Conceived within the minds of 18th and 19th Century philosophers John Locke, Edmund Burke and Adam Smith, the genesis of political conservatism in the Anglosphere possessed the qualities which, for William F. Buckley, beckoned a minimalist approach to civil government.
Among our convictions:
It is the job of centralized government (in peacetime) to protect its citizens’ lives, liberty and property. All other activities of government tend to diminish freedom and hamper progress. The growth of government (the dominant social feature of this century) must be fought relentlessly. In this great social conflict of the era, we are, without reservations, on the libertarian side. The profound crisis of our era is, in essence, the conflict between the Social Engineers, who seek to adjust mankind to conform with scientific utopias, and the disciples of Truth, who defend the organic moral order. We believe that truth is neither arrived at nor illuminated by monitoring election results, binding though these are for other purposes, but by other means, including a study of human experience. On this point we are, without reservations, on the conservative side.
“One Nation Conservatism” however, was 19th Century prime minister Benjamin Disraeli’s theme for the Conservative Party which divided Britain into two social camps — the rich and poor— as did socialists. Warning of dire consequences by neglecting the failed byproducts of industrialization, Disraeli tailored policies towards improving the lives of commoners, employing the welfare state to protect the working class from vocational and statist exploitation.
British “one nationism” perceives social evolution as “organic,” that the rich and poor are obligated to serve each other’s vital interests in conserving the cohesion within the traditional ingrained British feudal hierarchy. The rich, they believed, were morally obligated to generously honor their employees, fearing their indifference (“the establishment”) would result in Britain’s cultural and political collapse through bloodshed that similarly drove the French Revolution.
But modern British conservatism has streamlined with her American New Right counterpart. The think-tank Cornerstone Group tailors its manifesto through the influence of Margaret Thatcher, behind which the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) and Tory Thatcherites still adhere in rejecting Disraeli’s “one nationism”.
“We believe that these values must be stressed: tradition; nation; family; religious ethics; free enterprise. We want to use the leadership election to argue for principles and policies, not about personalities. We must seize the centre ground and pull it kicking and screaming towards us. That is the only way to demolish the foundations of the liberal establishment and demonstrate to the electorate the fundamental flaws on which it is based.”
—Strange Desertion of Tory England: The Conservative Alternative to the Liberal Orthodoxy, July 2005
Conservatism must reconcile a society’s traditions with the inevitability of change profoundly impacting popular culture while protecting the rights of the individual to own property, his own person, and the liberty to engage in each. Russell Kirk’s original six “canons” characterize conservatism as:
- A belief in a transcendent order (steeped in tradition and divine revelation, or natural law); and,
- An affection for “the variety and mystery” human existence; and,
- A conviction that society requires orders and classes emphasizing “natural” distinctions in remaining true to the Disraeli political imperative; and,
- A belief that property and freedom are closely linked; and,
- A faith in custom, convention, and prescription; and,
- A recognition that innovation must be tied to existing traditions and customs, which entails a respect for the political value of prudence — another reference to Disraeli’s point on “pragmatism” as the great arbiter of change in conserving a free civil society.
With the Left’s agenda to legally erode the American people’s right to freely practice their Christian faith both privately and in public, Kirk understood that Christianity and Western Civilization “are unimaginable apart from one another.” Contending that “all culture arises out of religion,” he cautioned that “When religious faith decays, culture must decline, though often seeming to flourish for a space after the religion which has nourished it has sunk into disbelief.” He later expanded his list to ten, adding that,
- Conservatives are chastened by their principle of imperfectability; and,
- Conservatives uphold voluntary community, quite as they oppose involuntary collectivism — a full repudiation of Disraeli’s moderate approach to consensus conservatism through appeasement; and,
- Conservatives perceive the need for prudent restraints upon power and upon human passions; and finally,
- The thinking conservative understands that permanence and change must be recognized and reconciled in a vigorous society.
Calvin Coolidge believed that governments can never “build up the weak by pulling down the strong”. Thus “One Nation Conservatism” under an American design must ideologically realign the Conservative Coalition of Republicans and Southern (“blue dog”) Democrats who between 1937 and 1963 opposed what James T. Patterson characterized as “the spread of federal power and bureaucracy, in denouncing deficit spending, in criticizing industrial labor unions, and in excoriating most welfare programs.” The coalition successfully blocked any bill from passing which it opposed.
The Old Right’s partial resurgence during the 1980s stressed traditional Judeo-Christian values through the role of the family within the private sector as the primary vehicles driving social engineering championed by socially conservative Christians. They typically subscribe to the truth behind America’s original settlers’ embedding their Judeo-Christian values as the cultural standard for their townships, adamantly defending the rights of the unborn child to live in believing abortion to be morally wrong. Social conservatives also aggressively lobby for voluntary prayer to return to public schools while also advocating for teaching intelligent design concurrently with creationism, that marriage should remain between one man and one woman rather than a secular government mandate for the Bible’s revision. Many social conservatives condemn the profanity and sexuality now permeating the media narrative and the arts. Others like author Samuel P. Huntington (Clash of Civilizations) argue that multiculturalism engenders national and political instability through demands for immediate radical infrastructural transformations granting them special entitlements over actual citizens. Globalization, the Trojan horse masking the motive behind free trade agreements, seek to fulfill the rise of global governance through neo-mercantilism and protectionism isolating non-participant states.
Modern conservatives reject the Hamiltonian principles depriving the states of their autonomy while concentrating more power within central government. The American Liberty League rehabilitated Thomas Jefferson’s endorsement of nullification in the Kentucky Resolutions, influencing such intellectual talents as Buckley, Kirk, Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater.
“We’re still Jefferson’s children.”
Rejecting the tyranny incorporated in political correctness’ permeation of popular culture and the military, their libertarian idiosyncrasies stress the strict constitutional interpretation echoing Murray Rothbard’s belief that “Rights may be universal, but their enforcement must be local.” These points illustrate why personal freedom through the cultural narrative must be front and center if conservatives are to successfully stifle any obstructive political barriers to their agenda. While constitutionally impossible to directly eradicate the Left for muzzling the free speech of conscientious objectors they define as “reactionaries”, conservatives can and must apply nullification for blending ideological absolutism with political pragmatism for a distinctly American form of “One Nation Conservatism” to succeed.