Thursday, September 2, 2010

Ten ways of being conservative

  • Politically. The current system is a shambles but, if we mess with it too much, we are liable to end up with something even worse.
  • Fiscally. Though debt has a crucial role to play in modern economies, over-indebtedness - especially on the part of governments - is threatening future prosperity. Fiscal conservatism should be less contentious than other forms of conservatism, as it is based on simple rationality and prudence rather than on subjective feelings or convictions.
  • Socially. Traditional ways of relating and communicating have proved their effectiveness. They are also to be preferred on aesthetic grounds.
  • Religiously. Religious fashions (like happy clappy Christianity) are anathema. Like social conservatism but with a metaphysical dimension.
  • Scientifically. Mainstream scientific opinion is taken seriously as a provisional best guess.
  • Artistically. Varies of course with the art and the context. The conservative likes (some) old art not because it is old but because it is good. Anything showy or meretricious is rejected. A painter like Mondrian, I would say, is deeply conservative.
  • Sartorially. There are fashions and fashions. The sartorial conservative takes heed of the slow underlying fashions and ignores the fads.
  • Gustatorily. Adventurous eating is seen as not only unnecessary and potentially wasteful, but as suspect - perhaps indicative of an empty mind (or worse). Ludwig Wittgenstein, in this as in so many other aspects of his life, combined conservatism with its opposite. He didn't mind what he was given for dinner so long as it was always the same.
  • Alcoholically. The right drink at the right time.
  • Sexually. Let's face it, sex and conservatism have been and always will be in an awkward relationship. Uneasy bedfellows?


  1. LMAO, err, hang on, you didn't intend for this to be funny? :P

  2. The right drink: single malt Scotch taken with spring water on the birthday of Robert Burns. Or any other night.

    On sartorial conservatism, I agree with George Will: "If Fred Astaire did not wear it, neither should I." I lament only that I do not always live up to this standard...

  3. TalesNTypos, my sense of humor is normally passive rather than active. I can't tell jokes and if I try to write something funny - well it's better not to *try* to be funny, isn't it? I can appreciate large quantities of humor but can only produce very small quantities. Which is why my default setting is "serious".

    CONSVLTVS, yes that single malt sounds right for you! I envy Fred Astaire not only his dress sense but his grace of (ordinary) movement. I don't like watching dance, but I like watching dancers move about doing ordinary things.

  4. I kept looking for "psychologically" ... but that might be somewhere in the vicinity of the gustatory and alcoholical, so ... well said.

    You made me realize, though, I don't fit the label on much more than half the list. No wonder I'm confused. Crisp white shirts and blue denim. Scotch or beer (latter always dark & in a cold glass, must). Meatless spagetti; scotch in guinness stout. A bundle of contradictions, people say ... but aren't we all?

  5. Now, now, Adila ... did you not become gustatorily more conservative lately? And it wasn't funny? (Which is to ask, is it any better now? You haven't said. =)

  6. GC, half is good, half is fine. Even a couple of ticks is fine. I want to be inclusive, and also to cover myself so that even if my views change I won't have to change the blog title. :)

  7. Psychologically, yes, a more general category. Also missing is one variety I may write on soon, cultural conservatism (broader than artistic).

  8. Och, you two!
    I think I may be more conservative than the two of you put together.

    Mark, you're a fraud. Pssh... "cover myself". Pfft! :P

    GC, all better now. Thanks for asking mine friend. :)

  9. Adila! He's just protecting his blog title! LOL.

    Mark, one statement I don't understand is how/why you classify Mondrian as conservative. I don't have an opinion, so I'm not disagreeing at all. I'm wondering about the criteria.

  10. "Socially. Traditional ways of relating and communicating have proved their effectiveness. They are also to be preferred on aesthetic grounds."

    Beautifully said. Preferring traditional manners on aesthetic grounds is a double thesis: (1) traditional manners are more aesthetically satisfying than modern manners; (2) the aesthetic dimension matters in judging manners. Hear, hear!

  11. Thanks, CONSVLTVS.

    Adila, now I seem weak if I continue to equivocate - and if I get tough it's at your prompting so even that's a sign of weakness!

    GC, it's just a gut feeling (his spare simplicity and all that) but it's something I might follow up on - including finding out what his politics etc. were.

  12. What I want to know is, can a person be conservative and innovative at the same time? If not, why not?

  13. Alan,

    Mark is being inclusive, so I suspect he might say yes. :D

    But I best not speak for him.

  14. No - go ahead Adila! (You're right of course.)

    Since I've answered yes, I take it I don't have to explain, Alan. But, briefly, I think the conservative focuses on continuities, and a conservative can be innovative so long as the focus on continuity, the sense of history, is not lost.

  15. Conservatism for you then is affectations, mannerisms, a personal image to be projected to others. How... shallow.