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March 22, 2019

What is a conservative?

Ken Kellar

Perhaps the first conservative principal is: “It is hard to make a thing that works. It is easy to break a thing that works.”


It’s a classic. A new student, new employee, or new politician boldly challenges the status quo and proposes changes. He is usually rebuffed. But change is good. Right?


Try this thought experiment. Grab a toolbox and open the hood of your car. Now list all the changes you can make under that hood that will improve your car. Now list all the changes you can make that will harm or destroy your car. Even if you are an expert machinist, your list of harm will likely far exceed your list of improvements. And so it goes for every form of human endeavor.


There are great ideas yet to be thought up and implemented. Our future depends on them. However, those ideas are a few tiny fish swimming in a massive ocean of bad ideas.


A conservative is not one who fears change, clutches irrationally onto the old, or wants to keep everything the same or even go back to the “Good Ol’ Days.” A conservative understands the first principle and thus deeply respects human and social achievements. He values them and preserves them. A conservative looks at the complexity of humanity and is humbled and awed.


An ambitious conservative wants to participate in the advancement of humanity, yet knows he is standing on the shoulders of giants.  Many of those giants have ugly warts and sores, but they are nevertheless giants.


He sees no benefit to attacking those giants. He needs those shoulders to keep advancing. He focuses on the strength of the giants. He acknowledges the ugly parts ad looks past them. He knows they are there, but chooses to direct his thoughts elsewhere.


What long-lived marriage is based on calling out every fault? What team would benefit from continuous fault-finding? What family? What business? What club? What nation?


The revolutionary, the progressive, the radical, history tells us, is most often the angel of death and destruction. Our revolution was not very “revolutionary” in the big scheme of things.


I would argue it was much more evolutionary than revolutionary, but that is the subject for some other time.


God bless America, past and present, warts and all.


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