Burke describes the idea of a social contract as being a natural state and of there being a natural
aristocracy. As the term natural implies, a conservative holds that society ought to be organic and
static. Burke furthermore mentions members of society as being parts of a larger whole. Rather than describing the social contract to be the result of the collective interests of the population as the liberals like Locke assume, Burke describes it more as being the result of the collective duties of the population.
Burke: “Given Burke’s basic assumptions, why does he reject arguments based on absolute, universal human rights?”
Burke rejects arguments based on universal human rights for fear that men are naturally rebellious and must be controlled and brought to subjection. He puts forth the claim that men are unsophisticated and terrible animal-like. Besides being in awe to higher authority, all other thoughts of men tend to corrupt their minds and leave them unfit for political liberty. He claims that men’s thought are small and should rather look up to a larger nation of thought. Moreover, universal human rights would mean each man is for himself, a true individual; however, Burke argues that a man is entitled to a function within society, and that his rights are entitled to what would benefit the community more than the individual himself.
Edmund Burke and the 'Natural Aristocracy'
Edmund Burke's theory of wise, capable 'natural aristocracy' displays what the English political
philosopher considered an irremovable, highly significant and appropriate feature of a lasting,
functional government. In order to become a member of this natural aristocracy, a person must have the ability to govern over a people with an incredible wisdom. However, the only legitimate pathway to this rare ability points towards a privileged and enlightening education, which happens to be largely--if not totally, in Burke's time--exclusive to persons of great wealth, which easily translates into people of landowning nobility. There can easily be found an irrefutable difference between an aristocratic privilege, supported valiantly by Edmund Burke, and the democratic privilege. While the democratic privilege may be an idea and not a reality, at the very least it never betrays it's foundation—whereas Burke's natural aristocracy, a mere biased reasoning for unbridled, continuing rule over a people with little to absolutely no regards to the people themselves, showcases an embarrassing commitment to even the most elementary idea of a democracy. A democracy, or at the very least the idea of it, trusts in, believes in and cherishes it's people and functions accordingly to their legitimate concerns. A "natural" aristocracy does not commit itself to the people it presides over--instead, it looks down upon them and rules according to it's own beliefs which have been categorically guided and biased.
Why does think de Maistre that monarchy is the ideal form of government?
Joseph De Maistre believes that monarchy is the ideal form of government since it is the
type of government that best suits a man because it comes naturally to them. De Maistre
discusses that with a monarchy comes sovereignty which has its connection to God. His
argument is that men are naturally in search for power therefore you need to give men
what they want.
“What are Kirks Ten Conservative Principles?”
Russell Kirk, regarded as one of the leading conservative theorists of the 20th century’s
conservative revival, had an interesting view of what it means to be conservative in a modern
world. He believed that while the words “liberal” and “conservative” are used as commonly as
any other self-description the validity of the title was equally as valid as any self-description.
Kirk defines “conservative” using ten principles necessary to validate a true conservative title.
First, “the conservative believes that there exists an enduring moral order.” Kirk believed that
one’s own moral integrity was directly related to the well being of society, therefore all in
society should aspire to reach higher moral standards.
Second, “the conservative adheres to custom, convention, and continuity.” He felt that that
customs and conventions were slowly crafted from best practices and should be maintained in
order to pass those best practices on to the following generations.
Third, “conservatives believe in what may be called the principle of prescription.” Kirk felt
that “prescription” or the belief that the acquired wisdom of the entire species is greater than the
wisdom of just one person.
Fourth, “conservatives are guided by their principle of prudence.” Being cautious bout the
consequences of our actions, he believed, is essential to avoiding greater distress than what may
Fifth, “conservatives pay attention to the principle of variety.” He believed that in order for a
healthy diversity to exist then classes and differences or inequalities must also exist.
Sixth, “conservatives are chastened by their principle of imperfectability.” Kirk posits that
man is restless, therefore imperfect, and would not be capable of sustaining a paradise. His
restlessness would inevitably force him to revolt and potentially bring forth worse conditions
than ever before.
Seventh, “conservatives are persuaded that freedom and property are closely linked.” Kirk
felt if ownership of property were taken from man that the administrator of this property would
then become the “leviathan” from which no one would be safe from.
Eighth, “conservatives uphold voluntary community, quite as they oppose involuntary
collectivism.” Kirk believed that it was through ones own desire to contribute to the health of the
community was a community made strong. If any were forced to contribute it would eventually
Ninth, “the conservative perceives the need for prudent restraints upon power and upon
human passions.” The need for their to be a balance in the power held by individuals and the
state is essential to kirks conservative definition. To much power in the hands of any one entity is
destined fro calamity.
Finally, “Tenth, the thinking conservative understands that permanence and changed must be
recognized and reconciled in a vigorous society.” Permanence relates to the practices society has
found works well and any changes or developments to these practices should be made slowly
Are there certain political ideologies that all traditional American conservatives would be
opposed to, given the principles Kirk outlines? Why?
Yes, ideologies such as communism or socialism, because they advocate taking away
private property and some freedom, and have an enforced community instead of
voluntary. Also, this ideology tries to define morality and be strengthened by man’s
morals, and not be “chastened by their..imperfectability.”
What reasons does Kristol give for why neoconservatives are so keen to cut taxes, and so
unafraid of large budgetary deficits?
Kristol argues that tax cuts are done not for the tax cuts themselves but to promote steady
economic growth. This in turn helps promote democracy as steady growth allows for less
disparity among the “haves” and “have-nots.” He also argues that neocons do their best to
avoid budget deficits, but that they are mostly inevitable when dealing with democracy.
In addition, Kristol states that budget deficits are often temporary costs for long term
On pp. 152-153, Oakeshott argues that “moderation” is essential to conservative politics.
What does he mean by this, and why does he think that it is important?
What Oakeshott means by moderation in accordance to conservative politics is
that the rules and laws must change, and should only change, if the beliefs or activities of
the government’s subjects change as well. He believes this is important because a system
of government must always have some form of innovation because the mentality and
behavior of the general public constantly changes. Although he does believe moderation
is essential, too much change can damage the entire infrastructure if not kept in check.
In this essay Michael Oakeshott explains to us that the experience of change
is a form of suffering for conservatives because change is taking a human out of there comfort zone. He talks about how change is necessary and we have to accept it. Change is like a growing pain for conservatives. Change is something that takes time and should not be rapid so that it can be more tolerable and less difficult.
Bork believes hedonism is the true danger of radical individualism because individuals will take matters into their own hands if they are not complacent with their current lives and that outside influences may affect our judgment. Bork thinks modern technology makes this danger worse because modern technology makes everything more accessible and life more easy. For example, rap music calls for the killing of policemen, the sexual mutilation of women, or the death rates in major metropolitan areas. Traditional laborers were slowly dying due to the advances in technology so that means few and fewer laborers were needed to complete the job. Since technology made work easier, individuals with free time now turned to consumerism and entertainment.
At the beginning of the essay, Bork relies on the work of thinkers who have developed
the concepts of “defining deviancy up” and “defining deviancy down”. What do these concepts
mean, and why does Bork think they are so important?
The phrase “defining deviancy down” was said by Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
This concept means that with an assault to our sensibilities we would have to have an adaptive
response to the environment that would be increasingly polluted and apparently out of control.
For example, if behavior worsens then the community would have to adjust its standards so that
the conduct once thought reprehensive is no longer deemed so. The phrase “defining deviancy
up” was said by columnist Charles Krauthammer. This concept means that our cultural elites are
growing intensively moralistic and disapproving about what has always been thought to be
“normal” behavior. For example, underclass values become increasingly acceptable to the
middleclass and the middle class values become increasingly contemptible to the cultural elites.
Bork believes these concepts are important because the community can destroy their civilization
Conservative Crack- Up
In this essay, he explains why we have been shying away from liberty and libertarianism for the many years before our modern time and why we will be going back. He also explains why we went back into being more conservative, which means bigger government and armies. For a long time, we wanted smaller government to be a priority because when you have a smaller government, you have less political interaction. This will, in turn, enable the citizens of a country to be more involved in the daily workings of the nation. This all changed with the start of the world wars. With the start of the world wars, we were forced to increase our armies and spending, in order to protect ourselves. We went with this, because that was what our country needed. We avoided a “conservative crack up” by being able to get out of the world wars before our government and armies were so large that we could never go back. Although we had been out of having a “conservative crack up”, we were forced to jump back into enlarging our government and army because of the attacks on 9/11. We were attacked on our own soil and the only way to respond to it was to retaliate. We have been growing more wary of our big government for the past century though, and with that, came an election of a president who wanted to get us out of Middle East and back home. Barack Obama was supposed to be a way out of having another “conservative crack-up” because he wanted us to get out of the war. After two and a half years of his presidency, I have not seen much change in regards to the war. He also has been pushing a nationwide health care, which would only make our government larger. This is why I think he actually is pushing for more of a “conservative crack-up”. Although he is the democratic head, he seems to be doing a lot of things that are making it so that the government stays huge. If we stay like this, it is going to be hard to go back to original ideas of smaller and we are going to be stuck with this massive government that we have now.
Antle notices that Frank Meyer made the case for conservative “fusionism”. What did Meyer see
as the principles uniting neo-liberal libertarians and traditional conservatives, beyond economics,
according to Antle? The principles uniting conservatives and neo-libertarians were the passion for liberty and cultural values and the opposition to a powerful and controlling government. Since the creation of “fusionism”, both sectors of conservatism have flowed and faded, due to modernly conflicting issues of government and restraint. Republican conservatives have drifted away from the idea of limited government involvement, which causes libertarians to hesitate with its continuing support of conservatives’ beliefs and vote for alternative parties. For the “American Right” to restore its original agreement between the two divisions would greatly challenge all modern values of what conservatism represents.
Conservatism: Robert H. Bork
Bork believes that radical egalitarianism leads to tyranny because only a
formidable government can police measures that subdue differences conveying
superiority. Radical egalitarianism works with radical individualism to attack
factions that would attempt to contradict beliefs of equality (i.e. families, religion,
and private organizations), with these tempering institutions out of the way, the
government would then have the ability to do whatever it willed. In Bork’s mind,
there would be no establishment standing between the government and the
people, thus leaving the people a vulnerable and disorganized mass. The tyrants
would be government officials, achieving their aims with unchecked force.
Bork’s argument is ridiculous. Egalitarianism does not exist in our society,
much less radical egalitarianism. Our government consistently favors the wealthy
over the rest of the population and as far as attacking “tempering” institutions is
concerned, I would say that those “tempering” institutions have been attacking
the masses for centuries and impeding their power would be the only ethical
thing for the government to do. People should move away from ideas of
superiority and prejudice to more egalitarian perspectives, it would truly make
America a land of opportunity, rather than a land of modern day slavery. Also, for
the sake of argument, if it were true that the government was weakening
institutions, it would not entail that people would be unable to band against it.
People would still be able to create grassroots associations that could resist the
abusive government. Bork is completely detached from reality and should try
living life as a poor, female minority before he decides to describe our society as
even minimally egalitarian.
Given Burke’s basic assumptions, why does he reject arguments based on absolute,
universal human rights?
Burke rejects arguments based on absolute and universal human rights because of his
conception of an organic society. Burke conceives society as a collection of individuals who
compose a larger organism, a social fabric which is composed of many threads. Burke charges
the liberalists of his time with reducing human society to an oversimplified atomistic conception.
Many individuals totally unrelated to each other.
The individual at his core is fundamentally self-interested, this self-interest makes
unrestricted individuals very primal and base. Society needs a unifying structure. Society needs
law and order. Individuals who are left unrestricted will eventually dissolve into chaos. This is
why Burke rejects the idea of universal human rights.
