Saturday, February 28, 2015

William F. Buckley's Conservatism

There are many different definitions of conservatism. Which brings up the huge question, where is one to find the definitive core of "conservatism."

Is the definitive core of "conservatism" those few months when the Tea Party was fun and open to ideas or is the definitive core of conservatism, perhaps, that 180 year history as the ideology of a major political party in a leading industrial nation?

I've been receiving a great deal of grief for my assertion that one will find the definitive core of conservatism in the Conservative Party of Great Britain.

Many American Conservatives point to William F. Buckley (1925-2008), with his Ivy League education and patented transatlantic accent, as the father of conservatism.

It turns out that Buckley's transatlantic accent came about because he was educated abroad.

Who would have thought a person educated abroad would have a unique accent?

It turns out that William F. Buckley went to high school in England.

Now, I am not surprised when I find out that graduates from America's progressive public high schools can't add, can't name the major political parties in the US or can't find Florida on a US map. I suspect that this Beaumont College in Old Windsor, where Buckley when to high school, had slightly higher academic standards than progressive schools.

I suspect that Buckley was aware that Neville Chamberlain of the Conservative Party was the Prime Minister and that the opposition was a coalition of the Liberal and Labour Party.

NOTE: There are multiple parties in English politics. If a politician can stitch together a majority vote from the various parties, the politician forms a government and becomes prime minister. Those in the minorities parties form an opposition government led by the leader of the largest opposition party. When Buckley was in England, the Liberal and Labour Party formed an opposition coalition led by the Labour Party.

It is because the Liberal Party and Labour Party formed an opposition government to Conservative Governments that conservatives lump the libertarian ideals of the original Labour Party with the socialist ideals of the Labour Party under the heading "liberal."

Anyway, while it is tempting to say that William F. Buckley invented a new ideology called "conservatism" from the aether. The fact that Buckley went to school in England tells me that he was aware of the fact that England had a political party called "The Conservative Party." The fact that Buckley's ideology lumps socialism under the header "liberal" seems to reflect the fact that Buckley lived in England when the Labour and Liberal Parties formed the opposition to the Conservative government.

I hope that it is clear to anyone with half a brain that Buckley was importing his thoughts about English parliamentary politics to the United States.

I apologize to people living in Great Britain. But I reject wholly this idea  that Buckley's ideas about British parliamentary politics makes a strong foundation for American political philosophy.

I contend that the defining core of conservatism is found in the Conservative Party of Great Britain in 1834 and which has had a 180 year history of being a primary force in the politics of Great Britain.

The term "liberalism" comes from English politics as well, but has been poisoned with time.

It appears that the driving force of early conservatism in 1834 was Sir Robert Peel (1788 – 1850) who created a coalition between the British establishment of England the aristocracy of England (the establishment were derisively called Tories) and moderates from the Whig Party.

In forming the Conservative Party, Peel drew heavily on the conflict between Edmund Burke (1729-1797) and Charles James Fox (1749-1806).
Apparently, Sir Robert Peel supported free trade and religious tolerance while traditionalists in the conservative movement did not.

The Liberal Party was formed in 1859 when followers of Sir Robert Peel left the Conservative Coalition to form a coalition government with members of the Whig Party. The Conservative Party of 1859 was primarily a party of those who supported the establishment and regulated commerce.

The Liberal ideal of religious tolerance touched on the hairy issue of Catholic Emancipation as Catholics in Ireland sought independence. Liberals who were opposed to Irish Home Rule left the Liberal Party to form a coalition with the Conservative Party. The Conservative Party changed its name to the Conservative and Union Party. The Liberal Party fell into minority status and eventually disappeared. NOTE: Members of the Labour and Liberal coalition created an ideal called "Social Liberalism" that was fundamentally at odds with the classical liberalism of the previous century.

