmen, humanity has been anathema to Conservatism. Or at least persona non grata.

From the British point of view, the revolution in France confirmed Conservatism’s worst suspicions, in nightmarish affirmation. Mob rule. The overthrow of reason, order, and a legal stability based on the divine right of kings to rule their subjects, as objects.

Mob rule. Unfettered individualism. Free imagination. Intuition. Emotion. Social innovation. Redistribution of wealth. All of it out of control. Rebellious angels rioting in the streets of heaven. Bestiality. The wild animal essence of humans released from the zoo to threaten established status, wealth, and power. For the love of God!…

There does seem to be a deep flaw in the nature of homo sapiens. We are capable of imagining a god whose nature is love and who acts with justice and mercy. We are capable of loving that god and loving each other; and yet we imagine and commit acts that are almost inconceivably destructive of other humans.

To the Anglo-American Conservative imagination, the explanation has been given us by God Himself, in the early chapters of the Book of His Word. He wanted His most beloved created to be free to love Him in return; but they chose instead to follow their basest imagination and desire, and so to turn their back on His divine wisdom. We have behaved like naughty children ever since. Sin is inherent in our very nature. We cannot help ourselves. To sin is our natural tendency, and must be kept under control.

It’s bad enough in an individual, but wherever two or three of us gather together, not in His Name, all hell can break loose. We become a mob, clamoring for we know not what. To paraphrase the conservative, John Milton, we say, and probably even think, that we want “liberty,” but really we seek licentiousness. We know not what we do.

The mob must not be allowed to rule. Look what happened to France. Look what happened in America, as recently as the 1960s and ‘70s. Orders disobeyed and order overturned, by riotous youths, the sons and daughters of the poor and unenlightened, aided and abetted by the sons and daughters of that middle class.

They must be soundly governed! They must be disempowered. Their wealth must be returned to its rightful owners, the makers of wealth from who they have taken it.

And now the American conservative party, the Republicans, along with massive funding by the libertarian Kochs, have created a mob of their own, whose members dress in ceremonial Revolutionary costumes and fly the flag of Tea.

Stay tuned, this could get exciting.

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