Conservatism’s core beliefs

flaja

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Introduction:

It is claimed that conservatism has no foundational document (http://www.kirkcenter.org/kirk/ten-principles.html). Conservatism supposedly has no Das Kapital or a Mein Kampf from which it can draw its meaning and purpose. Conservatism is alleged to be without ideology or dogma. Instead conservatism is supposed to be based on what leading conservative thinkers and writers throughout history have proposed.

But this puts conservatism in the position of being dependent on principles that were formulated by people that are identified as conservatives without having any hard and fast criteria that can be used to identify conservatives in the first place. If we define conservatism by what leading conservatives want, we must identify conservatives without knowing what conservatism means. This gives politicians, the news media and the internet population at large carte blanche to define conservatism as it suits them. Conservatism can be lauded or lambasted at the merest whim. People can make conservatism up as they go along. Conservatism has, therefore, become the depository for everything that liberals dislike and the refuge for every libertarian who is too cowardly to admit that they have anything in common with liberals.

But conservatism is based on certain core ideological beliefs. Conservative ideology is universal; it is not dependent on the conservative’s day and age; on his race, gender or religion; on his social class, nationality or his form of government. Conservatism is not based simply on what people that we today choose to identify as conservatives wanted in the past. Conservatism is not something ephemeral that can be made up to suit somebody’s political purpose or private agenda. There are certain things- certain ideologies- that naturally make a conservative a conservative. Conservatives have a natural longing for stability while liberals, and their libertarian brethren, are perfectly happy with chaos. The purpose of conservatism is to establish and maintain a stable, functional and self-sustaining society. Conservatism’s purpose and the conservative’s longing for stability give conservatism certain inherent ideological components.

American conservatism has nothing to do with the American Revolution, the U.S. Constitution or the Founding Fathers. Conservatism transcends these things. Your views on the proper purpose, size or scope of government does not determine whether or not you are a conservative. Your acceptance of certain core ideological axioms makes you a conservative.
 
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flaja

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Part I

I. Each generation is indebted to the ones that came before it and is obligated to the ones that come after it.
A. Society is based upon and must uphold tradition to the extent that tradition stabilizes society.
B. Society must conserve natural resources for future use.
1. Extract the greatest material benefit from the resources that are used by using resources in the most efficient manner.
2. Individuals must be willing to forgo maximum immediate profit for the sake of long-term sustainability.
C. Maintain economic stability.
1. Favor sound monetary policy to stabilize market prices and discourage speculation that can create market bubbles that will inevitably burst causing societal upheaval.
2. Avoid excessive debt that can hamper the ability of future generations to deal with whatever socio-economic and national security problems that may arise.

II. Property and liberty are mutually dependent
A. Owning property gives the owner a vested interest in preserving society lest societal upheaval put the owner’s property at risk since a property owner is more likely to respect the property of others because he wants others to equally respect his own property.
B. Individuals within society must have a right to the fruits of their own labor and must have a right to acquire property so as to maintain their own liberty.

III. Wealth equals power and must be regulated as power would be regulated.
A. Regulate the wealthy so they cannot oppress the poor with their power.
1. Guaranteed human rights for all individual regardless of wealth.
2. Guaranteed broad but otherwise limited civil rights (to vote or hold office for example) coupled with an upwardly mobile society that offers the chance of acquiring civil rights in the future.
3. Impose taxes that allow private property to be used for public benefit since people who enjoy society’s protection for their property have a moral obligation to sustain society.
4. Oppose laissez-faire economics since unregulated capitalistic markets concentrate wealth (and poverty) because the profit motive exacerbates human nature and allows individuals to sack, maim, pillage and destroy; lie, steal, cheat and kill for the sake of profit.
B. Regulate the poor so they cannot oppress the wealthy with their numbers.
1. Oppose democratic societies in favor of republican/royal government where the will of a momentary majority does not automatically determine government policy.
2. Oppose progressive taxation and income re-distribution schemes as immoral.
 

