Sunday, October 12, 2008

Russell Kirk: Ten Conservative Principles

After reading Kirk’s article, for the first time, I felt conservatism is not that bad idea. It’s a necessary balance to liberalism, and without either of them, the society is imperfect. Conservatism is mostly based on observation and reflection of human history, just as what they believe that “A people’s historic continuity of experience offers a guide to policy far better than the abstract designs of coffee-house philosophers.” It’s an ironic saying to those liberal thinkers, but a practical perspective in real life.

History is proved to happen in a cycle way. Though people are always trying to get out the cycle and set up a new world, they end up just starting a new cycle. As Kirk said, “that power which the revolutionaries had thought oppressive in the hands of the old regime became many times as tyrannical in the hands of the radical new masters of the state.” For this reason, conservative doesn’t abolish but restrain power so as to avoid anarchy or tyranny.

Liberalism has good intention for a better society, but its idealistic ideas always cause terrible human experiments. Kirk used modern history as an example that “the ideologues who promise the perfection of man and society have converted a great part of the twentieth-century world into a terrestrial hell.” There’s nothing wrong with the idea, while the problem is how to practice the idea, or whether the idea is practical. The conservative doesn’t want to take risks of human life, so “they prefer the devil they know to the devil they don’t know.”

It’s not to say the conservative rejects any kind of change, but Kirk claimed “necessary change ought to be gradual and discriminatory, never unfixing old interests at once.” Rome was not built in a day, though people tend to forget it and wish change could happen overnight. But it’s never the case in history. As a more practical approach, “the conservative favors reasoned and temperate progress,” which might take a long time, but it also minimizes harm and chaos to society.

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