Conservatism is a political philosophy which holds either or both of the following:
- society must be preserved in its present form (it must not change)
- society cannot be changed for the better
- ...except by more faithful adherence to traditional ways that have become neglected. The ideal society would be one that placed high value on following traditional forms.
- This is often phrased as "the human condition is eternal" or "human beings cannot be perfected" (cf Kipling)
It often includes a certain reactionary element that wishes to revert society to an earlier (supposedly happier) time, or a set of societal norms that existed during that time, but this is not the main thrust of conservatism in general.
The conservative ideal encompasses what is best about conservatism, and ways in which the idea of conservatism is misrepresented or misused.
Conservatism encompasses a wide variety of possible viewpoints, with different aspects being emphasized in different countries:
- US conservatism
- RationalWiki has a good run-down of what "conservative" means in a number of different countries.
Social conservatives believe that there is "wisdom embedded in [existing] social structures/norms", and that we tamper with those structures at our peril. In other words, the current social norms are the way they are because they have been proven to work over a long period of time, and there is considerable danger if they cease to work properly.
The implication of this is that we don't know how those norms got the way they are, nor why they work. This is at odds with the idea that we as a civilization have been documenting our own history in considerable detail for many centuries now, and are indeed quite capable of noting which experiments have succeeded, which failed, and which were made popular or unpopular without correlation to (and for reasons other than) their success or failure at their intended purpose. The social conservative attitude essentially favors custom over understanding, shuns experimentation, and fears the possible consequences.
Social conservatives are at odds with social liberals on certain issues:
- marriage (liberals want to broaden it, conservatives don't)
- death penalty (conservatives for, liberals against)
- gun control (conservatives against, liberals for)
Fiscal conservatives are more concerned about unnecessary government expenditure, and tend to prefer solutions where private industry or "faith-based" groups provide the bulk of the funding. For this reason, they tend to seek solutions based in free market incentives. They also tend to be against government regulation, however, which they unfortunately often seem to forget is a requirement for a free marketplace.
[ Rudyard Kipling ] was a conservative in the sense that he believed civilization to be something laboriously achieved which was only precariously defended. He wanted to see the defences fully manned and he hated the liberals because he thought them gullible and feeble, believing in the easy perfectibility of man and ready to abandon the work of centuries for sentimental qualms.
dKosopediano equivalent article (as of 2008-03-27); see search
- RationalWiki (redirects to Conservative)