The Socialist sees politics as being about systems, economic systems to be more specific. He regards anyone who does not support his agenda for systemic change as a partisan for all that is wrong with this imperfect world.
The true conservative is not an advocate for usury or capitalism. He is rather distrustful of systemic and revolutionary change as advocated as an alternative to capitalism. He does not see life as being all about economic systems. For him life is about values and he is sceptical of radical change, because in the attempt to create the perfect society much that holds society together is swept away.
Conservatives are at risk of falling into the elephant trap the Left set, once they see themselves as being ideological advocates for an economic system such as capitalism. Rather the best rebuttal to the Left is to make clear that living morally is not to rant about changing economics, but to do your best in your own society – join the little platoons to make life better for your neighbourhood.
Of course there is greed in our present society, of course there is ambition. There would be just as much greed and ambition in a society dominated by the state. The ambitious individual would simply be sycophantic towards the chief bureaucrat in a socialist system instead of the corporate boss.
Conservatives are strongest when defending a free society based on private property. This is different from advocating capitalism red in tooth and claw. When people can own their own property, separate from the state, they gain independence. They could even pool their property and set up their own communes, opting out of capitalism if they so choose. It is the tradition of freedom under the rule of law, not so much the market that conservatives should be defending. Capitalism is a consequence of a free society, not the be all and end all!
For too long conservatives have allowed the Left to define the parameters of debate. It is time to start arguing that the solution to many of society’s ills lies at the local and neighbourhood level. It is about individuals themselves, not political or economic systems being changed.
This is not a philosophy that is about resigning and abdicating one’s responsibility to others, rather it is the very opposite. It is about taking responsibility as an individual for one’s neighbour. The true abdication of responsibility is to claim the solution to the problems around me is political and that it is all the system’s fault.
It is no accident that the famous quotation “For evil to triumph it is necessary only for good men to do nothing” was first uttered by that conservative thinker, Edmund Burke. It goes to the heart of conservative values.
The Left seems to distrust anything that puts responsibility back onto the individual. An example of this is the Left’s distrust of religion. Religious belief identifies the real need for change as lying within the soul of the individual, not within political systems.
It is completely possible to be conservative and dislike the consumerist society, casino banking, the soul-less shopping malls and the greed around us. Indeed it is consistent with conservative thinking, if by conservative we mean placing emphasis on time-honoured customs and values, such as patriotism and faith, rather than materialism.
As individuals move away from such values towards materialism, the solution is not political, but social and spiritual. The onus lies on us not the state, to ensure we uphold our Christian values and sustain a more meaningful way of life.