by Dr James Orr
My personal view is that a conservative outlook is neither political or social. It is merely a recognition of what the World is, and the ability to act accordingly.
It is a recognition that imperfection that permeates our world. Perfection is never achieved in anything, because perfection is not possible outside of God.
It is a recognition that there is no such thing as equality, except in the eyes of God. People are born with different levels of ability and in different circumstances. Everyone is not presented with the same opportunities, so there is inequality. There is not even true equality before the law, because people are imperfect.
It is a recognition that in general, people are not held down by society, they are held down by themselves. In the main, both poverty and success are self-perpetuating. For sure, there are individuals who traverse the line from poor to wealthy and from wealthy to poor. But both rich and poor communities maintain their condition, not because society deems it, but because of the people who inhabit those communities.
It is a recognition that countries are governed according to what the culture of its people will support. Some countries are democratically governed, because the culture in those countries will support a democratically elected government. Other countries are ruled by brutal dictators, because that is the government the culture in those countries will support.
I could go on, but you get the point. A true conservative doesn't run around the World trying to fix everything and everyone in it, because he realizes that it is a fool's errand at best. At its worst, it creates even more misery than was trying to be "corrected." A true conservative understands his own limitations when it comes to trying to perfect society, and he does everything in his power to thwart those who don't.
Ok now I've read it, and will do so again. It's a bit heavy, but the point is made perfectly at the end and sigificated throughout the text. Impatiently I wait for the rebuke/counter.
I am not ashamed to admit I'm giddy with anticipation and excitement, with all my 240pounds imperial of meathead.
I can only imagine how you feel KK, thank you, once again
And thank you Dr. Orr.
An outstanding essay. I can find nothing in it to offend my own liberal sensibilities apart from the final sentence. The liberal desires freedom but not at the cost of disorder, and flourishing but not to the detriment of his relationships. The social contract obliges me to obey the civil power on condition that my natural rights are protected. Among my natural rights are those which bind me to family and community by virtue of natural affection.
But take... "the particular over the universal" & "the empirical over the rational" - and circumscribe them with his perhaps broader definition, "For whom & at what time?"…
Well...in which case, the conservative *would* very much see a contradiction in defending "the longstanding constitutional rights of gun owners".
"For whom & at what time?" re. the right to bear arms is, indeed, as Orr-after-Solon-of-Athens predicts, different from when it was put in a document written by men, with muskets, hundreds of years ago, to now, with machine-guns, slain children at school, slain citizens every day of the week.
Blend into the above, "the particular over the universal / empirical over the rational" - ok then, the statistics of US gun deaths compared to those in eg. Europe—this, too, would likewise lead the conservative guided by such tenets to ban, if not all guns, then certainly the AK-47 and weapons of war.
So his argument seems to me to self-defeat with that particular example of US gun laws. A conservative or originalist devotion to the Constitution is much the same as any other belief taken from words written down on paper, by men.
Once you start to pick at what Orr's written, it seems, to me, to fall off the bone like tender meat. eg. the opening. You can't define conservatism because other defined creeds led to human horror? (Reactive much?)—but that aside, it's a silly thing to say. You can define Fascism or Marxism whilst being aware of their horrors, even as a Fascist or Marxist. He then casts coy disavowal aside and proceeds to…define it. The reluctance serves only, it seems to me, to claim a subtle superiority for conservatism over other creeds, perhaps trying (subtly again) to wash its hands of those US gun deaths. I’d have steered well clear of that particular example were I him because, if it doesn’t implode the whole piece, it certainly teeters it on a brink.
I’m not sure either that I would loop in that glib Michael Oakeshott quote, "Present laughter over utopian bliss" were I not going to pause and ask the questions it begs: who’s laughing? And, perhaps more importantly, who isn’t?
Apologies if this is incredibly dim and I’ve failed to grasp the meaning of the piece. But these are the thoughts it provoked in me. His credo essentially seems to be a means to justify whatever he happens to think right now--"People like me know best." Which, I guess, is of course in the conservative tradition.