After electing the most liberal president in memory—and the interview with the president-elect and his wife on 60 Minutes recently revealed a charming couple, parents of two lovely children, for whom we all pray that their stated opinions on abortion and many other issues, may change as they learn more from the vantage point of the most visible governing seat in the world—it can be helpful to review the canons of the conservative movement as formulated by Russell Kirk, a Catholic convert, author of The Conservative Mind, and father of modern conservatism, who defined “six canons of conservative thought—“
“(1) Belief in a transcendent order, or body of natural law, which rules society as well as conscience. Political problems, at bottom, are religious and moral problems. A narrow rationality, what Coleridge called the Understanding, cannot of itself satisfy human needs. “Every Tory is a realist,” says Keith Feiling: “he knows that there are great forces in heaven and earth that man’s philosophy cannot plumb or fathom.” (J.G. Baldwin, Party Leaders, pp.144-145) True politics is the art of apprehending and applying the Justice which ought to prevail in a community of souls.
“(2) Affection for the proliferating variety and mystery of human existence, as opposed to the narrowing uniformity, egalitarianism, and utilitarian aims of most radical systems; conservatives resist what Robert Graves call “Logicalism” in society. This prejudice has been called “the conservatism of enjoyment”—a sense that life is worth living, according to Walter Bagehot “the proper source of an animated Conservatism.”
“(3) Conviction that civilized society requires orders and classes, as against the notion of a “classless society.” With reason, conservatives often have been called “the party of order.” If natural distinctions are effaced among men, oligarchs fill the vacuum. Ultimate equality in the judgment of God, and equality before courts of law, are recognized by conservatives; but equality of condition, they think, means equality in servitude and boredom.
“(4) Persuasion that freedom and property are closely linked: separate property from private possession, and Leviathan becomes master of all. Economic leveling, they maintain, is not economic progress.
“(5) Faith in prescription and distrust of “sophisters, calculators, and economists” who would reconstruct society upon abstract designs. Custom, convention, and old prescription are checks both upon man’s anarchic impulse and upon the innovator’s lust for power.
“(6) Recognition that change may not be salutary reform: hasty innovation may be a devouring conflagration, rather than a torch of progress. Society must alter, for prudent change is the means of social preservation; but a statesman must take providence into his calculations, and a statesman’s chief virtue, according to Plato and Burke, is prudence. (pp. 8-9)