Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Quick Guide to History of Conservatism

Fred Hutchinson offers up the history of 5 strains of conservatism. I excerpt those that have medieval roots:
1) Traditionalist conservatism (first appeared in the 8th century BC)...

Medieval: Venerated heroes and saints. Defended the honor of the family. Viewed the family as a community of souls, living and dead, stretching back to the primordial past. Lived in tightly woven communities of long continuance. The ancients were seen as giants in wisdom in contrast to their own modest understanding. Venerated the literary classics. Taught the seven liberal arts.

3) Christian conservatism (1st century AD)

Roman and Medieval: Marriage, family, church, community and government are ordained of God for our good and we are obliged to submit to these institutions. The government must fight evil. "Christendom," or Christ's kingdom, is gradually being formulated in society as God works through the church. The church has a mission for the spiritual formation of souls. It also has a mission to educate the people, to develop the leaders of society and to sponsor culture. Man is fallen and needs redemption, restraint, and holy fear. For "athletes of Christ," the potential for personal holiness is great.


4) Natural law conservatism (13th century)

Aquinas, Locke and Montesquieu. Also called "classical liberalism." Man has a nature according to the Creator's design. By nature he is entitled to certain freedoms and bound by certain duties. Human reason is the means by which we discover these rights and the duties. The universal moral law and the laws of nature are binding upon man. The main role of government is to protect human rights. There are certain activities such as the police and the military which government can offer but men cannot provide for themselves. The legitimate role of government is limited. Men form a social contract with government — men will submit to government and government will protect their rights.
The missing are 2) Neoconservatism and 5) Libertarianism. Interestingly, of the 5, my own conservatism is a mix of the three above.

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