WHAT IS CONSERVATISM, EXACTLY?

16 04 2009

I’m a liberal, but, despite that, every once in a while, as an exercise in empathy, I try to imagine being a conservative. At those times I never know what to (imaginarily) think, especially as my first, fundamental conservative political principle:

Is it  “I hate taxes [and am one of, or simply love, the Rich]!”

Is it, “I love the Lord [and/or my gun]!”

Is it, “I am strong and don’t need government help. Stop giving all that stuff to the weak!”

Is it, “I want an empire, just like the empire that belonged to dear old Rome”?

or, finally, is it

“Damnit! I demand that things quit CHANGING all the time!”

Never having been rich, and certainly not loving those who are; not believing in the Lord, or owning a gun: being weak, not strong; and finally having read enough about the Roman empire not to like the idea of living in another one — I am forced to choose the last of the above sentences as my hypothetical conservative rallying cry.

And I think that last position is really what a lot of American conservatism comes down to in the end, especially as espoused by other oldsters like me. We grew up in a world that operated and thought in a certain way. We internalized that way as the “normal” way of the world, and when the world, many years later, now insists on deviating from that normalcy we get bewildered and angry.

I expect to have ever more occasions for such bewilderment and anger as I (hopefully) age further.

Meanwhile, there is a lot more to the various strains of conservatism, and those strains interact and conflict in many different and interesting ways. For a very good, brief description of the strains (In both senses!) of conservatism, please see the following article, which is a bit critical but in my opinion analytically accurate:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/drew-westen/the-five-strands-of-conse_b_187675.html

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