On civil conservatism/ The restraint of reason over illiberal license.

By Beryl Wajsman on April 7, 2015

"The organization of a commonweal is essential for the promotion of those qualities of co-operation and compassion without which the challenges of human existence would find even the most powerful among us quite desolate. And that these nobler inclinations of man must temper the instincts of competition and contempt so that we can continue our  ascent from the jungles of barbarism.  Society exists to provide each of us with the just consideration to realize the full flower of our individual humanity. And the requisite freedom to express that humanity in our singular poetry and passions.But at times there is a need to restrain illiberal government intrusions with the bridle of guaranteed constitutional liberty. Civil conservatives prize independence. An independence that abhors the notion that the state is bound to fund our poetry and vigilantly guards against any dictate of our passions.  The proud title of citizen is not to be compromised by collectivist experiments. For they know that only in the protection of individual diversity can we preserve our national spirit; only in the protection of individual expression can we preserve our national voice. and only in the protection of individual conscience can we preserve our national will."

There are core belies of personal civil conservatism that drive my social activism and journalistic advocacy. Foremost amongst them is my concern that many of the approaches of  today’s inappropriately named liberalism have supported the proposition that the state has an undisputed authority to impose a framework of imperatives that not only delineate and define how we should live but who we should be.  Social engineering as statist faith has become too ingrained and is increasingly seen as central to “progressive” government doctrine. In today’s “liberalism,” Individual expression is to be moderated and sublimated to the supposed greatest good for the greatest number. 

Too many who call themselves progressive, adhere to the notion that appeasing almost every demand of diversity and populist “rights” is the course for electoral success. And that electoral success should trump what is true and just. Little thought is given to the legitimate limits of government intrusion. Less still to the necessity of the policies proposed. For too long liberalism has contended  that today’s experiment is preferable to yesterday’s experience. 

That does not meet the duty incumbent upon all who seek, or hold, elective office. Collectivist will over individual imperative has been the road to tyranny for the past century. As much as that, it is a national retreat from reason in the face of a galloping excess of illiberal license. A license which not only can still threaten the economic viability of this country, but which has created  too many feckless and frivolous citizens dependant on government largesse for their private endeavours.  

Civil conservatism stands in vigorous opposition to these profligate fancies of fashion. It is civil because it makes no arrogant call on legislating personal codes of private conduct. It is conservative in that it seeks to preserve that body of natural liberties that have not been, and should not be, ceded to the state in return for the bounty received from it. It constitutes the restraint of reason over illiberal license. 

The essence of civil conservatism lies in the belief that the organization of a commonweal is essential for the promotion of those qualities of co-operation and compassion without which the challenges of human existence would find even the most powerful among us quite desolate. And that these nobler inclinations of man must temper the instincts of competition and contempt so that we can continue our  ascent from the jungles of barbarism. 

However, though intuitively democratic, the civil conservative understands the need to restrain illiberal government intrusions with the bridle of guaranteed constitutional liberty. That society exists to provide each of us with the just consideration to realize the full flower of our individual humanity. And the requisite freedom to express that humanity in our singular poetry and passions. 

Civil conservatives prize independence. An independence that abhors the notion that the state is bound to fund our poetry and vigilantly guards against any dictate of our passions.  The proud title of citizen is not to be compromised by collectivist experiments. For they know that only in the protection of individual diversity can we preserve our national spirit; only in the protection of individual expression can we preserve our national voice, and only in the protection of individual conscience can we preserve our national will. And they adhere to the standard of Benjamin Disraeli who said, “I am radical in changing what is wrong and I am conservative in protecting what is right.”

Civil conservatives respects the depth of our institutional memory, our history and inheritance as a civilization. They value the successful adaptations of previous generations, remembering the words of Justice Holmes that “…that the life of the law is experience as much as logic…”

The civil conservative’s  intellectual approach is suspicious of complete answers, total solutions and centralized controls. It is cautious, remembering the fragility of humanity, the distortions of power, and the failed enthusiasms of any given moment. It puts faith in the sanctity of due process of law as the surest guaranty of freedom, and values aspirations as much as prescriptions demanding that citizens meet their duties of responsibilities  as well as collecting their entitlements of rights. 

We  remember that this nation, conceived in economic enterprise by European monarchs of centuries past, came to maturity in the bloody trenches of Vimy Ridge and on the cliffs of Dieppe and in the sands of Normandy and through the bitter winters of Korea and under the scorching sun of the Sinai and over the stormy seas of the Atlantic. And too, in the corpse filled jungles of Rwanda, on the muddied fields of Bosnia and the dangerous terrain of Afghanistan. We know that our national identity was not forged by the low limitations of fear and appeasement, but from the courage, boldness and resolve to share in mankind’s struggle to realize its transcendent yearning for redemptive change. A struggle that, though tempered by service and sacrifice, assured the victory of universality over particularity. 

And that in the final analysis – whether at home or abroad – our humanity must triumph. When we see wrongs, we must try to right them; when we see suffering we must try to heal it; when we see want we must try and meet it and when we see injustice we must try to stop it. In this, our resolve must be unending for it is the only true measure of the authenticity of our engagement in public life. For all of us, at one time, in the deepest recesses of our hearts, have felt the dark mists of despair. We have all looked into the abyss and hoped for courage. 

Therefore on the visceral issues of the public agenda the civil conservative makes no claim to objectivity. The priorities are clear. Winston Churchill’s eloquent and elegant expression of almost a century ago is still unrivalled.”To exalt the individual rights of each citizen over the corporate demands of the state. To encourage and reward private initiative and enterprise, but not with untrammeled public spoils. To reconcile private interests with public rights. To raise the poor from poverty.  For what affects one affects all.”

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