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Samizdata quote of the day – Conservatives who conserve nothing

The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected. Even when the revolutionist might himself repent of his revolution, the traditionalist is already defending it as part of his tradition. Thus we have two great types – the advanced person who rushes us into ruin, and the retrospective person who admires the ruins. He admires them especially by moonlight, not to say moonshine. Each new blunder of the progressive or prig becomes instantly a legend of immemorial antiquity for the snob. This is called the balance, or mutual check, in our Constitution.

– G.K. Chesterton

16 comments to Samizdata quote of the day – Conservatives who conserve nothing

  • Paul Marks.

    Lord Liverpool would be one refutation of what Chesterton says here.

    As Prime Minister Lord L. oversaw victory the Napoleonic Wars, the abolition of Income Tax (yes it was abolished – it has NOT been “with us since the Napoleonic Wars”), the restoration of gold money, the ending of the death penalty for many offenses (that did not deserve the death penalty) and-so-on.

    Disraeli hated the memory of Lord Liverpool – Disraeli was NOT a “One Nation Conservative” – in his own words he believed the United Kingdom was “two nations – the rich and the poor” and only more (more not less) statism could deal with this.

    No prizes for guessing which man the establishment admires – Lord L. or Disraeli.

  • Paul Marks.

    As for Chesterton’s own time – President Warren Harding and President Calvin Coolidge would be refutations of what he says.

    President Warren Harding, contrary to establishment left teaching, was a very good President – he cut government spending (dramatically), greatly reduced taxation, and freed the political prisoners of Woodrow Wilson. As well as denouncing the racist Democrat Party (then just as racist as it is now – only then it was pro white, rather than pro black, still group-politics).

    President Calvin Coolidge also cut government spending and taxes – and his speeches, which he wrote himself, denouncing the Progressives, are well worth reading.

    The great problem of the late 1920s was the expansion of Credit Money – a gold “standard” hiding massive legalised fraud.

    Calvin Coolidge did not see the danger – but then hardly anyone did.

    Banks look so respectable – that they are really scams (Ponzi Schemes) comes as a shock to people.

  • Snorri Godhi

    A bit too cynical, in my opinion.
    Kind of a short, cynical version of Hayek’s essay: Why I Am Not a Conservative.

    When exactly did Chesterton write this?

  • Snorri Godhi

    Also, Chesterton does not take into account the Darwinist principle:
    If people never made mistakes, then they would never do anything right.

    (This is a paraphrase of Wittgenstein — if i am not mistaken, which is not unlikely.)

  • Paul Marks.

    Snorri – it reads like Chesterton from the interwar period.

    As for Wittgenstein – his politics were one big mistake, and had he gone to the Soviet Union (as he tried to) and carried on praising Trotsky (as he was prone to do) the Soviet regime would have made his mistake a terminal one.

    But I agree that if people will not risk mistakes they will never do anything – the problem is that, in public policy, mistakes are very hard to correct.

    The damage that one does by a mistake is often vastly greater than the good one may do if the policy proves to be a success. Especially over time – over decades.

    The way to guard against that is to make sure that the policy is in accord with sound principles, based on private property, freedom of contract, and liberty.

  • Paul Marks.

    Many years ago I was denounced (by an academic) in the following terms “you are not conservative, you are a reactionary, you want to reverse what has been done – you do not understand that history does not have a reverse gear”.

    I plead guilty – I am a reactionary, I do want to reverse many things that have been done. And if “history has no reverse gear” then I am not interested in it.

    Just as a lost building can be recreated – so can lost liberties be restored.

    Or there is no point, none, in being alive.

  • Roué le Jour

    “history has no reverse gear”

    Where, then, are the great empires of the past? Is a fall not the reverse of a rise? It is progressives that posses no reverse gear, which is why, when they find themselves on the edge of a precipice, they have alternative but to plunge into it.

  • bobby b

    ” . . . you are not conservative, you are a reactionary, you want to reverse what has been done – you do not understand that history does not have a reverse gear.”

