View Full Version : Great Definition of Conservatism

04-07-2011, 10:50 AM
In a column on the subject of Donald Trump's possible presidential candidacy (and a very good analysis of Trump's character), the author provides his definition of the difference between moral conservatism and political conservatism, and in doing so, provides one of the best working definitions of political conservatism that I have ever seen. You can read the whole thing at http://www.americanthinker.com/2011/04/trump_moral_conservatism_and_p.html, but here is the relevant excerpt:

There is really but one belief that distinguishes the political conservative. It is a belief concerning the office of governing. The political conservative does indeed view the holders of public office as governors -- not "leaders," "managers," or "engineers" -- for the polity over which they preside is not a "community" with a common good that they are expected to bring to fruition. This polity is, rather, the modern nation-state, a civil association. Thus, the office of governing is nothing more or less than the activity of maintaining orderly, peaceful co-existence among associates -- citizens -- as they pursue the goods of their own choosing. What this in turn means is that government has set before it the task of making ever more exact and coherent the laws specifying the conditions that citizens must satisfy in doing whatever it is they decide to do.

In other words, the political conservative embraces the style of governing of which the United States Constitution is an embodiment. In enumerating a plethora of constraints on government by essentially dividing it against itself, the Constitution guarantees that its aims will be modest. The idea of an interventionist, activist, or utopian government, whether its perfectionist dreams are fleshed out in domestic or foreign policy, is utterly alien to the American Constitution -- and to political conservatism.

The Constitution neither tells citizens what to do nor even pretends to provide them with a pretext for their engagements. However, by delineating the legal framework within which their actions are to transpire, it does tell them how not to perform them. For example, killing in self-defense or for purposes of war is justifiable, but citizens must not kill murderously. Selecting a sexual partner is permissible, but coercively selecting a sexual partner is not.