What Is a Conservative?
Conservatism is a state of mind that reflects and honours the importance of stability and structure.
It recognises that the historic continuity of human experience offers a better guide than the abstract, utopian promises of those who seek to perfect humanity through political means.
That means there is no ‘model’ conservative, simply because humans are inherently variable and that influences the tradition that it creates across communities, social systems and structures.
However, there are some general principles to which most conservatives subscribe. That’s the subject of tonight’s talking points memo.
Conservatives believe in an enduring moral order.
A functioning society requires order and stability and a conservative will always question what limits should be placed on achieving order. We believe order is better achieved through an enduring moral code innate to every individual rather than through the barrel of a gun. When men and women are internally governed by a clear sense of right and wrong, external coercion is not necessary.
Custom, convention and continuity
Custom and convention are our ‘tradition’ – enduring systems that have passed down through the ages to preserve the hard one moral capital of generations past. By understanding why traditions are in place, prudent change can be brought about as a means of building on the past.
Principles of Prudence, Variety and Imperfectability
Plato proclaimed prudence chief among the virtues, hence conservatives believe that decisions should be judged on their long term consequences rather than fleeting popularity.
Conservatives celebrate healthy diversity and recognise that an individual’s qualities, talents, capabilities and desires will shape their achievements more than social engineering ever will.
We also understand that there is no ‘utopia’ – real or imagined – because human nature is imperfect and there will always be injustice , suffering and maladministration.
Freedom, Property Right and Restraint on Power
Great civilisations are built on the foundations of private ownership, personal responsibility and the freedom to pursue long term goals of individual interest. The state always seeks to exert more power over these freedoms.
US conservative theorist Sam Francis suggested that without a restraint on power, the morally bankrupt political elite crack down on the law abiding citizen while becoming impotent to deal with the social dissolution they create through their social engineering.
Permanence and Change
The conservative is not opposed to change and recognises that progress is vital for the ongoing development of civilisation and society. However, the desire for change must be reconciled against the need to protect the enduring structures and interests that give us stability and continuity.
As Marcus Aurelius wrote “to be in the process of change is not an evil, any more than to be a product of change is a good”