A nice summary of what used to be the core conservative insight:
One of the ways in which human beings can be divided up is that some of them are capable of pinning their total faith in a 'system' and others are not. All of us know the man (or, just as frequently, the woman) who maintains, and appears sincerely to believe, that if only this or that political system were to swallow all its rivals and prevail the millennium would arrive immediately. What makes the rest of us faintly suspicious is not that we have any cut-and-dried counter-arguments but merely that we do not believe that any political system, by itself, can make humanity entirely fulfilled and contented. Some forms of government, obviously, are better than others; now and then tyrannies arise which are too bad to be changed and simply have to be escaped from or overthrown; but, over most of the earth at most times, the difference is not that great. No matter who is in power at the top, one's own struggle goes on.
My own attempt to define the conservatism I believe in - the antithesis of much of the current Bush-Cheney-Palin GOP - is in my book, "The Conservative Soul." If you're interested in a more abstract and academic account of the philosophical roots of my take on post-modern conservatism, then my Harvard PhD thesis on the pre-eminent conservative thinker of the twentieth century, Michael Oakeshott, has just been published. It's called: "Intimations Pursued: The Voice of Practice In The Conversation Of Michael Oakeshott."
If the GOP really does implode in this election, the arguments between classical conservatism and today's authoritarian populism and religious fundamentalism will surely be engaged again. I eagerly anticipate the fight.
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