Re: definition of conservatism

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From: Dave Long (
Date: Tue Dec 05 2000 - 19:22:44 PST

> A Conservative is a person foolish enough to believe in objective truth.
> A Liberal is a person arrogant enough not to believe in objective truth.

Now I'm confused. Is this "objective truth" idea held
beyond Mr. Agre? It sounds more like arguing literary
theories than anything political; by that odd measure
I'm a pinko conservative fool.

The short form I've always heard has been

    A liberal is a conservative who's been arrested.
    A conservative is a liberal who's been mugged.

but I prefer Gladstone's

    Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence;
    Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear.

which, in another twist similar to that which has
happened to the Republican party since Lincoln,
caused Gladstone's Liberals to pursue a free trade
laissez-faire generally whiggish agenda.

Given all the confusion over words, it seems that
we haven't really made much progress since the days
when the greeks talked of power in the hands of the
one, the few, or the many. One's attitudes towards
the few wielding power probably depend largely upon
whether or not one believes oneself a member*.

I happen to believe Kant's categorical imperative,
in the sense that one should be willing to divide a
pie before choosing one's slice, so I actually find
Frost's condemnation ("A liberal is a man too broad-
minded to take his own side a quarrel") to be rather
an exhortation.


> "When I use a word", Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone,
> "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less".

    "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can
     make words mean so many different things."

* "The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is
     to be master -- that's all."

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