Key moments in the 180 British Conservative tradition involved opposition to free trade (in 1859) and opposition to religious tolerance.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Bold Assertion About the Foundations of Conservatism

WARNING: In this blog post I am going to make a bold assertion about the foundation of the Conservative movement based on a prejudicial assumption about a class of people.

I've come across multiple sources claiming that Edmund Burke (1729-1797) was the father of Conservatism.

Conservatism is the ideology of the Conservative Party. The Conservative Party was created in 1834 by a group calling itself the Tory Party.

The Tories were thrown into crisis by the Representation of the People Act of 1832. Prompted by rioting in the street, this reform act forced a redistricting of political boroughs so that the parliament would be somewhat more in line with the population. The act also expanded suffrage to upper middle class property owners.

The Tories were in crisis because their position in parliament was dependent on "rotten boroughs" which had very small populations. To retain power, the Tories needed to rebrand their party.

This rebranding occurred when the Tory politician Sir Robert Peel (1788 – 1850) made concessions to the Whigs and created an ideology that drew heavily on a rift between Edmund Burke and Charles James Fox (1749 – 1806). Fox and Burke who were both members of the Whig Party. Apparently Fox was a firebrand who supported the French Revolution who later became horrified by the atrocities of the revolution, while Burke was skeptical of the French Revolution and was also horrified by the atrocities of the affair.

Peel was also deeply influenced by William Pitt the Younger (1759 – 1806) who was often called a Tory but called himself an Independent Whig.

The Conservative Party appears to have been created by Peel and his followers who were influenced by Pitt and the rift between Burke and Fox.

Now for my bold assertion based on a prejudicial assumption about a class of people. I am going to reject the claim that Edmund Burke, who died in 1797, was the founder of the Conservative Movement in 1834.

As you see, in 1834 Edmund Burke was member of the class of dead people. Burke had been numbered among the dead for a good thirty years before the Tory Party changed its name to "The Conservative Party."

I base this assertion on my personal observation that dead people tend to be somewhat lifeless. I've observed that the dead tend to lie about all day and are not prone to doing things like starting political parties.

I know, I know. I know. It is not uncommon for dead people to register and vote. Dead people often register for the opposition party. This is especially true for dead people living Chicago cemeteries, but I assert that dead people only take a passive role in politics and that dead people do not go around starting political movements.

Burke was a member of the Whig Party and it appears that Burke called himself a "Whig." I feel that information is sufficient to classify his beliefs as "Whiggism." Conversely, I do not feel that it is right to call Burke either a "conservative" or a "liberal" as these parties did not exist yet.

The Conservative Party, and consequently conservatism, seems to have a lot more to do with a guy name Sir Robert Peel than with Burke as Peel was both living and present at the start of the Conservative Party.

Now, it would be tempting to say that Sir Robert Peel formed the Conservative Party to counter the radicalism of the evil liberals except for the unfortunate fact that the Liberal Party didn't exist yet.

Peel's Conservative coalition fell apart in 1846 over the issue of free trade. Mainstream conservatives opposed free trade. Peel and his closest followers supported free trade.

The Liberal Party was formed in 1859 when the self-described Peelites, who supported free trade, left the Conservative Party to join Whigs to form a new party.

It is difficult to say that Peel founded Conservatism to fight against the evils of Liberalism when his followers left the Conservative Party to help form the Liberal Party.

I admit, my political ideas are driven by quaint notions about the linearity of time. My statement that dead people don't start parties is based on my prejudicial view that dead people are lifeless. The people living in cemeteries are just a bunch of layabouts ... I tell ya. I say this knowing that large numbers of dead people seem to change party affiliation after they die and continue to vote. This is (especially those living in Chicago cemeteries), but I will take the controversial position and state that dead people tend to be passive members of the party at best. I hold firmly to my view that the dead (also known as life challenged citizens) lack the animation to actually start political movements.

Counter to the rhetoric of Conservative pundits, I will assert that Edmund Burke, who died in 1797, did not start the Conservative Movement in 1834.