Quote of the Day: The Essence of Conservatism from Sir Roger Scruton

 

I’m not part of the Quote of the Day group, so I hope I’m not stepping on anyone’s toes by posting this, but when I got this in my feed this morning I knew it had to be disseminated.

“Conservatism starts from a sentiment that all mature people can readily share: the sentiment that good things are easily destroyed, but not easily created. This is especially true of the good things that come to us as collective assets: peace, freedom, law, civility, public spirit, the security of property and family life, in all of which we depend on the cooperation of others while having no means singlehandedly to obtain it. In respect of such things, the work of destruction is quick, easy and exhilarating; the work of creation slow, laborious and dull. That is one of the lessons of the twentieth century. It is also one reason why conservatives suffer such a disadvantage when it comes to public opinion. Their position is true but boring, that of their opponents exciting but false.” — Sir Roger Scruton 

That, my friends, is the essence of conservatism, that “collective assets,” by which he means cultural touchstones, are derived from a historical past and cannot be replicated without generations of experience. They should be nearly sacrosanct in value and handled with loving care.

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  1. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    Brilliant quote.  Thanks.

    • #1
  2. Ralphie Inactive
    Ralphie
    @Ralphie

    I think he also said something to the effect that the left doesn’t care about the truth, and if the truth doesn’t matter, all that is left is power. 

    • #2
  3. Songwriter Inactive
    Songwriter
    @user_19450

    What the doctor said above.

    • #3
  4. Doug Kimball Thatcher
    Doug Kimball
    @DougKimball

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    Brilliant quote. Thanks.

    I’m not so sure.  The Left could use a similar sentiment to defend affirmative rights, that is programmed outcomes administered by the state.   What Scruton rightly points out is how quickly a state can eliminate rights, seize power and take property.  But erosion of liberty can also be a slow motion revolution as well.  Power and authority can be slowly and incrimentally abbrogated by a citizenry lured with redistribution schemes disguised as “affirmative” rights or as recompense for allegations of injustice.  Eventually, as Margaret Thatcher noted, the left “runs out of other people’s money.”  But PM Thatcher’s explantion has now fallen short as well.  Obviously, in the world of central banks, debt, deficits and quantitative easing, the end to other people’s money in indeterminable when spending the money simply printed or taken from people not yet born.

    • #4
  5. Vectorman Inactive
    Vectorman
    @Vectorman

    Doug Kimball (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    Brilliant quote. Thanks.

    I’m not so sure. The Left could use a similar sentiment to defend affirmative rights, that is programmed outcomes administered by the state. What Scruton rightly points out is how quickly a state can eliminate rights, seize power and take property. But erosion of liberty can also be a slow motion revolution as well. Power and authority can be slowly and incrimentally abbrogated by a citizenry lured with redistribution schemes disguised as “affirmative” rights or as recompense for allegations of injustice. Eventually, as Margaret Thatcher noted, the left “runs out of other people’s money.” But PM Thatcher’s explantion has now fallen short as well. Obviously, in the world of central banks, debt, deficits and quantitative easing, the end to other people’s money in indeterminable when spending the money simply printed or taken from people not yet born.

    In general, the British are to the left of Americans. Scruton needs to make his point without alienating too many listeners. He might be considered solid right over there, and center-right here. But reminding the Brits of their glorious past is certainly correct.


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    • #5
  6. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    RIP, Sir Roger.

    • #6
  7. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    It reminds me of GK Chesterton’s “Don’t ever take a fence down until you know the reason it was put up.” 

     

    • #7
  8. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    It reminds me of GK Chesterton’s “Don’t ever take a fence down until you know the reason it was put up.”

    Very good.  I was thinking of Chesterton too when he said it.  I was trying to rack my brain for a Chesterton quote that was comparable.  If I think of one, I’ll post it.

    Edit:

    Here’s one that’s comparable:

    “Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.”
    ― G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

    • #8
  9. Jim George Member
    Jim George
    @JimGeorge

    While there are many fine articles available about the passing of this truly great, in the real, traditional sense of that word, man of letters, I thought you might like this piece which appeared in the WSJ this morning, entitled Roger Scruton- A Conservative For Modern Times

    I found it very moving and learned a great deal about the astonishing life this man lived.

    I hope you enjoy it as well. 

    Sincerely, Jim

    • #9
  10. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    Jim George (View Comment):

    While there are many fine articles available about the passing of this truly great, in the real, traditional sense of that word, man of letters, I thought you might like this piece which appeared in the WSJ this morning, entitled Roger Scruton- A Conservative For Modern Times.

    I found it very moving and learned a great deal about the astonishing life this man lived.

    I hope you enjoy it as well.

    Sincerely, Jim

    Thanks.  Unfortunately I don’t have a subscription.  

    • #10
  11. ligneus Inactive
    ligneus
    @ligneus

    Manny:

    I’m not part of the Quote of the Day group, so I hope I’m not stepping on anyone’s toes by posting this, but when I got this in my feed this morning I knew it had to be disseminated.

