Thursday, September 26, 2013

The true spirit of conservatism

Russell Kirk's The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot was my introduction to Burkean conservatism and to political philosophy generally. I read it in a lawn-chair outside my parents house one summer, probably after my first year in college. It led to reading Burke himself and then many others. From a Washington Free Beacon article, "Preaching Prudence":
Russell Kirk’s seminal work The Conservative Mind is still relevant 60 years after it first was published and offers a useful critique of parts of today’s Republican party....

Yuval Levin, editor of National Affairs, Matthew Spalding, director of Hillsdale College’s Kirby Center, and Peter Wehner, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, reflected on Kirk’s argument and the application of his ideas to today’s policy challenges....

“Kirk was a great proponent of prudence,” Wehner said. “Hasty innovations may be a devouring conflagration rather than a torch of progress,” he said, quoting Kirk.

Kirk's book actually named the nascent conservative movement of the early 1950s....

“Conservatives need to reacquaint themselves with the true spirit of conservatism, which is reform-minded, empirical, anti-utopian, and somewhat modest in its expectations,” Wehner said. “It doesn’t make the perfect the enemy of the good. It doesn’t treat political opponents as enemies, and it isn’t in a state of constant agitation.”

“The perfect must not be allowed to become the enemy of the good…but the perfect should be the guide of the good, the lodestar,” Levin argued. .... [more]