Fundamentals of (non-liberal) conservatism

Mark Richardson at Oz Conservative is engaged in the same intellectual project that occupies VFR, to articulate a non-liberal conservatism. The basic political and cultural problem, Richardson says, is that today’s “conservatives” are liberals who believe that liberalism is conservatism:

It’s no use, therefore, simply supporting conservatism or conservative parties as they are. If we’re serious about challenging liberalism, the first thing we have to do is to return to a clear point of distinction between conservatism and liberalism.

In other words, we have to answer this question: what political beliefs would make someone a principled conservative rather than just another member of the liberal orthodoxy?

I’d suggest the following. First, a principled conservative would want people to be free as they are really constituted, namely as men and women, as members of distinct communities and traditions, and as moral beings. He would not accept the liberal idea that we are made free through a radical autonomy in which we self-create who we are.

Second, a principled conservative would not accept that freedom is the one, reductive, organising principle of society. He would consider freedom to be one important good to be held in balance with other significant goods, such as love and loyalty, family and country, courtesy and charity, beauty and grace, and honour and courage. These virtues are not always to be sacrificed to the good of individual freedom.

Third, a principled conservative would recognise the existence of a common good. He would not see society just as an immense set of individual goods needing to be harmonised with each other. He would recognise the importance to individuals of the distinct community and tradition they belong to; therefore, he would accept as a significant common good the well-being of his own community and tradition and the common purpose of maintaining their existence through time.

If I have struck in the right places a serious liberal would flinch when reading the above. And the point should be to strike in the right places—not in order to shock or deliberately offend liberal sensibilities (that would be unserious), but to find the most effective point of distinction to finally drag conservatism out of the liberal orthodoxy.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at August 09, 2009 05:48 PM | Send

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