Monday, May 04, 2009

What conservatism means to me

Conservatism is not a political philosophy; it is an approach to a political philosophy. Conservatism is the application of risk management to the political realm. One therefore hedges ones bets, spreads risks, avoids uncertainty, keeps a reserve, and doesn't easily do that which is difficult to undo.

I believe one can be a conservative liberal, a conservative socialist, a conservative communist--about the only thing one can't be is a conservative revolutionary. Many of the philosophies of the political right are conservative--social engineering is very difficult to undo, and its effects are uncertain, so a conservative is understandably wary of, for example, gay marriage. However, there are ideas from the political left which are equally conservative--building an entire society around petroleum and the car is not a conservative move. Even Libertarians can be conservative. Rather than denouncing the whole state-run school system, a conservative Libertarian would argue for diverse approaches and authorities in the field of education.

Conservatism is not a natural American trait, for, and I've been using this quote of Churchill's a lot lately, American's "national psychology is such that the bigger the idea the more wholeheartedly and obstinately do they throw themselves into making it a success. It is an admirable characteristic, providing the idea is good."

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