Thursday, November 20, 2014

Six Canons of Conservative Thought

The Conservative Mind by Russell Kirk is one of the books that I'm going over again and this is one that is going to take more than a few blogs to cover.

His six canons of conservative thought from early in the book:
  1. Belief in a transcendent order, or body of natural law, which rules society as well as conscience. Political problems, at bottom, are religious and moral problems. 
  2. Affection for the proliferating variety and mystery of human existence as opposed to the narrowing uniformity, egalitarianism, and utilitarian aims of most radical systems. 
  3. Conviction that civilized society requires orders and classes, as against the notion of a "classless society". Belief in order. 
  4. Persuasion that freedom and property are closely linked: separate property from from private possession and Leviathan  becomes master of all. Economic leveling is not economic progress. 
  5. Faith in prescription and distrust of "sophists, calculators and economists" who would reconstruct society on abstract designs. Custom, convention and old prescription checks both upon man's anarchic impulse and on the innovators lust for power. 
  6. Recognition that change may not be salutary reform: hasty innovation may be a devouring conflagration rather than the torch of progress. 
These are set against 4 common means of attack used by the forces collectivism, utilitarianism, positivism, and the other "isms" ... socialism, communism and fascism since 1790:
  1. The perfectibility of man and the limitless progress of society: meliorism (belief in the positive direction of "progress" and human ability to make it so)  Radicals believe that education, positive legislation and alteration of environment can produce men like gods. They deny that humanity has a natural proclivity for violence and sin. 
  2. Contempt for tradition. Reason, impulse and materialistic determinism are preferred as guides to social welfare, more trusted than the wisdom of the ages. Formal religion is rejected and various ideologies are presented as alternatives. 
  3. Political leveling. Order and privilege are condemned; total democracy, as direct as practicable is the professed radical ideal. An eagerness for centralization and consolidation. 
  4. Economic leveling. The ancient right of property is attacked by nearly all radicals and attempts are made to collectivize it. 
It is difficult to pin radicals down because much of what they propose is based on current impulse and tends to look to the future even if current progress on a stated goal is questionable (eg. the 18 year "pause" in AGW, the "glitches" in the BOcare system). 

Since the main article of faith is that the present is better than the past and the future will be better still, there is not a lot of reason for deep thought on causes, effects and such. A book that covers this well is "A Conflict of Visions". 

The vision of the future tends to be "clear in the abstract" -- it will be "free", "just", "happy", "needs will be met" ... but as to specifics, the vision tends to be extremely weak. 

The primary way to recognize the radical is their love of "change" ... the more nonspecific the change desired, the more certain you may be that you are talking to a radical. 

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