Freedom Circle logo
Freedom Circle

Where Can You Find Freedom Today?

Political philosophy that emphasizes respect for traditional institutions

Conservatism is a political and social philosophy promoting traditional social institutions in the context of culture and civilization. The central tenets of conservatism include tradition, human imperfection, organic society, hierarchy, authority and property rights. Conservatives seek to preserve a range of institutions such as monarchy, religion, parliamentary government and property rights, with the aim of emphasizing social stability and continuity. The more extreme elements—reactionaries—oppose modernism and seek a return to "the way things were".


3 libertarian takeaways from South Park season 20 (SPOILERZ), by Joseph Kast, 14 Dec 2016
Discusses the themes of the 20th season of "South Park", in particular the issues of free speech and online anonymity, groupthink and the dangers of traditionalism
As Hayek says in his famous essay 'Why I Am Not a Conservative':
[Conservatism] cannot offer an alternative to the direction in which we are moving. It may succeed by its resistance to current tendencies in slowing down undesirable developments, but, since it does not indicate another direction, it cannot prevent their continuance.
Here Hayek is drawing out the traditionalist strand of conservatism.
Related Topics: South Park, Freedom of Speech
Albert Jay Nock, Forgotten Man of the Right, by Jeffrey Tucker, 22 Aug 2002
Lengthy biographical essay, with a selection of quotes from Nock's Memoirs of a Superfluous Man (1943)
For an earlier generation of American dissidents from the prevailing ideology of left-liberalism, a rite of passage was reading Albert Jay Nock's Memoirs of a Superfluous Man ... But then the official doctrine changed ... National Review led the American Right down a different path. Nock's book was quickly buried with the rise of the Cold War State, which required that conservatives reject anything like radical individualism ... Instead of Nock's Memoirs, young conservatives were encouraged to read personal accounts of communists who converted to backing the Cold War ...
Along Pennsylvania Avenue, by Murray N. Rothbard, Faith and Freedom, Feb 1955
Suggests that a conservative third party, albeit initially small, could be more influential than conservatives staying in the two main parties, and considers the reasons for the intense McCarthyphobia
Whither conservatives? ... The course of least resistance tells Democratic and Republican conservatives to stay in their Parties ... a new party would provide the most practical method for recapturing the Republican Party, to say nothing of forming a possible nucleus for a major conservative "second party." ... Lacking a formal party, however, such a strategy must always remain confused and relatively ineffective. Without a definite channel of organization, conservatives will diffuse their efforts: some will vote Democratic, some Republican, some will write in a candidate, and others will abstain.
Related Topic: Republican Party
The American Sniper Was No Hero, by Sheldon Richman, 28 Jan 2015
Considers whether Chris Kyle, depicted in Clint Eastwood's American Sniper, was a hero or a competent government-hired killer
Of course, Kyle's admirers would disagree with this analysis. Jeanine Pirro, a Fox News commentator, said, "Chris Kyle was clear as to who the enemy was. They were the ones his government sent him to kill." Appalling! Kyle was a hero because he eagerly and expertly killed whomever the government told him to kill? Conservatives, supposed advocates of limited government, sure have an odd notion of heroism. Excuse me, but I have trouble seeing an essential difference between what Kyle did in Iraq and what Adam Lanza did at Sandy Hook Elementary School. It certainly was not heroism.
Related Topic: Iraq War
Bush's Place in History, by Joseph Sobran, The Reactionary Utopian, 6 May 2006
Considers the Bush presidency from his candidacy description of himself as a "uniter" to Bush saying he is "the decider" (18 Apr 2006), from his popularity after the 11 Sep 2001 attacks to his "abysmal" poll ratings in 2006
Even his hard core is shrinking, as conservatives belatedly notice that Bush is, to say the least, a very odd sort of conservative. Under his rule, big government is bigger than ever, and is committed to even more explosive growth in years to come. Another liberal pundit, E.J. Dionne Jr., rejoices that the country is reacting against 'the failure of conservative policies and the declining appeal of conservative rhetoric.' Really? And just which 'conservative' policies would those be? ... Conservatives also rally to any politician who can make liberals hate him, as Bush has done more successfully than any pol since Richard Nixon.