flaja

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Part II

IV. Society is of vital importance.
A. The individual and society exist in partnership with each being dependent on the other.
1. Participating in society is not voluntary because society is necessary to impose order on individual humans that are by nature orderless.
a. Society has a right to impose its will on the individual and thereby maintain law and order for the benefit of society as a whole.
b. Nobody has a right to rebel against a legitimate government and all lawful means of redress must be exhausted before force can be used against a legitimate government meaning that a majority can impose its will on a minority so that being in the minority does not gain you any rights or privileges that are inconsistent with public order and society’s preservation.
2. Society has an obligation to protect its constituent parts against the individual actions of its constituent parts.
a. Nobody has a right to engage in behavior that puts society, i.e., other people, at risk regardless of whether or not the individual believes his behavior is victimless.
b. Government has a right to use force against the governed in order to maintain its own sovereignty.
B. Society is a living organism.
1. The more varied the constituent parts of society are the more buffered the society is meaning a greater variety of constituent parts gives society a greater stability.
a. Society must recognize the divergent natural abilities (such as physical strength, intelligence) of its constituent parts and understand that these divergent natural abilities will lead to inequality that society must accept.
b. Society must try to even out gross socio-economic inequality that could lead to societal disruption (conservatives are opposed to the mass concentration of both wealth and poverty), but society cannot wantonly expend its resources in an endless effort to achieve equality among its constituent parts.
2. Society has the right to impose a certain amount of conformity on individuals for the sake of insuring societal cohesion between its constituent parts.
C. Society must uphold human rights to life, liberty and property consistent with public order and the insurance society’s future.

V. Self-evident truths of human nature:
A. Humans are by nature self-serving, self-centered and greedy brutes as evidenced by the whole of human history.
B. Human nature is not alterable by natural means; putting others ahead of one’s self is the antithesis of human nature and no individual when left to his own devices will ever do it.
1. Human society is inevitable; otherwise human beings will destroy each other.
2. All human society can do is compensate for human nature by imposing its will on the individual so as to prevent the individual from harming others or harming himself in a way that drains society’s resources.
C. Faith or religion may be able to overcome human nature in that an individual may be prompted to give consideration to others for the sake of faith or religion.
1. Society cannot legitimately impose its will on the individual in matters of faith or religion.
2. Society has an obligation to allow and even encourage faith and religion consistent with public order; nobody should have to forfeit his faith/religion for the sake of gaining human or civil rights or forfeit his human or civil rights for the sake of peacefully practicing his faith/religion.

VI. Human biology is unalterable by any natural means in that biology makes men and women distinct from each other with natural strengths and weaknesses that make men and women mutually dependent on each other with each having natural biological functions that society must uphold and maintain for the sake of its own survival.

VII. Change is inevitable.
A. Human societies are always subject to the forces of the natural environment that can wrought wholesale changes to society that society is powerless to stop.
B. Each generation has a moral obligation to confront the shortcomings of the generations that came before it so as to not perpetuate these shortcomings on posterity and thereby allow the failures of past generations to accumulate and put society at risk; no generation is so great that its successors are obligated to maintain its failures.

VIII. The inevitability of change is not license for change.
A. Change for the mere sake of change is always wrong.
1. All change, regardless of how necessary it may be, must be weighed against the long-term disruptive effects it may have on society.
2. A perfect society is impossible due to the imperfection of human nature so it is pointless to constantly strive for utopia- something that can never exist; furthermore the desire for perfection leads invariably to a desire for change for the sake of change and this puts society at grave risk.
B. It is better to accept society as it is and wait for change to come in the natural course of events than it is to risk society’s total destruction caused by immediate change the long-term consequences of which nobody can anticipate.
 

Bunz

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Interesting read so far Flaja, I would generally agree that there isnt a real "bible" for American Conservatism. The same could be said for American Liberalism. I am sure someone will chime in with some reasonable examples but nothing that is widespread and consumed jumps to mind. Which is an important factor in this discussion in that in American politics there is only two choices. Right or Left. This leaves little room for those who are somewhere in the middle. Myself included.

The other issue is that in your outline of conservative ideology, that is not what previous conservatives who have been in a position of influence have advocated for.
I could take a few minutes and work down the list and point to examples of of well known Conservatives doing in some cases the complete opposite.
 

Mr. Shaman

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The other issue is that in your outline of conservative ideology, that is not what previous conservatives who have been in a position of influence have advocated for.
Ya' just gotta go back....a few-years.....

 

flaja

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Interesting read so far Flaja, I would generally agree that there isnt a real "bible" for American Conservatism.

There is no real Bible for any version of conservatism, which is my whole point. Conservative ideology is not time-specific or place-specific. The closest thing we have to a founding document for conservatism is Edmund Burke’s letter Reflections on the Revolution in France. But even though scholars usually credit Burke as being the first conservative the term conservative and the British Conservative Party weren’t around for about another 50 years- but there were certainly people with conservative ideology around long before Burke.

