Tuesday, 27 May 2014

There are no American conservatives and not many conservatives anywhere else


America does not have conservatism. American Conservatives are Whigs - the US Constitution is pure Whiggism - or they are right-wing classical liberals. America is how England would have been had the extreme 19th century liberals won power: separation of church and state; a republic; no titles of honour; small state; low taxes.

Canada does not seem to have any conservatives, even though she has a Conservative Party. Canada is a post-Christian Social or Christian Democratic society that happens to be in North America rather than Western Europe. England does not seem to have many conservatives either, as opposed to free marketeers who are really liberals. Almost no-one in the party which introduced 'same-sex marriage' seems remotely conservative to me. The only politician who does have some genuinely conservative tendencies is Daniel Hannan who declare himself a Whig. So, clearly, is David Cameron, whose great hero is Garibaldi. 

One of the very few conservatives left is Charles Moore, whose conservatism is best sampled in this wonderful elegy for England which he feels is ceasing to exist. Even when I SO detested Mrs Thatcher and Ronald Reagan I was always a Tory philosophically, even a High Tory, and utterly felt Charles Moore was a soul-mate.

A true conservative thinks only economic growth helps the poor yet distrusts economic growth as an engine of change. This was Enoch Powell's position and it is mine.

When I was about nine i wanted to be a conservative philosopher and I should have been a good one. As I was not one, instead of my own words I give you some wonderful quotations that express ideas I (roughly) hold.

'A nation is not an idea only of local extent, and individual momentary aggregation: but it is an idea of continuity which extends in time as well as in numbers and in space. And this is a choice not of one day, or one set of people, not a tumultary and giddy choirs; it is a deliberate election of the ages and of generations; it is a constitution made by what is ten thousand times better than choice, it is made by the peculiar circumstances, occasions, tempers, dis­positions, and moral and special habitudes of the people, which disclose themselves only in a long space of time....' - Edmund Burke

I have met Frenchmen, Germans and Russians and even heard thanks to Montesquieu that there are Persians but I never met Man.
De Maistre 

In a progressive country change is constant; and the great question is not whether you should resist change which is inevitable, but whether that change should be carried out in deference to the manners, the customs, the laws and the traditions of a people, or whether it should be carried out in deference to abstract principles, and arbitrary and general doctrines. Benjamin Disraeli 

States shall provide effective mechanisms for prevention of, and redress for:
(a) Any action which has the aim or effect of depriving them of their integrity as distinct peoples

UN Dec. of Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Art. 8

It is not given to any of us to see more than a fraction of a shadow of the truth. Stanley Baldwin

An individual European may not even believe that the Christian Faith is true, but what he says and makes and does will all spring out of this history of European culture and depend upon that culture for its meaning. Only a Christian culture could have produced a Nietzsche or a Voltaire. I do not believe that the culture of Europe could survive the complete disappearance of the Christian Faith. And I am convinced of that not merely because I am a Christian myself, but as a student of social biology. T.S. Eliot

They say I am against reform. I am not against reform. There is a time for everything. And the time for reform is when it can no longer be resisted. Duke of Cambridge

Mrs. Hardcastle: Ay, your times were fine times indeed; you have been telling us of them for many a long year ... all our entertainment your old stories of Prince Eugene and the Duke of Marlborough. I hate such old-fashioned trumpery. 
Squire Hardcastle: And I love it. I love everything that’s old: old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wine; and I believe, Dorothy (taking her hand), you’ll own I have been pretty fond of an old wife.

Enoch Powell: ‘No, we do not fight for values. I would fight for this country even if it had a communist government.’
Mrs. Thatcher (it was just before the Argentinian invasion of the Falklands): ‘Nonsense, Enoch. If I send British troops abroad, it will be to defend our values.’
Enoch Powell: ‘No, Prime Minister, values exist in a transcendental realm, beyond space and time. They can neither be fought for, nor destroyed.’

Curiously enough, true conservatives have a great deal in common with true liberals, but true liberals are as rare these days as true conservatives. What do I mean by a true liberal? Let Sir William Harcourt explain. Harcourt, who invented death duties, was Gladstone's Chancellor of the Exchequer and was passed over to succeed the Grand Old Man as Prime Minister in favour of Lord Rosebery.  
Liberty does not consist in making others do what you think right. The difference between a free Government and a Government which is not free is principally this—that a Government which is not free interferes with everything it can, and a free Government interferes with nothing except what it must. A despotic Government tries to make everybody do what it wishes, a Liberal Government tries, so far as the safety of society will permit, to allow everybody to do what he wishes. It has been the function of the Liberal Party consistently to maintain the doctrine of individual liberty. It is because they have done so that England is the country where people can do more what they please than in any country in the world. 


  1. Quite good but I thought the last paragraph gave liberals a boost whereas it failed to mention the horrible economic practices of the 19th century almost universally carried out by liberal industrialists, working 60 hours a week, no sick pay, and grinding the people into the dust.

  2. I like most of what you have written.
    I do not think Harcourt could have been a LIbDem. The current LibDems would tell you when to piss if they could and the local ones I know only decry and stop things. They have no positive thoughts of their own. Cameron is a LibDem and believes the people do not have the capacity to make a choice.

  3. I've long thought the late 20th century America was very similar to Victorian England.

    1. It is the triumph of the extreme liberals, liberals in the true sense, not the American sense.

    2. An interesting combination of prurience vitality and licentiousness.

    3. They are our children. Until they morph into Hispanics.

    4. They're morphing rapidly in the USA.

  4. As I've said before, "conservatism" is a slogan, a brand, for the most part. Bush was a conservative? How so? Thatcher was a conservative? How so? Not conservatives, but extremists and fanatics, if we are to judge them by what they "accomplished".

    Free market liberalism has propelled radical change, and it continues to do so, "conserving" very little.


    1. I think now that Margaret Thatcher was a conservative - she restored hereditary peerages and said 'economics is only the method - my aim is to change souls' and she meant she wanted to make people more conservative but I agree that economic growth promotes radical change. Mrs Thatcher herself said that they should rename the conservative party - because we are not conservative. I suppose I disliked her so much because I was conservative and thought the Keynesian welfare consensus could be conserved. She was not an extremist and her great achievements will be seen as the Single European Act and presiding over a period of social liberalism and 50,000 immigrants a year from the Indian Subcontinent, mostly wives in arranged marriages. George Bush was catastrophic and spent like a sailor, was not a small state man and was a social liberal too. I wouldn't say he was an extremist or fanatic though - these are slogans and inapposite.

  5. Alas you do not have a "disqus" option for identity.....

    "Are there any true conservatives any more?"

    There appear to be very few. Most people I have met who claim to be conservative are nothing of the sort - instead they tend to be individualist supporters of free market (and especially free-trade) economics. Which have very little if anything to do with conservatism.

    It does make me wonder where they are all hiding.