Related Topic: George W. Bush
The Critical Dilemma Facing Pro-War Libertarians, by Jacob G. Hornberger, 14 Feb 2007
Discusses the contradictions faced by U.S. libertarians and conservatives who endorsed or encouraged imperial and interventionist foreign policies following the attacks of 11 Sep 2001
The critical importance of civil liberties has traditionally been a blind spot for conservatives. Focusing their attention almost exclusively on economic liberties—such as the minimum-wage law, economic regulations, and excessive taxation—they have traditionally denigrated the importance of civil liberties. Their long, brutal war on drugs, for example, has always been accompanied by their mocking of constitutional safeguards pertaining to search and seizure ... For [them], the protections of the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eight Amendments are nothing more than "constitutional technicalities."
The Death of Politics, by Karl Hess, Playboy, Mar 1969
Discusses libertarianism, contrasting it with both conservatism and modern liberalism, including specific policy differences
It was European conservatives who, apparently fearful of the openness of the Industrial Revolution (why, anyone could get rich!), struck the first blows at capitalism ... It was American conservatives ... who very early in the game ... embraced state regulation for their own special advantage. Conservatives today continue to revere the state as an instrument of chastisement even as they reject it as an instrument of beneficence. The conservative who wants a Federally authorized prayer in the classroom is the same conservative who objects to Federally authorized textbooks in the same room.
The Delusion of Limited Government, by Butler Shaffer, 14 May 2002
Comments on watching the Cato Institute's 25th anniversary dinner in which speakers held up booklets with the U.S. Constitution while complaining that the document had "not restrained the power of the state"
Korzybski’s admonition ["the map is not the territory"] is revealed in the irony that the same words conservatives see as limiting governmental powers, liberals see as providing a means for the expansion of such powers! ... Conservatives continue to wrap themselves up in the kinds of knotted thinking about how the Constitution is what keeps the government from doing all the terrible things that it does. Nevertheless, the harsh reality is that there is nothing the federal government does that cannot be interpreted as being within the meaning of these empowering words!
Epistemology and Politics: Ayn Rand's Cultural Commentary, by David Kelley, Navigator, Dec 2004
Discusses the continued currency of Rand's 1960-1970s writings, citing as examples "Faith and Force: The Destroyers of the Modern World", "Racism", "The Age of Envy" and "The Anti-Industrial Revolution"
Rand predicted that the conservative movement would fail politically, not only for its moral inconsistency but for its equally inconsistent effort to base capitalism on religious faith ... [C]onservatives have wielded substantial power in the last three decades. But they are still offering an apologetic defense of capitalism, when they bother to defend it at all. They have made no serious effort to eliminate the welfare state. And their appeal to religion has become more and more pronounced, not only as a means of getting votes from fundamentalists and evangelicals ...
Garet Garrett (1878-1954) On Empire, by Joseph R. Stromberg, 5 Aug 2000
Biographical and bibliographical essay, focusing on the essays in The People's Pottage
'The Revolution Was' undertook to assess the New Deal. ... This would make an interesting 'text' for our Compassionate Conservatives, who wish to 'conserve' all those things which make up the Negation of American Life. Garrett, by contrast, takes up the posture of a radical conservatism, something which the good social democrats and tame conservatives like Peter Viereck spent the fifties and early sixties telling us just isn't done, old chaps. ... The Depression was the new rulers' great opportunity and they exploited it to the hilt. ... what a wonderful heritage for our GOP protectors to 'conserve'!
Glorious War!, by Joseph Sobran, The Reactionary Utopian, 31 Aug 2006
Discusses how, after the Bush father and son presidencies, the Republican Party and conservatism became associated with militarism and war
This Bush administration has managed to pervert the meaning of conservatism ... It's a grotesque accident of history that [war] should have acquired even a verbal association with the philosophy of conservatism ... Briefly, conservatism is a more or less articulate sense of normality ... Conservatism can tolerate many abnormal things that can't be eliminated from human society, but it doesn't call them "rights" or confuse them with normal things ... [F]ew things are more abnormal than war. So today's alleged conservatives (and especially the misnamed "neoconservatives") are aberrations.