De Maistre on Monarchy
Joseph De Maistre believed that the best way for Europe to move forward and restore order was to return to the traditional European system of monarchy. De Maistre believed that a
government created by the people could never work because the people could never appreciate anything they could create. In his view, the only way people respect government is when they
have no hand in its creation. This separation of the people from the creation of government raises that government to a sacred level. The leadership of this government must also be
from the aristocracy so that the common people do not think themselves equal to the governing few. De Maistre calls these ideas natural laws and claims that man was born to naturally to
live under the rule of a monarch.
The main arguments of De Maistre revolve around the idea that a king is a sovereign and without a sovereign there is no sovereignty. Also this sovereignty originated from God, and
because of its divine origin it cannot be denied. De Maistre also looks to the history of man to support his claim that monarchy is the most natural and best form of government for
man. He argues that in the history of man the most common and effective form of government has always been monarchy and that because history repeats itself and stays constant, that it
always will be the most effective form of government. De Maistre also addresses the argument that a prince may become a tyrant. He claims that we should not fear the tyranny of a
prince but rather the tyranny of man in general. Man is power hungry and has limitless desires, and even a poor man will abuse whatever power he has. De Maistre claims that the worst despots
are those that preach and lead attacks against despotism. God has also created a system in where power has limits, and because He has set up the world so that power destroys
itself once it exceeds its limits there is never a monarch God does not will to be in power. While De Maistre does not believe in an assembly of the people, he does believe that when they are
outraged they are generally in the right, however the way they end their grievance is generally wrong.
De Maistre rejects the constitution of 1795, drawn up by the French Revolution, as a ridiculous
and absurd document. What reason(s) does he give for this?
The reason he gave for this was that a constitution cannot be written for a single
individual and their own personal beliefs. Instead it is supposed to make laws fit the traditions,
population, religion etc. of the people.
Bork thinks that a commitment to radical egalitarianism will culminate in tyranny, since equality of
outcomes means coercion, and coercion means liberty. The lack of liberty is often a factor for
From his point of view, radical egalitarianism is damaging our culture. The link between radical
egalitarianism and radical individualism let us understand that freedom, and superiority between
states or within a group of people cannot work together without leading to cultural and moral chaos,
By tyranny, Bork means that radical individualism (the drastic reduction of limits to personal
gratification) would compete with radical egalitarianism (the equality of outcomes rather than
opportunities) because an individualist will seek his/her own personal achievement, regardless of the
inequalities it can create; when an egalitarian will pick equality of all over personal success (cutural,
social and economic mainly).
His argument is pretty convincing, especially with the economic and social crisis the world is facing.The riots in Paris, France (2005) and London, UK (2011) showed us that radical egalitarianism and radical individualism lead to moral chaos. Why? Because in a society in which egalitarianism is used as a mean to get the people together, individualism is often the doctrine used to run the country. As a result, the lack of equality between the people tend to make the same people think that they are also experiencing a lack of liberty.
However, in relatively good economic times, when personal success is easier to achieve and people live as a community, and not as an individual entity, Bork's theory tend to lack effectiveness.
What is Oakeshott's conception of "human nature"? What are its
characteristics? Why does he think that "friendship" is conservative?
Michael Oakeshott believes that change is backwards, innovation takes too
much time and effort, and that people are more likely to be lazy than be energetic
so we should let them be lazy instead of encourage them to be more energetic.
He says that human beings are naturally more accustomed to a lifestyle of
sameness and convenience rather than open to progress. Oakeshott thinks that
people are forced to accept advancements in society because it is inevitable, not
because they like it. To him, improvements in society create more sadness than it
does happiness. To be happy is to live in the moment and enjoy what you already
According to Oakeshott, friendship isn’t about learning something from
the other. He stresses that it’s mostly about enjoying each other’s company and to
be loyal, trustworthy, and intimate with one another; it can be through
philosophical stimulation (“excited contemplation…provokes interest”). A friend
can’t be replaced because it’s a deep connection between two people. He believes
that all of these views come from a conservative disposition rather than a
“progressive” view. It’s all about enjoying each other.