Recently, and despite many heated discussions with conservatives, it has occurred to me that I'm not really all that sure I disagree with conservative principles. The more I think about it, the more I think it's a matter of me believing in some conservative principles more than the conservatives.
In an effort to explore this thought, I've looked up a reference given by one of my conservative friends: Kirk's Ten Conservative Principles, which are cited by some as being a fairly good outline of what conservatives believe. They are listed below:
Russell Kirk's Ten Conservative Principles
1. An enduring moral order
2. Custom, convention, and continuity
3. Standing on the shoulders of giants
4. Prudence is chief among virtues
5. The preservation of differences
6. Resisting the utopian and anarchic impulse
7. Freedom and private property are related
8. Voluntary community vs. involuntary collectivism
9. Power and passion require restraint
10. Permanence and change must be recognized and reconciled
Now, each of these have some explanation from Kirk. I thought I'd tackle each item individually for discussion and consideration. I'll begin with the first.
Kirk says, "First, the conservative believes that there exists an enduring moral order. That order is made for people, and people are made for it: human nature is a constant, and moral truths are permanent... It has been said by liberal intellectuals that the conservative believes all social questions, at heart, to be questions of private morality. Properly understood, this statement is quite true. A society in which men and women are governed by belief in an enduring moral order, by a strong sense of right and wrong, by personal convictions about justice and honor, will be a good society—whatever political machinery it may utilize; while a society in which men and women are morally adrift, ignorant of norms, and intent chiefly upon gratification of appetites, will be a bad society—no matter how many people vote and no matter how liberal its formal constitution may be."
So far, so good. I don't know that many progressives would disagree with this notion as stated. We do indeed believe in Moral Truths. Right and wrong. Yes, I know that there are genuine moral relativists out there, but I think that they are a minority. Otherwise, you wouldn't have so many people up in arms (so to speak) about the immorality of the Iraq Invasion. We believe it is wrong because we do believe in right and wrong.
Further, I could make a case that the Iraq War supporters are the moral relativists, in that they are saying sometimes it is okay to kill innocent people and sometimes it's not. Whereas I'm saying that it is always wrong to kill innocents. I ask you: Who's the relativist in that scenario: Me or the war-supporter?
NOTE: I'm not really wanting to get back in to the war debate, we've already done that here and here, among other places. I'm just using that as an example of moral relativism on the part of those on the Right.
All of that to say that I basically agree with this Principle and that I think many progressives would, as well. At least as much as conservatives do. The one place where I'd expand his definition is that all social questions are questions of private and corporate morality.