What is True Conservatism?

by Right Wing Fighter

Conservatism is very vague in its meaning. At any one time, there are lots of different definitions floating around.

The way I see it, there’s three possible ways to authoritatively define it:

(A): Accept the definition that the largest number of self-identified conservatives have.

(B): Approach it linguistically. Basically, since conservatism means to conserve, identify the things that should be conserved. And then call the work of conserving those things conservatism.

(C): Use the definition that conservatism’s author gave it. Most agree that was Edmund Burke.


Answer (A) is certainly the most practical. It treats conservatism, not philosophically, but in terms of political strength. It deals with conservatism on the basis of what it is, instead of what it should be.

Answer (B) is fraught with problems. For one thing, a linguistic approach is pedantic. Instead of looking to real world realities, it defines conservatism simply on the basis of what it should mean according to a dictionary. Also, the process of determining what is to be conserved will never make it out of committee. Everyone will have has own idea of what it should mean. As such, consensus will never be reached and conservatism’s power will be split among sparring factions.

Answer (C) is probably a bit silly. Instead of dealing with present-day realities, the Burkean would be trying to graft a society from 200 years ago onto a modern nation. We can always learn from the past. But we can’t copy-and-paste a comparatively ancient society onto our own.

Still, (C) could be an appropriate definition, even if it’s a bad political philosophy.

So, since we’re living in the present, what is the most useful answer for the present? That’s answer (A). Even if (C) is the best literal answer for what conservatism is, the fact is 90% of self-indentified conservatives don’t know anything about Burke. And so the practicalist, the man trying to save his country from ruin, can’t get any use out of a definition which gets so little play. (C) might be true conservatism. But it isn’t in any way useful. And since America is at the tipping point, we can’t afford to indulge anything that isn’t useful.

So I go for answer (A). It may not be the truest. But it’s the most practical.