Monday, October 3, 2005

Kirk's Ten Conservative Principles, part 5

Sixth, conservatives are chastened by their principle of imperfectability. Human nature suffers irremediably from certain grave faults, the conservatives know. Man being imperfect, no perfect social order ever can be created.

Because of human restlessness, mankind would grow rebellious under any utopian domination, and would break out once more in violent discontent—or else expire of boredom. To seek for utopia is to end in disaster, the conservative says: we are not made for perfect things. All that we reasonably can expect is a tolerably ordered, just, and free society, in which some evils, maladjustments, and suffering will continue to lurk.


Here again, with this principle, I find myself agreeing and disagreeing. Certainly people are imperfect. Some moreso than others. I know of noone who'd argue to the contrary.

However, my faith system teaches me to pray and act, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Perhaps a key phrase would be the “utopian domination,” Kirk references. Surely, people chaff under restrictions imposed upon them – even restrictions for noble purposes (see Prohibition, both of alcohol in the past and of other drugs presently).

To this extent, both conservatives and liberals (on different issues) are correctly wary of imposed morality. At the same time, we are called upon by our humanitarianism as well as our God (for those of us who believe in such) to work for a better world.

Who can disagree with wanting to end hunger? War? Pollution?

Myself, I don't share Kirk's pessimistic view that “to seek for utopia is to end in disaster.” The anabaptists (Amish, Mennonites, etc) have done it and done it remarkably well, I'd say. And they're not the only ones. In Kirk's defense, perhaps it might be fair to say that they're not seeking utopia, but a right and just way of life. Semantics. Maybe.

So, for now, I'll acknowledge that it is a tricky road to walk, between working for a better world and imposed morality. But it is a road worth walking and to avoid it altogether would be a great shame.


The Scrutinator said...

One important watershed between the political left and right is whether you believe man is basically good or evil.

The left, predominantly secular humanist, reflects Marx's view that man is basically good, but does wrong in reaction to his oppressors. Remove the oppressors, utopia naturally results. (No offense intended by "predominantly secular humanist"--that's just the demographic.)

Conservatives are under no such illusion (as Kirk describes). We believe man is basically "evil" (wicked, self-centered, etc), and poltical and social change must be aware of that. Checks and balances. Adjustments to what works, vs. throwing it out via revolution. That kind of thing.

As you mention, many groups have been successful at a kind of socialist utopia. I commend that. The key difference is that it's on a small, strictly voluntary scale. Every attempt at a national level has resulted in disaster: bloodbath and dire poverty.

We even see the progression in the New Testament church, from Acts 2 (believers having all things in common), to 2 Thes. 3:10 (if you don't work, you don't eat) when the church is much larger.

We do agree on ending hunger, war, pollution. But how do we go about it? The left dreams of the future (refusing to reconcile with the last leftist failure). Conservatives think in terms of adjusting what we've already found that works.

Dan Trabue said...

I think I'm in agreement with much of what you've written.

I'd note that the evolution of the early church as you describe it is not all that much of an evolution. That is, they may still have had all things in common and still needed to point out don't work, don't eat.

I agree with your final notion of adjusting what works. It's just that I don't think conservatives in power are necessarily doing so.

For example, a reliance on fossil fuels will not work in the longrun (doesn't work real well in the short term either) and yet we're barely muddling around getting away from that...

The Scrutinator said...

'Tis true.

I speak in sweeping terms (left and right). To be fair, further right implies going back (and further back) to previous things (sometimes, but not always, a good idea).

One attitude afflicting conservatives today is the frog-in-the-kettle syndrome. They've acclimated to views and strategies that have been around for a generation (e.g., big gov't spending, approaches to defining and helping the poor), to all our detriment.

Wasp Jerky said...

I think that's true on an individual level. But conservatives also tend to be the ones who denounce liberals as being "the blame America first crowd." Why is it that all people are basically evil, yet the United States is supposedly good and looking out for the best interests of everybody? If all people are basically evil and self-interested, then governments, which are made up of people, are also capible of any evil, from stolen elections to wars based on lies to rob other cultures of their resources.

Dan Trabue said...

THAT'S what I'm saying, Kevin, "ALL have sinned and fallen short of God's glory..."

Well...actually, that was what Jesus said...but you get the point.