    “Conservatism starts from a sentiment that all mature people can readily share: the sentiment that good things are easily destroyed, but not easily created. This is especially true of the good things that come to us as collective assets: peace, freedom, law, civility, public spirit, the security of property and family life, in all of which we depend on the cooperation of others while having no means singlehandedly to obtain it. In respect of such things, the work of destruction is quick, easy and exhilarating; the work of creation slow, laborious and dull. That is one of the lessons of the twentieth century. It is also one reason why conservatives suffer such a disadvantage when it comes to public opinion. Their position is true but boring, that of their opponents exciting but false.” — Sir Roger Scruton

    That, my friends, is the essence of conservatism, that “collective assets,” by which he means cultural touchstones, are derived from a historical past and cannot be replicated without generations of experience. They should be nearly sacrosanct in value and handled with loving care.

     

    • #11
  12. ligneus Inactive
    ligneus
    @ligneus

    One of my favourite quotes. I keep a few copies in my wallet to hand to people I meet and talk to, many don’t understand it, I’ve had it called ‘gobbledygook’ which amuses me somewhat, is the following:

    I shall argue that the conservative attitude, and the doctrine that sustains it, are systematic and reasonable. Conservatism may rarely announce itself in maxims, formulae or aims. Its essence is inarticulate, and its expression, when compelled, is sceptical. But it is capable of expression, and in times of crisis, forced either by political necessity, or by the clamour for doctrine, conservatism does its best, though not always with any confidence that the words it finds will match the instinct that required them. This lack of confidence stems not from diffidence or dismay, but from an awareness of the complexity of human things, and from an attachment to values which cannot be understood with the abstract clarity of Utopian theory.

    • #12
  13. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    ligneus (View Comment):

    One of my favourite quotes. I keep a few copies in my wallet to hand to people I meet and talk to, many don’t understand it, I’ve had it called ‘gobbledygook’ which amuses me somewhat, is the following:

    I shall argue that the conservative attitude, and the doctrine that sustains it, are systematic and reasonable. Conservatism may rarely announce itself in maxims, formulae or aims. Its essence is inarticulate, and its expression, when compelled, is sceptical. But it is capable of expression, and in times of crisis, forced either by political necessity, or by the clamour for doctrine, conservatism does its best, though not always with any confidence that the words it finds will match the instinct that required them. This lack of confidence stems not from diffidence or dismay, but from an awareness of the complexity of human things, and from an attachment to values which cannot be understood with the abstract clarity of Utopian theory.

    Ligneus, is that quote by Sir Roger?

    • #13
  14. ligneus Inactive
    ligneus
    @ligneus

    Manny (View Comment):

    ligneus (View Comment):

    One of my favourite quotes. I keep a few copies in my wallet to hand to people I meet and talk to, many don’t understand it, I’ve had it called ‘gobbledygook’ which amuses me somewhat, is the following:

    I shall argue that the conservative attitude, and the doctrine that sustains it, are systematic and reasonable. Conservatism may rarely announce itself in maxims, formulae or aims. Its essence is inarticulate, and its expression, when compelled, is sceptical. But it is capable of expression, and in times of crisis, forced either by political necessity, or by the clamour for doctrine, conservatism does its best, though not always with any confidence that the words it finds will match the instinct that required them. This lack of confidence stems not from diffidence or dismay, but from an awareness of the complexity of human things, and from an attachment to values which cannot be understood with the abstract clarity of Utopian theory.

    Ligneus, is that quote by Sir Roger?

    Yes Manny, it is, guess I should have put his name in there.  What did you think of it?

    • #14
  15. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    ligneus (View Comment):

    Manny (View Comment):

    ligneus (View Comment):

    One of my favourite quotes. I keep a few copies in my wallet to hand to people I meet and talk to, many don’t understand it, I’ve had it called ‘gobbledygook’ which amuses me somewhat, is the following:

    I shall argue that the conservative attitude, and the doctrine that sustains it, are systematic and reasonable. Conservatism may rarely announce itself in maxims, formulae or aims. Its essence is inarticulate, and its expression, when compelled, is sceptical. But it is capable of expression, and in times of crisis, forced either by political necessity, or by the clamour for doctrine, conservatism does its best, though not always with any confidence that the words it finds will match the instinct that required them. This lack of confidence stems not from diffidence or dismay, but from an awareness of the complexity of human things, and from an attachment to values which cannot be understood with the abstract clarity of Utopian theory.

    Ligneus, is that quote by Sir Roger?

    Yes Manny, it is, guess I should have put his name in there. What did you think of it?

    I like it. 

    “This lack of confidence stems not from diffidence or dismay, but from an awareness of the complexity of human things, and from an attachment to values which cannot be understood with the abstract clarity of Utopian theory.” 

    That is profound.  

    • #15
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