A classic take from Henry Fairlie:

The characteristics of the Tory, which separate him from the conservative, may briefly be summarized: 1) his almost passionate belief in strong central government, which has of course BURKE always been the symbolic importance to him of the monarchy; 2) his detestation of "capitalism," of what Cardinal Newman and T. S. Eliot called "usury," of what he himself calls "trade"; and 3) his trust in the ultimate good sense of the People, whom he capitalizes in this way, because the People are a real entity to him, beyond social and economic divisions, and whom he believes can be appealed to, and relied on, as the final repository of decency in a free nation. The King and the People, against the barons and the capitalists, is the motto of the Tory.

This tradition is absent in America; and as a result, whenever conservatism holds power in the United States, unless it has chosen a political neuter like Eisenhower as its leader, one has only to wait for it to be nasty: to show its colors, and be narrow-minded and selfish and mean-spirited. This is one reason, although it is by no means the only one, why the English Tory feels at home with the Democratic party, while the Republican party fills him with a puzzlement that gives way to desperation and at last to contempt.

No attempt to civilize and broaden conservatism in America in this century has yet succeeded.


Me? Not quite the Tory Henry was. I have a dash of Thatcherite whiggery deep down (and Burke, remember, was a Whig). But we bonded over Oakeshott. Buy a wonderful collection of Fairlie's essays and provocations, edited by Jeremy McCarter, here. Great summer reading if you love politics and miss the era of literary political journalism which also pulls not a single punch.

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