Throne, Altar, Liberty: Conservatism and Neo-conservatism
A very interesting discussion of one of the most — arguably *the* most — influential political philosophies of the end of the last century and the beginning of this one, Neoconservatism, from the perspective of an “old-line,” Tory Conservative in Canada.
“In my country, Canada, conservatism was originally about much more than this. Canada is a country that was founded within the British Empire in the Victorian era and which developed her national sovereignty within the British family of nations without severing ties to the Crown and Britain, the way our republican neighbour to the south had, and as such inherited from the older country, the older kind of conservatism known as Toryism. Toryism was about monarchy, the institutional church, and government for the common good of a national society envisioned as an organic whole that includes past and future generations, not merely those present among us today.”
Would that we had more of that kind, and less of the other, in the United States today! That said, one thing that I am not sure many Canadians grasp is the fact that, just as the second child in a family benefits from the mistakes the parent made in raising the first, Canada benefited, greatly, from the American revolution in the sense that the Crown was more accommodating with respect to political autonomy in the 19th century, having seen what the iron-fist approach did with the Thirteen Colonies in the 18th. Had the Crown and Parliament simply been willing, in the 1770s, to extend to her American subjects “the rights of Englishmen,” for which our Founders were initially contending, British North America might be significantly larger, and a great deal more populous, than it is at present!
That said, there are things we could and should learn from Canada (and from the Mother Country as well), such as the fact that “the older ‘throne and altar’ Toryism, ought to be regarded as being more favourable to small government and low taxes than contemporary North American conservatism. Toryism was born out of the defence of royal sovereign authority against those who wished to wrest it away from the Crown and to vest all power in elected legislative assemblies. The opponents of the original Tories declared themselves to be on the side of ‘liberty’ against tyranny, but the history of the last four centuries tells us another story. What that history tells us is that the more the Crown’s authority was limited and the power of the elected assembly augmented, the larger and more intrusive government became, while taxes grew both exponentially and astronomically.”
“Anyone who happens to think that the liberal doctrine is more conducive to personal freedom than that of the Tory it is invited to look around him today. The idea of freedom as individual sovereignty is now being taken to the nth degree, with even such constraints on that sovereignty as those of nature and reality itself no longer recognized as valid. Thus, for example, gender is now being declared to be something that the individual decides for himself – or herself – or itself – or whatever! By consequence, liberalism is now declaring such self-determination of gender to be a right of the individual, which is to say something that belongs to the essence of the individual’s sovereignty. Since in liberal theory, the rights of the individual are what law and government exist to protect, the consequence of this will inevitably be that the legislatures and courts, will impose legal restrictions on what we can think, say or do, in order to protect such a “right”. The more the individual is declared to be sovereign, the more new “rights” are discovered, the more laws restricting our thoughts, speech, and actions are passed, so that what is called “freedom” today, often resembles a soft form of totalitarian tyranny.”
These are uncomfortable truths for Americans, steeped in the lore of republicanism, representative democracy, and its putative equivalence to freedom and self-determination, but they are truths which we ought to be willing to hear, for both our social and our spiritual health!