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by Russell Kirk

Russell Kirk

Power over men is the ability to do as one likes, whether other men like that course of action or not. Intelligent conservatives, from Burke and Adams to our time, have looked upon power as a most dangerous thing; for though unchecked power means complete freedom for the powerful man, it means abject servitude for his neighbors; and where power is triumphant, justice cannot abide, since justice promises to each man the things that are his own.

Thus the conservative, reading the lessons of history, has sought to hedge about power with strong restrictions, and to divide authority among many groups and institutions, that concentrated power may reside nowhere. History convinces the conservative that wherever these walls and barriers to restrain power are cleared away in the interest of “efficiency” or “simplicity” or “modernization,” power proceeds to make short work of all the elaborate structure of private and public rights which have been developed, through compromise and experience, in the course of history. The conservative knows the proclivity of human nature towards sin; and he knows that the form of sin to which the stronger natures are prone is the lust after power. (A Program for Conservatives)

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1 reply to this post
  1. I appreciate the quotation…yet I ponder, is the power that which the U.S. unveiled with the use of atomic weapons on the Japanese in 1945 checked, unchecked, an act of prudence and even conservative at all? If such action was not, then I do see and appreciate the conservative natures of Presidents Clinton and Obama with their limited engagements around the world as well as the limited use of force toward tyranny outside of America. What then do we call both Bush presidents?

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