Concise Guide to Conservatism

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Nicholas Weeks
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Concise Guide to Conservatism

Post by Nicholas Weeks » Thu May 30, 2019 11:57 pm

Russell Kirk's 1957 classic has been reissued; it is only about 100 pages. For those who think today's conservatives think and believe as Kirk did -- wrong.
As [Kirk's] biographer Brad Birzer has insisted, “in [Kirk’s] definition of the conservative, the poetic, literary, and theological superseded the political.” As Kirk explained in 1952 to Henry Regnery, the publisher of The Conservative Mind, it was imperative to “recognize the great importance, in literature as in life, of religion, ethics, and beauty.” Politics, he snapped, “is the diversion of the quarter-educated, and I do try to transcend pure politics in my book."
Excerpt From: Russell Kirk's Concise Guide to Conservatism, Introduction by WM McClay.
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Re: Concise Guide to Conservatism

Post by Nicholas Weeks » Fri May 31, 2019 2:23 pm

Conservative leaders, ever since Burke and Adams, have subscribed to certain general ideas that we
may set down, briefly, by way of definition. Conservatives distrust what Burke called 'abstractions'—
that is, absolute political dogmas divorced from practical experience and particular circumstances. They
do believe, nevertheless, in the existence of certain abiding truths which govern the conduct of human
society. Perhaps the [ten] chief principles which have characterized American conservative thought are these:

1. Men and nations are governed by moral laws; and those laws have their origin in a wisdom
that is more than human—in divine justice. At heart, political problems are moral and
religious problems. The wise statesman tries to apprehend the moral law and govern his
conduct accordingly. We have a moral debt to our ancestors, who bestowed upon us our
civilization, and a moral obligation to the generations who will come after us. This debt is
ordained of God. We have no right, therefore, to tamper impudently with human nature or
with the delicate fabric of our civil social order.

2. Variety and diversity are the characteristics of a high civilization. Uniformity and absolute
equality are the death of all real vigor and freedom in existence. Conservatives resist with
impartial strength the uniformity of a tyrant or an oligarchy, and the uniformity of what
Tocqueville called 'democratic despotism.'

3. Justice means that every man and every woman have the right to what is their own—to the
things best suited to their own nature, to the rewards of their ability and integrity, to their
property and their personality. Civilized society requires that all men and women have equal
rights before the law, but that equality should not extend to equality of condition: that is,
society is a great partnership, in which all have equal rights—but not to equal things. The
just society requires sound leadership, different rewards for different abilities, and a sense of
respect and duty."
[pages 2-3]
Glorious one, creator of all goodness, Mañjuśrī, his glorious eminence!
Manjushri-namasamgiti

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Nicholas Weeks
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Re: Concise Guide to Conservatism

Post by Nicholas Weeks » Fri May 31, 2019 4:43 pm

4. Property and freedom are inseparably connected; economic leveling is not economic
progress. Conservatives value property for its own sake, of course; but they value it even
more because without it all men and women are at the mercy of an omnipotent government.

5. Power is full of danger; therefore, the good state is one in which power is checked and
balanced, restricted by sound constitutions and customs. So far as possible, political power
ought to be kept in the hands of private persons and local institutions. Centralization is
ordinarily a sign of social decadence.

6. The past is a great storehouse of wisdom; as Burke said, 'The individual is foolish, but the
species is wise.' The conservative believes that we need to guide ourselves by the moral
traditions, the social experience, and the whole complex body of knowledge bequeathed to
us by our ancestors. The conservative appeals beyond the rash opinion of the hour to what
Chesterton called 'the democracy of the dead'—that is, the considered opinions of the wise
men and women who died before our time, the experience of the race. The conservative, in
short, knows he was not born yesterday.

