February 26, 2007


This rooster was a stalwart conservative (until the possum got him).

Lately El Cabrero has been thinking about conservatism.

One of the weird things for me about living through the Bush era (or trying to) is the realization (a.) that I'm pretty conservative in several ways and that (b.) the right wing extremism and utopianism we've been force-fed the last six years is a perversion of that tradition.

In literature, politics, education religion, and even hobbies, I draw heavily on ancient sources and resources. I don't like waste and my first instinct is to repair something old rather than replace it with something new. I don't equate change with improvement.

I'm not a Calvinist, but no one has ever accused me of having an overly optimistic view of humanity or the possibilities of either political or personal perfectionism. I'm not a literalist, but "sinful" and "fallen" seem like pretty good adjectives to describe our world.

I don't mind authority as long as it's rational and legitimate. My main quarrel with power, wealth and property is that they are not widely distributed enough to promote a stable, healthy society.

I understand conservatism at its best to mean or at least include respect for the past and for old traditions, a cautious approach to social change, a suspicion of utopian schemes, and a dislike of wastefulness.

Somehow, contempt for the constitution and Bill of Rights; a reckless domestic and foreign policy; neocon blueprints of a glorious imperial export of democracy to the middle east (there are any number of oxymorons in that phrase); and the squandering human lives, the natural environment, and public resources doesn't seem to fit that description.

In the next few posts, I'm going to try to follow a thread of reflections on conservatism, both of what it used to mean and what it has come to mean today. (There will also be random links and other commentary as appropriate.)

Next time: a look at a founding manifesto of American conservatism, The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot by Russell Kirk.

WORTH CHECKING OUT: For a good summary of unhealthy economic trends based on a McClatchy analysis of Census data, check this post from the AFLCIO blog.


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