09 December 2013

The Heart of Conservatism

In a prior post I noted that the heart of progressivism is nothing more than the rather human desire for novelty.  The constant search for dynamos is adolescent in nature, making Progressivism nothing more than a movement—not a philosophy—for the adventurous.

Conservatism, then, is the antithesis of progressivism.  As Chesterton noted, some time ago, “The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected.”  Like Progressivism, Conservatism is not a philosophy, it is merely a movement. Also like Progressivism, Conservatism loves to pretend that it is a philosophy and masquerade its true motive with the language of thinkers.  Ultimately, though, it is nothing more than risk-aversion in fancy language.

Conservatism is both infantile and geriatric, for it is infants and old folks who detest risk and change the most.  Young children crave structure and routine, and find security in knowing that everything is always the same.  Old people love structure and routine, in part because it makes life easier by removing the intellectual difficulty of adapting to constant change.  Consequently, most conservatives tend to be older, and argue either like infants* or like old geezers pining for the good old days.**

While conservatism can never build a society from scratch (trying to preserve huts made out of mud rarely leads to skyscrapers, after all), it can maintain a society once it’s built.  Unfortunately, this means that conservatives have to be kept out of the way while society is being built, else it will never go anywhere.  Like Progressivism, Conservatism’s tactical aims are always adapted to the times.  Conservatives didn’t really do much to defend against gay marriage until it was too late; then conservatives surrendered once it was clear that the battle was over.  Their surrender wasn’t a matter of principle but of pragmatism.  Any appeal to principle is mostly a matter of trying to convince themselves that they are motivated by principle and not simply a mindset of risk-aversion.

Thus, it should be clear that conservatism is also an intellectual dead end because it cannot think in terms of principles, only in terms of actions.  The only action is risk minimization.  As with Progressivism, the moral and emotional arguments in favor of Conservatism’s current aims are simply intellectual window dressing.  Conservatives simply oppose change, and will say or do anything they can to get what they want.  They cannot be trusted with power because they will not wield it with principle.

* A tendency that Vox exploited in this WND post.  This basically mimics the bulk of articles on the few conservative sites I read, in that it starts with a basic premise and argues from unsupported tertiary principles, which the readers are assumed to already agree with.

** Which, frankly have never existed ever at any point in history.