7. Modern society urgently needs true community: and true community is a world away from
collectivism. Real community is governed by love and charity, not by compulsion. Through
churches, voluntary associations, local governments, and a variety of institutions,
conservatives strive to keep community healthy. Conservatives are not selfish, but publicspirited.
They know that collectivism means the end of real community, substituting
uniformity for variety and force for willing cooperation.
Glorious one, creator of all goodness, Mañjuśrī, his glorious eminence!
Manjushri-namasamgiti

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Re: Concise Guide to Conservatism

Post by boda » Fri May 31, 2019 8:46 pm

Like so many things in life, sounds pretty good in theory. :tongue:

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Re: Concise Guide to Conservatism

Post by Nicholas Weeks » Fri May 31, 2019 9:04 pm

boda wrote:
Fri May 31, 2019 8:46 pm
Like so many things in life, sounds pretty good in theory. :tongue:
Kirk and traditional conservatives do not dabble in theory, as was quoted above:
Conservatives distrust what Burke called 'abstractions'— that is, absolute political dogmas divorced from practical experience and particular circumstances.
Glorious one, creator of all goodness, Mañjuśrī, his glorious eminence!
Manjushri-namasamgiti

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Re: Concise Guide to Conservatism

Post by Nicholas Weeks » Fri May 31, 2019 9:08 pm

The final three of the ten:
8. In the affairs of nations, the American conservative feels that his country ought to set an
example to the world, but ought not to try to remake the world in its image. It is a law of
politics, as well as of biology, that every living thing loves above all else—even above its own
life—its distinct identity, which sets it off from all other things. The conservative does not
aspire to domination of the world, nor does he relish the prospect of a world reduced to a
single pattern of government and civilization.

9. Men and women are not perfectible, conservatives know; and neither are political
institutions. We cannot make a heaven on earth, though we may make a hell. We all are
creatures of mingled good and evil; and, good institutions neglected and ancient moral
principles ignored, the evil in us tends to predominate. Therefore, the conservative is
suspicious of all utopian schemes. He does not believe that, by power of positive law, we can
solve all the problems of humanity. We can hope to make our world tolerable, but we
cannot make it perfect. When progress is achieved, it is through prudent recognition of the
limitations of human nature.

10. Change and reform, conservatives are convinced, are not identical: moral and political
innovation can be destructive as well as beneficial; and if innovation is undertaken in a spirit
of presumption and enthusiasm, probably it will be disastrous. All human institutions alter
to some extent from age to age, for slow change is the means of conserving society, just as it
is the means for renewing the human body. But American conservatives endeavor to
reconcile the growth and alteration essential to our life with the strength of our social and
moral traditions. With Lord Falkland, they say, “When it is not necessary to change, it is
necessary not to change.” They understand that men and women are best content when
they can feel that they live in a stable world of enduring values.
Glorious one, creator of all goodness, Mañjuśrī, his glorious eminence!
Manjushri-namasamgiti

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Re: Concise Guide to Conservatism

Post by Nicholas Weeks » Fri May 31, 2019 9:09 pm

Here are the chapter heads in this small book:
Chapter I
The Essence of Conservatism
Chapter II
Conservatives and Religious Faith
Chapter III
Conservatives and Conscience
Chapter IV
Conservatives and Individuality
Chapter V
Conservatives and the Family
Chapter VI
Conservatives and the Community
Chapter VII
Conservatives and Just Government
Chapter VIII
Conservatives and Private Property
Chapter IX
Conservatives and Power
Chapter X
Conservatives and Education
Chapter XI
Permanence and Change
Chapter XII
What Is the Republic?
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Re: Concise Guide to Conservatism

Post by boda » Fri May 31, 2019 9:10 pm

Nicholas Weeks wrote:
Fri May 31, 2019 9:04 pm
boda wrote:
Fri May 31, 2019 8:46 pm
Like so many things in life, sounds pretty good in theory. :tongue:
Kirk and traditional conservatives do not dabble in theory, as was quoted above:
Conservatives distrust what Burke called 'abstractions'— that is, absolute political dogmas divorced from practical experience and particular circumstances.
Okay, so what is an example of an absolute political dogma?

