Friday, October 24, 2008

Conservatism is Twofold

Here are two senses of conservatism. They are closely related.

1. Procedural Conservatism. This is the disposition to take a large set of values as important to moral and political deliberation, to attempt to preserve as many of these as possible in the determination of what to do. The determination of what to do is made precisely by discovering which action will promote the largest and most coherent set of the values to which we are committed.

Non-conservative moral and political stances, in contrast, tend to neglect large swathes of this set of values and fetishize particular members of it. For example, the libertarian makes a fetish of liberty. The left-liberal makes a fetish of helping the poor or, even worse, of economic equality, which is hardly, if at all, a member of the set of values we should promote in the first place. Excuses and falsehoods are embraced by these two characters in order to alleviate the strain of distorting the web of value so.

2. Substantive Conservatism. This is the devotion to certain values which are enumerated thusly: small government, the traditional virtues (self-reliance, justice, courage, etc.), gratitude, and liberty.

Conservatives should understand themselves in both senses 1 and 2. There is more on this in my archives, and we will be going deeper into these senses in future posts.