The Best and Worst of Conservatism and Liberalism

The best of conservatism is recognizing that institutions like legal frameworks, moral codes, and political philosophies are structures that provide support for societies and economies. It is standing on the shoulders of giants for a wider perspective on what is possible. It is revering our predecessors who built the lower strata of these structures. It is feeling an obligation to our successors who will build yet higher ones. It is welcoming people into warm shelters to weather the storms of change. It is the feeling of hope and power that comes from acceptance of personal responsibility. It is strengthening an ancient foundation with weighty work. It is the compaction of coal into diamond.

The worst of conservatism is adding your weight to the burden of a crumbling edifice. It is jealously guarding a weak building by pushing the repairmen off the roof. It is rising into the fog and concluding that there is no reality beyond what you can see.

The best of liberalism is recognizing that our institutions live and die, that all life ends with death and even death can feed new life. It is delighting in freshness and youth. It is the observation that many who are born in the clouds have no inkling of the ground supporting them. It is the extension of compassion to people worlds away. It is the belief that learning can be enjoyed forever and that change demands continuous adaptation. It is being motivated by the goal of perfection despite the knowledge that it can never be achieved. It is the recognition that the human race means more than the artifacts we have constructed all around us. It is taking raw diamonds and then applying only the most careful cuts to help them sparkle on their own.

The worst of liberalism is being generous with other people's money. It is narcissism that motivates exclusion of our fellow man. It is a teenager’s scorn for adults, expressed in assertion of the developing ego. It is the thoughtless disposal of all things ancient and inexpedient out of addiction to novelty.

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Updated at: 10 March 2015 7:03 PM