What Makes a Conservative?

December 31, 2008 at 11:28 am | Posted in British Politics, Conservative Party | Leave a comment

We’ve approached the time of year when grown adults like to set aside large parts of the day just to make lists. We list the best/worst things to have happened to us, the best/worst things we have bought, our top 10 love/hate figures or our highest/lowest expectations for the year to come. In this same spirit, ToryHome have decided to list what makes a conservative. It’s a fairly innocuous, predictable read, but alongside statements which veer from vague (“Taxation has dynamic effects”) to platitudinous (“Love of country is fundamental to all conservatism”) to downright cryptic (“Man is a fallen creature”), they include this:

Economic liberalism needs social conservatism

Well, I can understand why, in the interests of coalition building, you’d want the flat-taxers in the same boat as the flat-earthers, but their agendas are far less aligned than this five word declaration makes out.

In its fullest expression, social conservatism is restrictive and censorious: it burns ‘heretical’ literature, pickets outside theatres, demands the banning of video games and enforces prohibition of gambling and recreational substances. Classic economic liberals would balk at such authoritarian measures because people should be allowed the freedom to consume what the market provides. No true classicist would want the state to subsidise marriage, and some would even consider abandoning the expensive, losing ‘war on drugs’.

At their core, social conservatives believe unfettered markets can be damaging, and economic liberals stand against against restrictions on markets. Sure, with lashings of compromise and a moderate, piecemeal application of both sides’ agendas, they can often play along nicely, but to suggest some kind of symbiotic relationship between the two is just daft.

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