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Nicholas Weeks
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Re: Concise Guide to Conservatism

Post by Nicholas Weeks » Fri May 31, 2019 9:33 pm

boda wrote:
Fri May 31, 2019 9:10 pm
Nicholas Weeks wrote:
Fri May 31, 2019 9:04 pm
boda wrote:
Fri May 31, 2019 8:46 pm
Like so many things in life, sounds pretty good in theory. :tongue:
Kirk and traditional conservatives do not dabble in theory, as was quoted above:
Conservatives distrust what Burke called 'abstractions'— that is, absolute political dogmas divorced from practical experience and particular circumstances.
Okay, so what is an example of an absolute political dogma?
Ask a college graduate - I am not that.
Glorious one, creator of all goodness, Mañjuśrī, his glorious eminence!
Manjushri-namasamgiti

boda
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Re: Concise Guide to Conservatism

Post by boda » Fri May 31, 2019 9:50 pm

Nicholas Weeks wrote:
Fri May 31, 2019 9:33 pm
boda wrote:
Fri May 31, 2019 9:10 pm
Nicholas Weeks wrote:
Fri May 31, 2019 9:04 pm


Kirk and traditional conservatives do not dabble in theory, as was quoted above:

Okay, so what is an example of an absolute political dogma?
Ask a college graduate - I am not that.
How about something very much like belief in “the existence of certain abiding truths which govern the conduct of human society.” That sounds an awful lot like political dogma to me. And then to add God into the mix, well, it doesn’t get any more absolute than that.

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Re: Concise Guide to Conservatism

Post by Kim O'Hara » Fri May 31, 2019 10:48 pm

Nicholas Weeks wrote:
Fri May 31, 2019 2:23 pm
...
1. Men and nations are governed by moral laws; and those laws have their origin in a wisdom
that is more than human—in divine justice. At heart, political problems are moral and
religious problems. The wise statesman tries to apprehend the moral law and govern his
conduct accordingly. We have a moral debt to our ancestors, who bestowed upon us our
civilization, and a moral obligation to the generations who will come after us. This debt is
ordained of God
. We have no right, therefore, to tamper impudently with human nature or
with the delicate fabric of our civil social order.

2. Variety and diversity are the characteristics of a high civilization. Uniformity and absolute
equality are the death of all real vigor and freedom in existence. Conservatives resist with
impartial strength the uniformity of a tyrant or an oligarchy, and the uniformity of what
Tocqueville called 'democratic despotism.'
[emphasis added]
[pages 2-3]
Here's a problem: Point 1 puts the Christian God at the centre of the theory, but Point 2 insists on "variety and diversity."
Which wins? Variety and freedom of religion, or the uniformity of an unchallenged Christianity?

:thinking:
Kim

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Re: Concise Guide to Conservatism

Post by Kim O'Hara » Fri May 31, 2019 10:55 pm

Nicholas Weeks wrote:
Fri May 31, 2019 9:08 pm
The final three of the ten:
10. ... With Lord Falkland, [conservatives] say, “When it is not necessary to change, it is
necessary not to change.” They understand that men and women are best content when
they can feel that they live in a stable world of enduring values.
Which "stable world" is that, I wonder? The world of pre-Civil-War America, based on slavery? The world of the Robber Barons of the turn of the century? The world of the Great Depression, with dole-camps outside the mansions of the wealthy? The world of the 1950s, when the book was written, with anti-Communist witch-hunts and show trials?
Or perhaps some part of the world outside the US?

:namaste:
Kim

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Re: Concise Guide to Conservatism

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Fri May 31, 2019 11:04 pm

Kim O'Hara wrote:
Fri May 31, 2019 10:55 pm
Nicholas Weeks wrote:
Fri May 31, 2019 9:08 pm
The final three of the ten:
10. ... With Lord Falkland, [conservatives] say, “When it is not necessary to change, it is
necessary not to change.” They understand that men and women are best content when
they can feel that they live in a stable world of enduring values.
Which "stable world" is that, I wonder? The world of pre-Civil-War America, based on slavery? The world of the Robber Barons of the turn of the century? The world of the Great Depression, with dole-camps outside the mansions of the wealthy? The world of the 1950s, when the book was written, with anti-Communist witch-hunts and show trials?
Or perhaps some part of the world outside the US?

:namaste:
Kim

That actually encapsulates what's wrong with conservatism..and to be fair, not everything is.

Stable world here actually means "when I was so comfortable that I didn't even to have worry about the misfortunes of others, much less be confronted with their consequences".
His welcoming
& rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
Knowing the dustless, sorrowless state,
he discerns rightly,
has gone, beyond becoming,
to the Further Shore.

