Part of PoliticalStuff ... this page needs refactoring. Maybe start with OnConservatism

This is about becoming conservative (though closer to the Burkean sense than the US Republican sense). It should be read together with MovingToTheRight.

The latter is about changing one's moral opinion about things, namely losing one's moral disapproval of certain social injustices because they seem natural or innevitable.

Becoming conservative is pragmatic, a HypotheticalImperative rather than a categorical one.

It consists of a set of beliefs / expectations rather like this ...

  • The world consists of a set of complex, interlocking, organically grown systems.
  • Most perturbations to these systems are likely to be destructive.
  • Most artifacts of rational design are likely to flawed, either because designers are likely to be short sighted, limited in knowledge or power
  • Therefore we should trust systems and institutions which have evolved over time, and demonstrated that they don't work too badly, rather than chase after the illusion of perfect systems and institutions.

See the discussion in TopicsDiscussedHere, LibertarianismAndConservatism

Hmm, perhaps this perspective results in a distrust of Big TopDown-imposed changes, leaving open a willingness for smaller-scale organically-scaling experimentation? –BillSeitz

  • I think that's definitely the most attractive thing about Conservatism. But I also think it shouldn't be taken too much at face value. All realistic political positions are an attempt to negotiate between various opposing forces, including the attractions of hierarchical control and decentralization. Conservatives are big on rhetoric against central government, but not big on rhetoric against hierarchical corporations. (Nor do they see monopolistic corporations as contrary to the spirit of the market.)

: They like to paint the left into the hierarchy corner, but the majority of philosophies of the left, flavoured with ecology, anarchy, feminism even non-state socialism and social democracy favour decentralized, local, federated organizational models.


I'm not sure I'd agree about the left. They sometimes like models that are operated bottom-up, but they tend to be imposed top-down. – BillSeitz

: I'm not sure I accept that. Sure, that part of the left that seeks to gain control of government, wants that control in order to use the hierarchy in some way. But it's no more or less true to say that part of the right which seeks to gain control of government, wants that control in order to use the hierarchy in some way. Of course there are projects which the left want to use government for that the right don't (eg. providing health care) and vice versa (securing commercial interests abroad)

: See also AnArchismPhilJones

But going meta for a moment, I think "conservative" can mean so many things that it's not a helpful umbrella - it might make sense to focus this page on distinguishing different belief systems which might be conservative-ish, spinning each off to its own page.... –BillSeitz

Good point. What do you reckon on

  • /MethodologicalConservatism for all the refactoring, HowBuildingsLearn, PieceMealSocialEngineering stuff

** hmm, PieceMeal mentality could in some sense be anti-conservative, since acceptance of small-scale/iterative experiments can make one more willing to try something new. –BillSeitz


** how about just IndividualIst? –BillSeitz


Hmm, that breakdown doesn't smell right. Does BillSeitz:VirginiaPostrel have anything to offer to you? – BillSeitz

(Discussion moved to StasismVsDynamismPhilJones)

BillSeitz connects Conservatism with Popper's TheOpenSociety. (Some stuff moved there, though bring it back if you feel I've lost something with this refactoring. – PhilJones)

HowBuildingsLearn ... a brilliant, scary book which pushes one in a conservative direction.

RogerScruton picks up a similar theme in JaneJacobs :

ClayShirky is deriving conservatism from thinking about CreatingCommunities and TheEndOfOpen. As he finds openness in communities allows them to be exploited he sees the rational of protecting them by creating restrictions. Observing the abuse of open access and becoming defensive about it is probably another strong push in a conservative direction.

If conservatism is simply a desire to slow down and filter change, so that it can be more pragmatically evaluated, does this make it one of the SlowNetworks?

  • Criticism by

** DavidWeinberger :

**AKMA : (Broken (Broken link - all I can find is unless, unless I [look look in a time machine])

which contains an interesting quote :

If conservatives favor the free market, it is not because market solutions are the most efficient ways of distributing resources–although they are–but because they compel people to bear the costs of their own actions, and to become responsible citizens.

For Scruton teaching people to "bear the cost of their own actions" trumps efficient allocation of resources (although it helps that he thinks that the same institution does both.) If they didn't, I suppose he'd still choose the market.

(Think I need to read the rest of that article. Not sure I see that free markets compel personal responsibility, especially with the rise of businesses as "individuals", and the race for technology (which makes markets more efficient, but removes the personal burden further). In fact, there seems to be a bipolar disorder between the "people" and the "company" under the current set-up. Maybe if we actually had a free market, but isn't that just utopian thinking? ;) BTW, Scruton also has a rather intriguing article on the [delicacies delicacies of urine] this week... – GrahamLally)

See also ArnoldKlingOnMovingToTheRightOutsideAcademia

GeorgeLakoff studies the phenomenology of being (US) conservative or (US) liberal. And has a think-tank :

Conservatism is often accused of / admired for being AntiIntellectual. The Economist on RonaldRegan :

But above all by knowing that mere reason, essential though it is, is only half of the business of reaching momentous decisions: you also need fine-tuned instincts. “I have a gut feeling,” he said again and again in his diaries. Ronald Reagan, those intellectuals may decide, was the first post-Enlightenment president.

Compare :

DavePollard, why does small business vote conservative? :

Actually why does anyone vote Republican? Psychologists investigate :

: Compare with GeorgeLakatos OnRhetoric

I am just finishing 'The happiness hypothesis' - and I can recommend it. But I think that Rene Girard could be even more effective here in showing how the fragile is the society framework that the liberals (in the US sense of that word) take for granted and what happens when it is detroyed. What conservatist understand is that society is not something that would emerge spontaneusly - but is built by it's participants. –ZbigniewLukasiak

Irving Kristol, what is the NeoConservative persuasion? :

No mention of MargaretThatcher in the dismisal of any neo-conservatism in Europe. I almost (and let me reiterate the "almost") feel sorry for her.)

This is an interesting quote : Finally, for a great power, the "national interest" is not a geographical term, except for fairly prosaic matters like trade and environmental regulation. A smaller nation might appropriately feel that its national interest begins and ends at its borders, so that its foreign policy is almost always in a defensive mode. A larger nation has more extensive interests. And large nations, whose identity is ideological, like the Soviet Union of yesteryear and the United States of today, inevitably have ideological interests in addition to more material concerns.

(See also AntiAmericanism)

See also :