When a private message appeared in my twitter private message box asking me, if I would like to contribute to the CfL series on ‘Why I am a Conservative’, I thought “by jove, they have read my mind”, because I had started an article, nonetheless left it on the backburner, so to speak. I believe that is an enough waffle for now.
Right then, why am I a Conservative? This question is something I get asked when conversations stubble onto topics such as politics, philosophy, economics, business, community and other such related topics. (I know it is not good etiquette to converse on such matters at a dinner or cocktail party, especially because Tories are meant to be shy!). At cocktail parties (or any social function were alcohol is being shared out the place) I always start by reciting a Churchillian witticism; it goes like this; “Mr Churchill, the reason I do not drink is that alcohol combines the kick of the antelope with the bite of the viper“. Churchill responded with a fine retort, “All my life, I have been searching for a drink like that.”
This Churchill quote always brings a laugh to the questioner’s lips and normally allows me to explain my values and beliefs without a kick of an antelope with the bite of the viper coming my way, especially when I can deduce that the questioner is not a conservative inclined person to put it mildly. As one might be able to tell from the previous quote that I am Churchillian, and Sir Winston Churchill was the chap who led me, as it were, to conservatism and the Conservative and Unionist Party. I feel that I have digressed a tad, therefore I shall resume the question at hand…
Why am I a conservative? Conservatism is a critically held system of ideas or predisposition or ‘a state of mind’, and as most small-c and large-C conservatives, I value and believe in certain things, such as competition within the economy, individual and national success, working hard and reaping the just rewards, private possessions, markets, the family unit as the basis of community, traditions, institutions, marriage, rule of law, customs and all that sort of stuff. (Sorry for the shopping list).
Let me take a few of these that are close to my beating heart in more detail to illustrate why I believe in these. Let us take customs. No, I don’t mean Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs department! Traditions or customs in layman’s terms are things that the dear old ancestors have passed onto us and that we have inherited. (I have found out why Leftists don’t quite care for these, it is because they can’t tax them!) For me, being a conservative is to value, even love, these traditions that we have inherited from the past, and to pass them onto our descendants undiminished or lessened.
Why do I believe and value customs and traditions? Michael Oakeshott argued that customs and institutions carrying these customs have knowledge embedded within them. This knowledge is not always explicit; on the contrary it is in the main tacit. Meaning the knowledge embedded in the customs may not be easily put into a text book, consequently it is revealed in practice. I also believe that our ancestors were not wrong about everything and therefore drawing on our past shall enlighten our future. Edmund Burke, the father of modern conservatism, once wrote something similar – “People will not look forward to posterity who never look backward to their ancestors”. I jolly well agree.
I also value love. Yes, love. One may think that a Tory cannot value love! I would suggest that you would be wrong! Let’s see if I can put some meat on this statement. Another conservative value I have is the family unit as the basis to build our platoons and create a society. The family is a way of passing on traditions, folklore, ways of doing things, teaching the value of self-discipline, and can place checks and balances on the individual or, in Burke’s words, place “a sufficient restraint upon their passions”. I value all of these, however at the very core of family life is love. This love is why I value and believe in the family unit, because the State can’t love your family members more than you.
I would apply the same arguments to holy matrimony. For the nub of marriage is love between spouses, is it not? Scruton, coined the term Oikophilia or “the love of home” and argued that settlement and stewardship is at the heart of conservative philosophy – and so, one can argue, is love. Again love is vital to the conservative conservationism. Scruton argues that the foundation of this movement is the love of beauty, this can be seen in the love of the British countryside or the many societies that spring up to campaign to protect our towns’ beautiful architecture, such as the Victorian Society. Moreover, Russell Kirk, argued that conservatives believed that the goal of life is about love and we ought to aspire toward the triumph of love. I say, hear, hear.
I shall draw to a conclusion with these remarks, when all is said and done I am a conservative because when conservatism is boiled down to its marrow, it is about love. No, I have not lost my marbles, because I didn’t own any.
This article is part of our ongoing ‘Why I am a Conservative’ series, in which supporters of CfL talk about their beliefs and values. If you would like to take part please email blog@con4lib.
Daniel Pitt is the Deputy Chairman for Bath Conservative Association. Follow him on Twitter at @DanJTPitt
The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty