A Conservative

A Conservative.


The bizarre bohemian bilge that plagues conventionally left-wing schools of thought, whether from Marx or Rawls or Chomsky, is just not for me. For the most part anyways. Since I’ve become more (this is an understatement; I have gone much farther than, say, Glenn Beck) of a libertarian (a classical liberal while socialists are usually just reverse reactionaries), I’ve learned to make some exceptions. This has tended to be more on the level of semi-reluctant tolerance than on that of open-armed embrace.

As you can see, therefore, I am a conservative because my cultural values and my outlook on life are certainly not (socially) liberal. I find that the libertinism and relativism of most left-wing ideologies, to say nothing of the economic ignorance and denial that accompanies them, were they commonplace, are incompatible with the maintenance of a free society. Generally, the only commendable quality I find in left-wing ideologies is compassion. And then only where it is sincere and/or reasonable, the latter being far more rare than the former. A moral people, as per conservatism, and yet a compassionate people, as per liberalism, is what is needed in order to establish and then preserve a free society. That is not to say that immoral or indifferent people should be given less rights or that they should be driven forth into the wastelands (although, and I think Hans-Hermann Hoppe is absolutely correct on this, they could be excluded from covenant communities without violating anyone’s rights).


Conservatism is about conserving things. But what if the thing being conserved is a tradition of liberalism? Can not then a conservative also be a liberal? Liberalism is about freedom of thought and action. But what if the thoughts or actions are conservative? Can not then a liberal also be a conservative? The dichotomy and at times mutual exclusivity between the two is merely the result of certain factions that were never interested in (or at least not consistent in their solutions towards) conserving freedom or the freedom to conserve in the first place, but because they had one or two important (and perhaps only at the specific point in history that certain factions coalesced) things in common, the labels were adopted. This was then compounded by certain pseudo-liberals falsely characterizing all conservatives as illiberal or intolerant, and certain pseudo-conservatives falsely characterizing all liberals as intemperate or nihilistic. In the United States this was made even worse, at least for the realm of national politics, by the electoral college, which mathematically favors a two-party system because having three or more major parties would necessarily prevent presidential nominees from garnering the 271 electors necessary to win.

So, to the degree that the word is synonymous with protectionist, corporativist, mercantilist, colonialist, imperialist, reactionary, warmonger, nationalist, exceptionalist, Bull Moose Progressive, supply-sider, Federalist*, Hobbesian, Straussian, Old Hegelian, etc., I am not a conservative. If these schools of thought which are what pass for conservatism in America these days I’ll gladly distance myself from that term in everyday discourse, with only the briefest of hesitation. Still, cultural conservative (this is rooted in my faith and the way I was brought up) that I am, I will with equal gladness pay homage to the term in specific instances, where it suits my purposes. As I have just done.

*I chose to capitalize the term because I am indeed favorably disposed towards federalism, unless of course it is the conventionally accepted variant which is more akin to nationalism, à la Hamilton, Clay, and, yes, Lincoln. The Anti-Federalists, who are much more to my liking, and even Thomas Jefferson who was not firmly in either camp, were technically also federalists. Arguably more so than Hamilton or Madison or Adams. But history comes down to us by way of the victors, so the subverters of the American Revolution and the Original Constitution got to lay hold of the term.

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11 thoughts on “A Conservative

  1. Progressives ought to realize that it is pointless to try to create new good things if you don’t preserve existing good things.

    Conservatives ought to realize you can’t preserve existing good things unless you are open to creating new good things.

  2. Zwingli said that every man may be his own priest. Why won’t more people be their own leaders?

    Why do some people insist that a conservative society be created by the force of the state?

    Why do some people continue to view the state as their all-powerful benefactor?

    Can’t there be one place in the world where society is socially conservative, government is of a minimal scale, and the people are vigilant in their defense of liberty? Just one place will do.

    • Great quote. The priesthood of all believers.

      Oh that there were such a place! A few come close in at least a few areas. San Marino? Switzerland (maybe they applied Zwingli’s idea to the temporal realm)?

  3. I do think that you can be both liberal and conservative. For example, We look at Carl Menger or Ludwig Lachmann to be classical liberals, but in todays standards they are more conservative than anything.
    Another example would be to look at the German Historical School. In todays standards, we will probably say that the Historical school is a left wing school of thought, but its founder, Friedrich List, got his main understanding in social and political affairs straight from Alexander Hamilton’s writings, which we see as conservative.

    • Speaking of those two schools, do you have any insights or opinions on Joseph Schumpeter? The way I understand it he was part of both the Austrian and the Historical tradition.

      • I wouldnt necessarily categorize him with either of those schools, though there are ideas of Schumpeter that both schools of thought can benefit from (and in part are influenced from). Schumpeter was very inconsistent in my opinion. In one book, he will derail neoclassical thinking, for example, like on endogengous money theory which he is one of the biggest sources to pull support of endogenous money theory from. Professor Keen, a Post Keynesian, uses Schumpeter references to show support of endogenous money. But then, he will say in another book that Walras is the best economist because of his neoclassical equilibrium method. He also uses equilibrium theory in his entrepeneurship theory, which is the essential flaw I think anyway.

        If you really want to see a semi-hybrid of Historical school and Austrian, I would look at Ludwig Lachmann. He studied with prominent Historical School theorists in college (remember that Lachmann is German) and he is of course an Austrian (though a very special kind of Austrian). In short, his political leanings are mainly influenced by the Historical School and the way he speaks of Economics is of an Austrian fashion.

  4. I’m curious how two of my blog posts ended up in the section for “Related Articles”. I come from more of the left side of the spectrum, although I have a similar view about liberals and conservatives.

    • Well, I used Zemanta to look for WordPress articles with related material. I don’t mind that we approach things differently. Your articles had some interesting insights so they were definitely worth including. I hope you don’t mind.

      • I don’t mind at all. I was just curious. It seemed odd that two of my posts were picked by Zemanta. I’m not an overly ideological person, more ideologically confused than anything. I read your post here and enjoyed it. It’s all good.

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