Friday, February 24, 2006

The Meaning of "Conservative"

I have spent a lot of time trying to understand why I am so at odds politically and ideologically with almost everyone I know. I have finally found a beautiful description of why I feel the way I feel. I pretty much came to the same conclusion several years ago - after reading Dr. Russell Kirk's The Conservative Mind but I have never expressed it so succinctly. [Yes I know George Will is a neo-conservative - and I am not a fan his Zionism-worship and apparent belief in the American Empire]. But all that notwithstanding - this is beautiful.

This is from Will's February 23, 2006 column from The Washington Post called "Smile If (And Only If) You're Conservative".

Conservatives are happier than liberals because they are more pessimistic. Conservatives think the Book of Job got it right ("Man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward"), as did Adam Smith ("There is a great deal of ruin in a nation"). Conservatives understand that society in its complexity resembles a giant Calder mobile -- touch it here and things jiggle there, and there, and way over there. Hence conservatives acknowledge the Law of Unintended Consequences, which is: The unintended consequences of bold government undertakings are apt to be larger than, and contrary to, the intended ones.

Conservatives' pessimism is conducive to their happiness in three ways. First, they are rarely surprised -- they are right more often than not about the course of events. Second, when they are wrong, they are happy to be so. Third, because pessimistic conservatives put not their faith in princes -- government -- they accept that happiness is a function of fending for oneself. They believe that happiness is an activity -- it is inseparable from the pursuit of happiness.

The right to pursue happiness is the essential right that government exists to protect. Liberals, taking their bearings, whether they know it or not, from President Franklin Roosevelt's 1936 State of the Union address, think the attainment of happiness itself, understood in terms of security and material well-being, is an entitlement that government has created and can deliver.


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