    Conservatives are the party of Chesterton’s Fence. Not only do we guard the fences against rash removal, we also look to put improvidently-destroyed fences back in place. That’s a reverse gear, to me.

  • Paul Marks.

    Roue le Jour – the establishment academic Conservative (oh yes he was a Conservative – his sort of “Conservative” is allowed to be an academic) would reply to you by saying that if history had a reverse gear then it would be possible to restore an Empire – which he would hold to be impossible.

    bobby b – yes indeed, what can be destroyed can be restored (recreated), otherwise life is pointless.

  • Paul Marks.

    “Why do Conservatives not act” – the story of Ken Paxton, Attorney General of Texas, is an object lesson in why.

    Because the forces of evil (and I am not using melodramatic language) are incredibly powerful – that is why Conservatives often do not act. The forces of evil will destroy you, and they will not just kill you (many men could accept that) – they will humiliate and degrade you, the corrupt will hold you up as corrupt – and even children will be taught that you are a “criminal”.

    Attorney General Paxton kept massive ballot fraud out of Texas – people such as Senator Cruz would have been cheated at election time had it not been Attorney General Paxton. And Mr Biden would have “carried Texas” in the same way he “carried Georgia” and other States.

    So, of course, both the Democrats and the Corporate RINOs have conspired to destroy Attorney General.

    A court of “Republican” judges (put there by the Corporations – who want open borders and-so-on) stripped the Attorney General of his power to fight election fraud “it is nothing personal” the judges lied, “it is just that no Attorney General of Texas should have the power to prosecute election fraud cases” – then why have an Attorney General at all?

    Then they came after Mr Paxton personally – the Corporate RINOs of Fox News (News International – the same organisation that owns the Wall Street Journal – which now openly supports rigging elections) has announced the latest “scandal” – Attorney General “visited China”, he visited China in 2019 along with many other government officials – but it is still a “scandal” and he should be impeached for it.

    And, of course, the FBI (the Political Police) have arrested a property developer “linked with Paxton” and put him in prison.

    We all know how this works.

    “You have got to say the following things against Ken Paxton – or, well we can not guarantee your safety in this prison, sometimes terrible things happen here”.

    This is why Conservatives do not act – because the forces of evil are so strong.

  • Paul Marks.

    I am reminded of “The Water Margin” – the Japanese early 1970s television adaptation of the ancient Chinese story.

    An honest former military officer is to be executed on false charges – but at a last second (just as the saw is applied to his neck – yes his head is to be sawn off) an honest judge appears and saves him.

    The forces of evil do not forgive that judge – but they do not just kill him, he could have accepted that.

    No – they degrade him, they bring him up “corruption” charges and lead him away, his head and hands bound, and with everyone mocking him, even young children being told that the honest judge is a “criminal”.

    That is why Conservatives often fail to act – because the forces of evil (such as the FBI – but including many Corporate “Republicans” as well) will just not kill you, they will degrade and humiliate you.

  • Lord Liverpool would be one refutation of what Chesterton says here.

    You only have to look at UK in 2023 to see actual conservatives in the Conservative Party are the exception rather than the rule.

  • Kirk

    I find the idea of “conservative” and “liberal” ludicrously off the mark, especially here in the US. I am not a resident subject of the Crown in the UK, so I’ve no real perspective to base an opinion off of other than what I get from reading the media.

    Raw fact? Neither side of the Democrat (putative “liberal”)/Republican (theoretical “conservative”) demarcation line actually demonstrate much in the way of their supposed and stated beliefs. From where I sit, it looks increasingly like a performance piece put on for the average citizen by the asshole criminals who took over the enterprise of government, and who have been conducting a classic mob-style “bustout” operation on what was once a legitimate business. Disbelieve me? Look up how they usually do those things, and carefully compare the outline of such an effort to what we have in our current governance.