GOP, R.I.P?, by Sheldon Richman, 11 Feb 2008
Reviews conservatives' criticisms of John McCain and his positions in his 2008 presidential campaign as well as what the criticism may mean for the Republican Party
Would these conservatives really promote a Democratic victory in November ... Not that I agree with every conservative criticism of McCain ... The conservatives are completely off-base on the immigration issue ... The logic of the conservative position would require that everyone carry a national identity card to be presented on demand ... Conservatives argue that walls intended to keep people out are different from walls intended to keep people in. Balderdash ... The conservatives are on firmer ground when they criticize McCain for his so-called campaign-finance reform.
Gore Is Right, by Paul Craig Roberts, 18 Jan 2006
Ponders the lack of coverage of news coverage given to Al Gore's speech at Constitution Hall in which he challenged the Bush administration's lack of respect for the Constitution and the doctrine of separation of powers
Conservatives should fear this more than anyone. The separation of powers and our civil liberties are our most precious property rights. They are our patrimony from the Founding Fathers. We are stewards of these rights, which we hold in trust for our descendants. How can any conservative fail to realize that Bush's attack on these rights is the ultimate attack on property? It is astonishing to watch conservatives wave the flag while they are transformed into subjects to be dealt with as presidential authority decides.
How I Became a Libertarian, by Chris Matthew Sciabarra, 19 Dec 2002
Autobiographical essay describing Sciabarra's influences on his road towards libertarianism, primarily Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard
Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, born to a Greek and Sicilian family, I had some conservative predilections as a young high school student. One of my earliest high school teachers had a big influence on me; his name was Ira Zornberg. ... He was the first teacher to bring the study of the Holocaust to high school students. He very much encouraged me in my conservative politics, even though I was never completely comfortable with the conservative social agenda, especially with regard to issues of abortion and sexuality. It wasn't until I read Ayn Rand in my senior year in high school that I was able to sort those issues out.
Related Topics: Ayn Rand, Murray N. Rothbard
Independence Day Propaganda, by Anthony Gregory, 4 Jul 2011
Argues that the American Revolution, albeit of a libertarian flavor, had several unsavory shortcomings both before and after 4 July 1776
Surely, conservatives who cherish the Fourth of July while cheering today's wars have a high tolerance for cognitive dissonance ... The colonial rebels ... resented Britain's status as the hypocritical world power, which closely resembled the modern United States—an empire claiming the mantle of liberty while smashing its colonial subjects ... Every time this year, conservative nationalists go on the radio and send out a popular e-mail talking up the dismal fates visited upon many of the signers, to whose selflessness we owe our freedom. The problem is, this is mostly myth.
The Lawless State, by Joseph Sobran, The Reactionary Utopian, 11 Jul 2006
Explains how the United States changed from being a decentralized republic to a centralized democracy and how most of the power has moved from the legislative branch to the "imperial presidency"
During Roosevelt's four terms, conservatives had realized the same dangers of what they called "Caesarism" ... Today, alleged conservatives favor the current Bush's "big-government conservatism," together with all the unprecedented warmaking and national security powers he asserts. Both parties oppose the old constitutional limits on executive power, except when they find some of those limits politically convenient for the nonce. Conservatives are apt to be outraged when the media reveal how far Bush has gone in transgressing private matters we used to assume were safe from government spying.
Libertarian GOP defection?, by Bruce Bartlett, The Washington Times, 13 Dec 2006
Discusses the history of the libertarian movement from 1969, when the split from Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) occurred, to the mid-2000s, and ponders the impact of many libertarians leaving the Republican Party
The libertarians broke with those who considered themselves traditionalists—conservatives in the tradition of Edmund Burke and Russell Kirk. The problem for the libertarians was they didn't want to conserve anything. Whereas the conservatives prized order and continuity, the libertarians were radicals favoring change ... The true conservative, [libertarians] argued, must defend both the bad and the good in the existing order. But what if there are deep problems in government and society that require change? The conservative traditionalist has little to offer.
