What is a Conservative?

History of Conservatism

Conservative: (L.) to conserve, save, preserve status quo; to maintain the best of what there is.

Edmund Burke (1729-1797)

Reflections on the French Revolution:

1. humans are inclined to be bad rather than good, irrational, feelings dominate,
2. unequal in abilities, power, aptitude and capacity,
3. are equal legally and morally.

The community guides and restrains us to improve our moral condition. Burke feared monopoly of power. Use diffused and balanced power. Strong believer in God. Church supprted by state. Rejected radical change because it is based on emotion. He felt that long-term practices must be good or they wouldn’t last. Tradition is wisdom of the past. These are assumptions which tend to not be evaluative or introspective. Evolutionary change is good. No natural rights. Society gives rights. Individuals are subordinate to society, thus conservatism stresses collectivism.

Canada is a tossed salad of various ideologies. Collectivist conservatives are not as earger for democracy. The foundation of government was divided with liberal philosophy through the House of Commons and the conservative sector best expressed through the Senate of wealth and priviledge.

“The poor are always more numerous than the rich, thus the rich need special protection.”
Sir John A. McDonald

The conservative view is that the people who run the government should be the aristocracy; those who own land, have skills and money.

Modern Conservative Thought

What to conserve? Technological change and knowledge make old ways obsolite before implimentation. The conservative attitude can be summarized:

1.  Humans have imperfect emotions.
2.  Belief in God restrains from inappropriate behaviour.
3.  We are a society of groups. Group order paramount. Vulnerable to controlling behaviour of leaders.
4.  Group rights take precidence over individual rights; society over individual.
5.  Value history and tradition; order and authority.
6.  Oppose radical change for you are liable to lose more than you gain.
7.  One can never be sure of the consequences of change. [Does this justify not troubleshooting before a change decision?]
8.  Different classes are natural.
9.  Private property stablizes society.In a free enterprise system, can’t separate individual freedom. Taxes erode private property and undermine business people.
10.  Governments have only a limited role. When overtax, property is taken away from people.

Canadian Conservatism

1.  Humans are imperfect but can be improved and government has a role in that.
2.  Respect traditions and established institutions.
3.  Equal opportunity: equality before the law, subsidized education, health care.
4.  We don’t have rights to equal rewards.
5.  Nationalistic and patriotic, Pan-Canadian sea-to-sea.
6.  CBC, Bank of Canada, CNR….

Conservatives are not so concerned with moral issues, still distrustful of rapid change. Accepts equality, democracy and progress.

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