Written on Tuesday, June 5, 2012 by Chris Skates
Upcoming for me here on Patriot Update will be a series of articles on Conservatism. We are steeped in a culture of labels. Liberal and Conservative are only two of those labels but in these politically charged times, it is important where we align ourselves. Sometimes it seems that these labels are so worn out from overuse that some of us may not truly know what it means to be a conservative. In this first article, I will attempt to provide some background on the terms.
In order to understand the modern day terms “liberal” and “conservative” one must first understand that the meaning of the terms has changed a great deal in the last half century. If you read books discussing political thought from as recently as the 1950’s you will soon learn that yesterday’s “liberals” were pretty much like minded with today’s “conservatives”. This was particularly true in Europe .
That is because historically, conservatives wanted to “conserve” the feudal systems that ruled Europe . They didn’t belive in or want liberty and freedom of self- determination for the masses. They felt the masses were better off under the direction of Lords. (Think the movie Braveheart . That was loosely depicting a feudalist system.)
Back then it was the “liberals” who wanted to change that system. They were more open minded to new forms of governance. They were believers in the individual’s right to self-determination and most importantly believed in the right of any man to own property. (Even if that property was a tiny cottage and garden plot.) This line of thinking was nothing short of revolutionary.
It was not until the 1900’s that those who did not have confidence in the common man being able to have some autonomy and land ownership changed their name from progressives to liberals.
Liberal thought up to that time was seen as the most intellectual and the most open minded. The progressives wanted to be known that way so they kind of stole the label.
But understand, the thought processes of the two groups has never fundamentally changed. Only the labels got swapped.
Conservatives didn’t fight the change (it was so gradual they may not have been aware of it) because since the 1920’s, those more open minded thinkers have indeed wanted to “conserve” something.
You see during that time land ownership was no longer a revolutionary concept. Thanks to the success of the U.S. and English systems of government the things that modern day conservatives (who remember were the same as earlier century liberals) supported then and now, no longer needed to be established but needed to be “conserved”, protected and defended.
The down side was that liberals “stole” something that did not and still does not belong to their world view. Namely, they have ended up in our modern culture with the reputation of being more intellectual when in fact they never have been and are not now.
We shall attempt to demonstrate this as we go forward.
This is a good place for a side note. I have decided that, for the purpose of this series of articles, I am going to minimize quotes. There are some great ones supporting conservatism (the modern day use of that term) and I almost hate not to use them. But I think this can be more beneficial if we just keep it a conversation between us folks.
So bear with me as I try to articulate these concepts in my own words with the hope that you find it more user friendly that way. At the end I will give you a list of reading options where you can see some of my favorite quotes from truly great thinkers.
Chris Skates is the author of the novel, Going Green: For Some It Has Nothing To Do With The Environment. He has been published in dozens of national magazines and has authored multiple technical articles in his field of Chemistry.