Libertarianism: Left or Right?, by Sheldon Richman, Freedom Daily, Jun 2007
Examines the origin of the political terms "left" and "right" and makes the case that libertarianism is "planted squarely on the Left"
[T]hose who sat on the right side of the assembly were steadfast supporters of the dethroned monarchy and aristocracy—the ancien régime—(and hence were conservatives) ... [S]tate socialism (as opposed to Tuckerite free-market socialism) promised prosperity and industrialization (liberal ends) through government control of the means of production (conservative means) ... When state socialists attacked the market ... as part of their criticism of America, the right wing, the conservatives, defended economic freedom rhetorically (while usually ignoring the corporatist features of capitalism ...).
Libertarians of Will, Intellect, and Action, by Murray N. Rothbard, Jul 1977
Keynote address to the Libertarian Party Convention; based on the "Turning Point, 1777/1977" convention theme, compares the American Revolution against the British with the contemporary libertarian situation versus the state
In contrast to [the American revolutionaries'] polar enemies, the conservatives ... strove to maintain traditional aristocratic and monarchical rule over the masses ... The conservatives knew full well that they were subsisting on privileges coerced from a deluded and oppressed public through their control of state power; hence they apprehended that the masses were their mortal enemy ... Where the conservatives rested their case on traditional privileges sanctified by mystical divine command, the laissez-faire radicals held aloft the banner of reason and individual rights for all people.
Mandela Wasn't Radical Enough, by Sheldon Richman, 11 Dec 2013
Examines conservative and progressive views about Nelson Mandela and apartheid, finds them lacking and contrasts them with the writings of W. H. Hutt
On the establishment Right (with some honorable exceptions) apartheid was deemed unimportant in the context of the Cold War. Conservatives found it easy to condemn Mandela as a terrorist and a communist, while minimizing or ignoring the violence perpetrated by the South African regime against blacks (and other nonwhites). The implication was that apartheid wasn't really so bad and that the militancy of its opponents was unreasonable ... This complacency had its parallel in the attitude of many conservatives toward government-enforced racial segregation in the American South.
More Drug-War Victims, by Sheldon Richman, 28 Dec 2005
Relates the case of Cory Maye, who killed a policeman while defending himself and his 18-month old daughter during a late night raid from a narcotics squad (his case went back and forth, but he was released in July 2011 after serving 10 years)
Opponents of the so-called war on drugs ... have long cautioned that enforcement of victimless-crime laws is by nature a mockery of justice. We have a vivid example in Cory Maye ... Why has the Maye case brought no outcry from the anti-death penalty crowd? It may be ... that Maye's use of a handgun apparently in self-defense makes him unattractive to that crowd. But don't look for support from the conservative right. They like guns, but they love the war on drugs even more and could never bring themselves to believe that someone could kill a policemen in self-defense.
Related Topics: War on Drugs, Moral Repression
On Evil Acts, by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., Mises Daily, 19 Apr 2007
Analyzes the typical mainstream ("liberal") and conservative responses to acts of violence such as the April 2007 Virginia Tech shooting
Life is, at its core, brutal and shocking. People are depraved in every way, whether they show it or not. This is the thinking of the group generally known as conservatives. And what do they suggest? That we always and everywhere prepare for total war. Whether we are speaking of Virginia Tech or international politics, society must be armed to the teeth and people must be relentlessly roughed up and scared straight, or else society crumbles. This probably means that we need more jack-booted thugs ... And let's hear nothing from the wimps who doubt the need for torture and prison without trial ...
Related Topics: Free Market, Society, The State
Paul Poirot, RIP, by Gary North, 21 Feb 2006
Memorial essay, focusing mostly on Poirot's role as editor of The Freeman
For the lonely conservative man in the street in early 1955, there was no self-consciously conservative magazine. There were a few newsletters: Human Events, The Dan Smoot Report, and the brilliant but obscure Don Bell Reports. National Review was launched later that year, and it would have been called The Freeman if William F. Buckley had been able to persuade Leonard E. Read to let him have the right to revive the name of Albert Jay Nock's defunct, though once resurrected, little journal. Read had other plans.