Which is an important factor in this discussion in that in American politics there is only two choices. Right or Left.

Right or wrong. Some issues should transcend political ideology. You don’t play politics with national security or human life.

The other issue is that in your outline of conservative ideology, that is not what previous conservatives who have been in a position of influence have advocated for.

We don't advocate for the same thing because we are not all conservative. Most self-proclaimed conservatives on the net and many such conservatives in politics are really libertarians. Conservatism seeks to balance the individual with society for the mutual benefit of everyone. Liberals and libertarians emphasize the individual while socialists and communists emphasize society.
 

dogtowner

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We don't advocate for the same thing because we are not all conservative. Most self-proclaimed conservatives on the net and many such conservatives in politics are really libertarians. Conservatism seeks to balance the individual with society for the mutual benefit of everyone. Liberals and libertarians emphasize the individual while socialists and communists emphasize society.


Aspects of libertarian thinking can be found through out most of the middlemost lines of political thought.

I have yet to see where liberals emphasize the individual. They talk it but rarely act it.
 

flaja

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I have yet to see where liberals emphasize the individual. They talk it but rarely act it.

Liberals advocate for special rights for Sodomites- who choose behavior that puts them at odds with society’s norms. They also push abortion rights for women- again individuals that don’t want to comply with societal norms. And when someone becomes a drunk or an addict, liberals blame society rather than the drunk and addict. Conservatives recognize individuality but only as long a person’s individualism does not put society at risk. Liberals and libertarians have the philosophy “if it feels good do it”. Liberals and libertarians encourage individuals to defy society in the name of “liberty”.
 

dogtowner

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Liberals advocate for special rights for Sodomites- who choose behavior that puts them at odds with society’s norms. They also push abortion rights for women- again individuals that don’t want to comply with societal norms. And when someone becomes a drunk or an addict, liberals blame society rather than the drunk and addict. Conservatives recognize individuality but only as long a person’s individualism does not put society at risk. Liberals and libertarians have the philosophy “if it feels good do it”. Liberals and libertarians encourage individuals to defy society in the name of “liberty”.


Liberals yes, libertarians, not so much so. The later would have one free to do whatever so long as it does not interfere with the life liberty or property of another. Think about that a little and I thnk you will see that it does support society and provides freedom of the individual.
 

Mr. Shaman

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Liberals advocate for special rights for Sodomites- who choose behavior that puts them at odds with society’s norms.
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PLC1

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That's an intersting list of beliefs. We've had some long discussions about just what the terms "conservative" and "liberal" might mean, with no real mutually agreed on conclusions. Maybe this list will help.

Since the post is rather long, let's take it a little bit at a time:

Each generation is indebted to the ones that came before it and is obligated to the ones that come after it.


Excellent. Then social security is a conservative value, as it provides a way for the current generation to make sure that the past one can avoid poverty in old age. We are obligated to the future generations to leave intact the natural beauties of the Earth. So social security and environmentalism are conservative values.

B. Society must conserve natural resources for future use.
1. Extract the greatest material benefit from the resources that are used by using resources in the most efficient manner.
2. Individuals must be willing to forgo maximum immediate profit for the sake of long-term sustainability.


Conservatism = conservationism. Good point.

1. Favor sound monetary policy to stabilize market prices and discourage speculation that can create market bubbles that will inevitably burst causing societal upheaval.
2. Avoid excessive debt that can hamper the ability of future generations to deal with whatever socio-economic and national security problems that may arise.

We would have avoided a lot of problems had conservatives been in power for the past decade or so, wouldn't we?

Wealth equals power and must be regulated as power would be regulated.
A. Regulate the wealthy so they cannot oppress the poor with their power.


So, conservatives favor government regulation of wealth to assure that we all have access to such basics as a decent place to live, medical care, and adequate food. That sounds like a good ideal to me.

1. Guaranteed human rights for all individual regardless of wealth.

No more expensive lawyers getting guilty rich and powerful individuals off, while the poor have to rely on overworked public defenders that often allow them to serve time for crimes that they didn't commit. I think we can all get behind that conservative ideal.
 

flaja

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Liberals yes, libertarians, not so much so. The later would have one free to do whatever so long as it does not interfere with the life liberty or property of another.

Again libertarians emphasize the individual. Libertarians are only concerned with the rights of individual persons; they have no respect for the rights of society. For example, your average libertarian does not want the government to regulate marriage. Thus your average libertarian does not recognize that society is dependent on marriage and thus has a right to regulate marriage.

