What do conservatives believe? Tyler Cowen draws up a list that doesn’t quite ring true. I prefer Arnold Kling’s list — which is not a list of what he believes, or of what I believe, for that matter, but of what conservatives believe:
- Human culture is going down hill. Where a progressive is ashamed of our past and hopeful for the future, a conservative is proud of our past and worried about the future. Everywhere a conservative looks, he sees decay: sexual morals, education, political leadership, civic responsibility. Unless we can somehow revive our lost virtues, our past greatness will fade into a perilous future.
- Christianity is the key to civilization and, dare one say it, the most progressive force in history. Ultimately, it is to Christianity that we owe the idea of the dignity of every human being. From this source comes recognition of the evils of slavery, tyranny, poverty, war, and violence. Humans are evil, but thanks to Christianity they are less evil.
- Markets are preferable to government to the extent that markets are more consistent with family responsibility. Too much government leads to dependency and loss of virtue. However, cultural solidarity and virtue are more important than small government. Markets are amoral, and market processes can produce change that is too rapid for a culture to absorb. Markets promote individuality, at the expense of group cohesion. It is better to have government redistribution programs and regulations that hold society together than to allow markets to foster a total breakdown in social norms.
Tyler’s one point that Kling and I both agree deserves to make the list is his last:
Responsibility is a more important value than either liberty or equality.
Or, rather, that responsibility and liberty are two sides of the same coin.