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Russell Kirk

The conservative believes that the individual is foolish, although the species is wise; therefore, unlike the confident intellectual, he declines to undertake the reconstruction of society and human nature upon the scanty capital of his private stock of reason. The conservative believes that the world is not perfectible, and that we fallen human creatures, here below, are not made for happiness, and will not find happiness––at least, not if we deliberately pursue it; therefore, unlike the ideologue, he is not under the impression that any single fixed system of political concepts can bring justice and peace and liberty to all men at all times, if uniformly applied. I am of the number of those who would have asked God to conserve chaos, and who would have stormed Olympus with the Titans for the sake of old Cronos’ memory; I confess, in short, to being a true-blue conservative; and if any taint of liberalism has crept into these pages, I am infinitely sorry for it…

The true conservative knows that the economic problem blends into the political problem, and the political problem into the ethical problem, and the ethical problem into the religious problem. There exists a hierarchy of difficulties as well as a hierarchy of values…

The conservative understands that the circumstances of men are almost infinitely variable, and that any particular political or economic policy must be decided in the light of the particular circumstances of time and place––an enlightened expediency, or prudence.– Prospects for Conservatives

Books on or by Dr. Kirk may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore. Essays on or by Dr. Kirk may be found here

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4 replies to this post
  1. This is simple, concise, brilliance. Those few paragraphs are the result of volumes of distilled thought. But most of us are not capable of carrying out such an intellectual alchemy. I'm very glad someone, Mr. Kirk, was.

  2. In describing the hierarchy of difficulties, at what point does Libertarian thought part ways with Conservative orthodoxy in its description? Does Libertarianism's hierarchy of difficulties only go so high, or are the echelons completely different?

  3. "…will not find happiness––at least, not if we deliberately pursue it."

    I do have trouble understanding the difference between ideology and moral/political philosophy a la Plato, Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas. Certainly they would all say that happiness is something we should deliberately pursue, while granting that in this life we will never find it without fail. Did Kirk lump them together?

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