Think about that a little and I thnk you will see that it does support society and provides freedom of the individual.

In my experience libertarians call for absolute liberty for the individual free of societal restraints. Instead of supporting society and liberty this philosophy destroys both. When left to his own devices with no restraint from society or government an individual human will sack, maim, pillage and destroy, lie steal, cheat and kill to maximize his own self-interest. Human nature won't allow otherwise so society and government must be in place to control human nature.

Liberty is maximized only when it is regulated. Each individual must give up some of his liberty for the sake of not being at the mercy of any other individual who will abuse another person’s liberty in the name of maximizing his own. An example: Suppose you had a piece of property and there were no zoning or health laws. Suppose your neighbor decides to set up a chicken farm on his property next door to yours. Now you have to put up with the noise, the stench and any soil and water pollution your neighbor’s activities may cause. In the process your property value is likely to decline and you may end up choosing to sell your property at a loss just to get away from your neighbor. Of course you would be free to become as much of a nuisance to your neighbor as your neighbor has become to you, but the result would be chaos and you would both suffer. But if both you and your neighbor are bound by zoning and health laws, neither of you would have the absolute liberty to use your property as you please- but then neither of you could do anything to make any great infringe on the other’s rights.
 

dogtowner

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Again libertarians emphasize the individual. Libertarians are only concerned with the rights of individual persons; they have no respect for the rights of society. For example, your average libertarian does not want the government to regulate marriage. Thus your average libertarian does not recognize that society is dependent on marriage and thus has a right to regulate marriage.



In my experience libertarians call for absolute liberty for the individual free of societal restraints. Instead of supporting society and liberty this philosophy destroys both. When left to his own devices with no restraint from society or government an individual human will sack, maim, pillage and destroy, lie steal, cheat and kill to maximize his own self-interest. Human nature won't allow otherwise so society and government must be in place to control human nature.

Liberty is maximized only when it is regulated. Each individual must give up some of his liberty for the sake of not being at the mercy of any other individual who will abuse another person’s liberty in the name of maximizing his own. An example: Suppose you had a piece of property and there were no zoning or health laws. Suppose your neighbor decides to set up a chicken farm on his property next door to yours. Now you have to put up with the noise, the stench and any soil and water pollution your neighbor’s activities may cause. In the process your property value is likely to decline and you may end up choosing to sell your property at a loss just to get away from your neighbor. Of course you would be free to become as much of a nuisance to your neighbor as your neighbor has become to you, but the result would be chaos and you would both suffer. But if both you and your neighbor are bound by zoning and health laws, neither of you would have the absolute liberty to use your property as you please- but then neither of you could do anything to make any great infringe on the other’s rights.


your example is a good one as it highlights the aspect of libertarian thought you seem not to see. you cannot do anything tht effects the life liberty or property of another. clearly a chicken farm DOES impact others as you describe. so zoning laws are as natural a part of libertarian thought as you would have them be.
 
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flaja

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Excellent. Then social security is a conservative value, as it provides a way for the current generation to make sure that the past one can avoid poverty in old age. We are obligated to the future generations to leave intact the natural beauties of the Earth. So social security and environmentalism are conservative values.

I’ve said as much in other threads. But things like Social Security cease to be conservative when they erode an individual’s self-reliance thus making him a burden on society, or cost so much that society goes broke trying to fund them.

Conservatism = conservationism. Good point.

Conservation is OK only if it preserves resources for future use. Conserving just for the sake of conserving gives natural resources a spiritual component that conservatism cannot support.

We would have avoided a lot of problems had conservatives been in power for the past decade or so, wouldn't we?

Exactly. I make no claim that someone like Ronald Reagan or GWB is a conservative.

So, conservatives favor government regulation of wealth to assure that we all have access to such basics as a decent place to live, medical care, and adequate food. That sounds like a good ideal to me.

To an extent, but you still have the issues of self-reliance and fiscal responsibility to deal with. A social welfare system that breeds a permanent underclass that is dependent on society’s largesse is just as bad as a laissez faire economy that breeds robber barons.

No more expensive lawyers getting guilty rich and powerful individuals off, while the poor have to rely on overworked public defenders that often allow them to serve time for crimes that they didn't commit. I think we can all get behind that conservative ideal.

No more expensive lawyers getting rich like John Edwards.
 
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