    The reality here? The Democrats are actually far more “conservative” than the Republicans, because the Democrats are welded to archaic collectivist belief systems that haven’t ever worked, but whose currency dates back to the end of the initial industrial revolution. Seriously… High-speed rail? Light rail, in cities? Welfare states? All the trappings of mid-20th Century socialist belief. They’re way more conservative than even the most fervent conservative; they’ve not had a new idea in generations.

    Latest bit of bullshit brilliance? Out of one side of Joe Biden’s mouth, we hear that solar power is the coming thing. Out of the other? We’re gonna block sunlight from hitting the earth with sunshades, or something…

    You can call these people what you like, but they ain’t what they say they are. It’s a macabre game they play, one where they mouth the words and ape the forms, then do something else entirely.

    Anyone remember McCain’s campaign? His last, wherein he promised to undo Obamacare? Note what the assclown actually did, when presented with a majority in the House and Senate, and the Executive? Oh, yeah… Voted against doing away with it.

    Anyone who thinks that these creatures of the night are telling you the truth when they stand up on their hind legs and mouth the words? Y’all are clearly delusional.

    I was pleasantly surprised to see Trump do exactly what he said he would, campaigning. Unsurprised to see the establishment’s reaction to him doing those things, as well. If he’s up for election again, I think I’ll vote for him just to put a stick in their eye. Clearly, they don’t like it when people don’t do as they are told, and that just makes me want to be more of a contrarian.

    Until and unless I start seeing some actual competence and restraint in governance, I’m just going to keep on throwing sticks into the spokes, and watching the idiocy unfold. I’m curious where all these transnationalist types think they’re going to go, once they’ve destroyed Europe and the US; do they think that either region will take them in, or be worth living in? Where else do they go? Is there another enclave region that will take them in?

    Idiots. All of them.

  • Roué le Jour

    I’m curious where all these transnationalist types think they’re going to go, once they’ve destroyed Europe and the US;

    A question I have asked myself. The one advantage of a monarchy is that kings are painfully aware that there is nothing sadder than a king without a country. Politicians on the other hand have no problem trashing the society entrusted to their care and then hopping a jet with a cheery “So long, suckers!”

  • bobby b

    They – the transnats – won’t have to go far, but their new closer border fortifications are going to be massive and impregnable.

  • Paul Marks.

    Perry – it is not that there are not lots of Conservatives in the Conservative Party, it is that when they get into a “position of power” they find they are NOT in a position of power – not now.

    Take the example of Prime Minister Truss – this lady tried to reduce taxation, not by very much (contrary to what is claimed) but a real reduction in taxation. All Hell broke lose – a tidal waves of lies from the media, and active economic sabotage from the Bank of England and the “non political” City of London, even today such newspapers as the Yorkshire Post (which I just blocked on my MSM feed this morning) are blaming the “budget of Liz Truss”, not the 400 Billion Pounds spend on insane Covid policies by a certain Mr Sunak, for the economic problems of Britain.

    The media lie, they lie without shame – and “The City” follows a political agenda, an international political agenda (indeed it has to – because it depends on the drip feed of Credit Money from the Bank of England and the other Central Banks – “do not bite the hand that feeds you”).

    What about cultural conservativism? Fighting Frankfurt School DEI (or EDI) Marxism? Mrs Braverman and Kemi Badenoch are “in a position of power” – but they are NOT really in power, the Collectivist government and corporate machine (really one and the same) just carries on – DEI, EDI, ESG and-so-on.

    The last time that even moderately conservative policies, rolling back the state, were followed in this country was back in the days of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Chancellor Nigel Lawson – and the Civil Service and the “independent agencies” were not so “trained and educated” then.

    Nor, back in the 1980s, were the Corporations pushing Agenda 21, Agenda 2030, United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (that stuff did not really get out of control till the 1990s).

    By the way – the 1990s was when major Corporations started to directly fund government agencies (in various countries), including the agencies supposed to judge whether medicines are safe, and work “in partnership” with them.

    “Public-Private Partnership”, “Stakeholder Capitalism”, the Corporate State.

    Corruption certainly existed before the 1990s – but it was only in the 1990s that organised corruption become the SYSTEM we have, in various Western countries, today.