The Future of American Conservatism

Edmund Burke, the ideological father of the traditionalist conservative school, is famous for his critique of the French Revolution. Unlike Rousseau and eventually John Locke, Burke viewed revolution as dangerous and was not a believer in liberty at all costs and without  morality and religious institutions. Tradition and respect for culture was viewed as more essential than change and liberty unchecked by the wisdom of traditional institutions and history can lead to tyranny or as Burke put it in his work Reflections on The Revolution in France.  “People will not look forward to posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors.”  As the republican party moves forward and some in our movement  would rather emphasize the importance of morality and family values to conservatism, these words would be wise to remember.

Peter Berkowitz of The Hoover Institute argues in his essay Burke between liberty and tradition that Burke personified compromise between two conflicting ideals found within the contemporary conservative movement or in his words, “moderating the tension between liberty, or doing as you please, and tradition, or doing as has been done in the past, is a hallmark of the speeches and writings of 18th-century British statesman Edmund Burke.”

While an argument could be made that Burke was decidedly traditionalist and far from a libertarian, Berkowitz makes a compelling case for the faint hint of “fusionism” as its come to be known in the post Buckley conservative movement within Burke’s writings. This ideal first coined by Frank Meyers of The National Review and embraced by William F. Buckley were the key to conservative unity and success  and in my opinion to abandon it would not bode well for the future of true conservatism in America.

Some have argued that traditional values and national security should take a backseat to liberty and small government. I would argue as shown in the writings of Buckley and others, these are not mutually exclusive ideals. Furthermore while winning elections is very important doing so while neglecting the sanctity of all human life even the unborn, the totalitarian threat of radical Islam or the breakdown of the family structure across America would in my opinion be tragic. According to Berkowitz, Edmund Burke felt that “Liberty well understood, he argued recognized the power of self interest but emphasizes self restraint.” Essential to our founding as a nation was the notion that along with liberty it was certain that man was created in the image of God and that the foundation of America was morality. As the recent Gosnell case show while small limited government is important and a fundamental conservative principle the foundation of a society must be preserved. The “fusionist” formula is not only a formula for party unity but more then that a fundamentally American form of conservatism and a vision for the future of this great country.


Follow Seth Ian on Twitter @Conservative013.


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