The Power of Persuasion, by Jeff Riggenbach, Mises Daily, 20 May 2011
Historical account of the Persuasion magazine, edited by Joan Kennedy Taylor between Sept 1964 and May 1968
Conservatives certainly didn't oppose the draft, either then or later. "What is important to the Liberal," William F. Buckley Jr., perhaps the most famous American conservative of all time, had written in 1959 in his book Up from Liberalism, "is that there be choice; whereas to the conservative, what is important is, What choices will man, whose first choice was so catastrophic, go on making?" If, for example, "man" should not choose to "serve his country" by marching off to war ..., well, then, he should be forced to do so. He should be conscripted. He should be drafted.
The Price of Bush, by Joseph Sobran, 11 Oct 2005
Examines the George W. Bush presidency a year after his re-election and argues that conservatives should have known better than supporting him earlier on
Bush is on the verge of losing his conservative base ... As long as Bush could plausibly claim the war was succeeding, they were willing to overlook most of his sins and ignore the qualms of the stern conservatives who were shouted down and slandered by the warlike neoconservatives egging him on ... So conservatives are now afraid that when the dust has settled, their philosophy will be identified with Bush's failure. That would be unjust to their philosophy, but ... It's too late for them to repudiate him now. He hasn't betrayed them as badly as they've betrayed their philosophy by supporting him all these years.
The Real Aggressor, by Murray N. Rothbard, Faith and Freedom, Apr 1954
Counsels conservatives to reconsider their foreign policy stance of instigating war, fomenting militarism and demanding foreign interventions, and realize that the aggressor is not the "Reds" but the state, which "has been conceived in original sin"
A sign of our time is the split-personality of the conservatives. Many to the right of center are off on a schizophrenic pursuit of both liberty and collectivism ... Conservatives call for free trade and free enterprise, yet also clamor for absolute embargoes on trade with Communist nations. Have they forgotten that both parties to free exchange benefit from trade? ... Another example: Conservatives are calling for lower taxes and less government control, while on the other hand they are calling for a virtual holy war against Russia and China, with all the costliness, death and statism that such a war would necessarily entail.
Related Topic: The State
ripensare il femminismo/.2 "My body, my choice", by Wendy McElroy, Marco Faraci, 9 Mar 2012
Second part of "Rethinking feminism" interview; topics include modern feminism vs. the Berlusconi scandals, American conservative women, and the presidential candidacy of Ron Paul
Se temo l’ascesa delle donne conservatrici? ... "sì" e "no" ... Io non ho paura di nessuna scelta pacifica che le donne compiano in un contesto di libertà. Non ho paura del fatto che alcune donne scelgano di essere casalinghe ubbidienti, purché non esistano barriere legali o politiche al fatto che altre donne scelgano di essere scienziate. ... Ho paura che siano varate leggi che limitino o ribaltino alcune delle libertà per le quali le donne hanno combattuto per decenni. Per esempio, lo zelo antiabortista è così forte ... che ci sono serie discussioni sulla restrizione o sul divieto di metodi contraccettivi ...
Related Topic: Ron Paul
Sic Semper Tyrannis, by Lew Rockwell, The American Conservative, 23 Apr 2007
Analyzes how the U.S. Presidency has been transmogrified from the role proposed by the Federalists
Now if some intellectuals set out to say that ... the rule of law is and should be a dead letter ... We would be back to the fundamental debate of liberty versus despotism. Instead, keep in mind that the people arguing for executive dictatorship fashion themselves as conservatives. Contrast this with the genuine conservatism of Robert Taft, who saw the postwar period as a time to set matters right and return to first principles. He attacked Truman for his Cold War forays and stated clearly that Congress alone has authority to declare war ... FDR's attitude toward his power, Taft wrote, was inconsistent with our heritage.
Spotlight: Founding Father, by Patrick Cox, Reason, Aug 1980
Brief profile of Leonard Read, his accomplishments, his influence and his outlook for the future of liberty
Milton Friedman has called Leonard Read "the dean of freedom." ... Even William Buckley praises Read while taking exception to his views on drug laws. At a birthday party for Leonard, Buckley told the crowd of his own attempts to convince Read that heroin addiction is a disease and government is therefore justified in eradicating the cause of it. Read's retort was that some would consider conservatism a disease, also.
