Thursday, January 18, 2007

Conservatives and Liberals

Recently, there has been a lot of discussion about the nature of conservatism, especially whether the Conservative movement is dominated by Christians. I think a lot of the discussion reflects a misunderstanding of the nature of conservatism, liberalism, and the place of religion in politics.

Conservatism is concerned with preserving the goodness of the world, even if that preserves some of the ills, as well. Liberalism is concerned with fixing the flaws in the world, even if that causes the loss of some of what is good.

Conservatives currently believe that all that men need to live fulfilling lives is the absence of chains, literal and figurative, placed on them by their fellow man. Give a man his freedom, and keep from placing undue burdens on him, and be prepared to marvel at his industry and the good works of his gratitude. That is, I think, a summation of Classical Liberalism. Liberals no longer believe the "all" part: men require the assisstance of others, especially those in government. It takes a village to lift a man up.

Conservatives believe that government should be kept out of religion, but that it's fine for religious people in government to display their faith, as long as no one is forced to believe. Liberals believe that religion should be kept out of government, but that it's fine for religious people in government to act out their faith as long as no one knows their motivation.

While I can't be sure without researching it for a lifetime, I think politics has always been about the tendency to want to keep what is good, versus wanting to change what is not. There is always resistance to reforming a system that largely works, and there is always pressure to reform one that does not. Whether the argument is between Whigs and Democrats, Confucian reformers and Imperialists, or our Republicans and Democrats, one side has things they want to change, and the other wants ... nah. I don't buy my own argument.

I have other stuff to do, like finding the design my wife wants in the kitchen floor.

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1 comment:

Marc said...

Interesting theory...and thanks for the link and the kind words concerning my Whigs post. It's difficult to get past the labels. Especially ones that could easily be applied the other way around! You do a good job of trying to push those aside and have boiled it down in a different way. Congrats.

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