-Lokavipatti Sutta

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Re: Concise Guide to Conservatism

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Fri May 31, 2019 11:05 pm

Kim O'Hara wrote:
Fri May 31, 2019 10:55 pm

\
Which "stable world" is that, I wonder? The world of pre-Civil-War America, based on slavery? The world of the Robber Barons of the turn of the century? The world of the Great Depression, with dole-camps outside the mansions of the wealthy? The world of the 1950s, when the book was written, with anti-Communist witch-hunts and show trials?
Or perhaps some part of the world outside the US?

:namaste:
Kim

That actually encapsulates what's wrong with conservatism..and to be fair, not everything is.

Stable world here actually means "when I was so comfortable that I didn't even to have worry about the misfortunes of others, much less be confronted with their consequences".

Kim O'Hara wrote:
Fri May 31, 2019 10:48 pm

Here's a problem: Point 1 puts the Christian God at the centre of the theory, but Point 2 insists on "variety and diversity."
Which wins? Variety and freedom of religion, or the uniformity of an unchallenged Christianity?

:thinking:
Kim
Unspoken second-class citizen status for the wrong demographics, including religious ones. During bad economic times (as one example), it becomes more overt.
His welcoming
& rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
Knowing the dustless, sorrowless state,
he discerns rightly,
has gone, beyond becoming,
to the Further Shore.

-Lokavipatti Sutta

boda
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Re: Concise Guide to Conservatism

Post by boda » Fri May 31, 2019 11:33 pm

Nicholas Weeks wrote:
Fri May 31, 2019 9:33 pm
boda wrote:
Fri May 31, 2019 9:10 pm
Nicholas Weeks wrote:
Fri May 31, 2019 9:04 pm


Kirk and traditional conservatives do not dabble in theory, as was quoted above:

Okay, so what is an example of an absolute political dogma?
Ask a college graduate - I am not that.
A mere dictionary is all that is necessary. A theory is defined as:
  • a supposition or a system of ideas intended to explain something, especially one based on general principles independent of the thing to be explained: Darwin's theory of evolution.
  • a set of principles on which the practice of an activity is based: a theory of education | music theory.
  • an idea used to account for a situation or justify a course of action: my theory would be that the place has been seriously mismanaged.
The list of ten chief principles which characterize American conservative thought are defined as principles, and is a system of ideas intended to explain this political framework. They are also certainly meant to justify a particular course of action.

Having spent a few minutes looking into it, I think what Burke meant by distrust of "'abstractions'—that is, absolute political dogmas divorced from practical experience and particular circumstances," basically amounts to distrust of Progressivism. It makes sense for a conservative to distrust Progressivism.

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Re: Concise Guide to Conservatism

Post by Wayfarer » Sat Jun 01, 2019 12:03 am

This is what real conservatism looks like in 2019

i.e. Robert Mueller, Justin Amash.
'Only practice with no gaining idea' ~ Suzuki Roshi

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Nicholas Weeks
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Re: Concise Guide to Conservatism

Post by Nicholas Weeks » Sat Jun 01, 2019 12:10 am

Lads & Lassies,

It is only 100 pages, read it for increased clarity. Unless your minds are made up - nah - that cannot be.

Kirk does not check the proper conceptual, political boxes and does check the wrong ones - case closed - easy peasy. :bow:
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Re: Concise Guide to Conservatism

Post by boda » Sat Jun 01, 2019 12:21 am

Nicholas Weeks wrote:
Sat Jun 01, 2019 12:10 am
Lads & Lassies,

It is only 100 pages, read it for increased clarity.
Given that these principles are so incongruent with the current "conservative" White House administration, they fail to increase clarity.

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Re: Concise Guide to Conservatism

Post by Kim O'Hara » Sat Jun 01, 2019 2:40 am

Wayfarer wrote:
Sat Jun 01, 2019 12:03 am
This is what real conservatism looks like in 2019

i.e. Robert Mueller, Justin Amash.
Please read it, Nicholas - it's far less than 100 pages and it's only one click away, and it does highlight the gulf between Kirk's conservatism (which I can get along with quite happily, for the most part) and the monster it has morphed into since his time.

:namaste:
Kim

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Re: Concise Guide to Conservatism

Post by Wayfarer » Sat Jun 01, 2019 3:25 am

Agree - I'm quite sympathetic to the principles of conservative philosophy, but American political conservatism has corrupted it beyond recognition in my view.
'Only practice with no gaining idea' ~ Suzuki Roshi

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