Treating Us like Children, by Sheldon Richman, Freedom Daily, Nov 1998
Comments on an amendment to an appropriations bill that would outlaw Internet gambling, overwhelmingly approved by the Republican-controlled Senate, and discusses the "democratic paternalism" evinced by this action
With the development of the Internet, conservatives have certainly shown themselves to be liberty's fair-weather friends. They have been far too eager to stifle the development of the Net's rich and varied potential on the grounds that children will gamble or see pictures of naked bodies, as if kids didn't do those things long before the PC was invented. Conservatives are clearly just as intolerant as welfare-state liberals are about the freedom to make decisions beyond the prying eyes of the state.
Two Libertarian Classics, by Murray N. Rothbard, Reason, Mar 1974
Reviews of Albert Jay Nock's Our Enemy the State and John T. Flynn's As We Go Marching
Nowadays, we think we know what "rightwing" foreign policy is. Made familiar to us by the Buckleys, NATIONAL REVIEW, Senator Goldwater, and numerous other conservatives, the policy is essentially one of battling Communism and national revolutions all over the globe. Conservatives have long been in the forefront of pursuing and trying to heat up the Cold War, and of trying to suppress Communist or revolutionary movements in Southeast Asia, or any other parts of the world. As a corollary, conservatives, while presumably urging decreased government intervention at home, can be counted on to be enthusiastic about [military] spending demands ...
Vindication, by Thomas Sowell, 6 Mar 1998
Compares the vilification of Larry Elder and other "black conservatives" to the similar tribulations and eventual vindication of Billy Mitchell, criticizing "race hustlers" for emphasizing 1960's problems rather than dealing with today's issues
Larry Elder is currently being vilified and threatened, and his sponsors are being boycotted, because he is one of a growing number of 'black conservatives' who do not march in step with the racial party line ... However, it is only a matter of time before Elder, Clarence Thomas and others are vindicated. ... the education of a whole generation of young blacks is destroyed and their future with it. That is why people like Larry Elder in Los Angeles, Ken Hamblin in Denver and growing numbers of other black conservative talk-show hosts across the country are needed to blow the whistle on what is really happening.
Related Topic: World War II
Why I Am Not a 'Conservative', by Vin Suprynowicz, 13 Jun 2006
Examines the words "conservative" and "liberal", pointing out that Democrats are in fact the former while being called the latter, and then looks at Republicans and how far they have strayed from their supposed principles
What is a "conservative"? A conservative is someone who wants to keep things pretty much as they are, dubbing any major shift in direction a "risky scheme." ... Ed Feulner of the Heritage Foundation–your quintessential modern "conservative" think tank–finally laid his cards face-up in an op-ed piece in this section March 26. In the essay, headlined "Curing the conservative crack-up," Mr. Feulner proposed six criteria by which conservatives should weigh any proposed government action. Among his criteria were "Does it make us safer?" and "Does it unify us"?


Do You Consider Yourself a Libertarian?, by Lew Rockwell, Kenny Johnsson, 25 May 2007
Interview by Kenny Johnsson for the short-lived "The Liberal Post" blog; topics discussed include libertarianism, statism, war, elections, taxes, anarchism and the U.S. Constitution
Rockwell: ... Conservative ... dates to the Tory party in Britain, the very mercantilist-landowners who resisted change in the Corn Laws ... They didn't like the merchant class making more money than the old families—meaning that they didn't want to lose their privileges. In the US, the term conservative came about after World War II. It had no meaning, really, other than to refer to the general desire to be prudent in public affairs ... The problem is that it amounted to a defense of the status quo, and, after Buckley, it was irretrievably wrapped up with the Cold War cause.


The Conservative Press in Twentieth-Century America
    by William Henry Longton (editor), Ronald Lora (editor), 1999
Book edited by Ronald Lora and William Henry Longton published in 1999, part of the series "Historical Guides to the World's Periodicals and Newspapers"

The introductory paragraph uses material from the Wikipedia article "Conservatism" as of 27 Nov 2018, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.