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What Is Conservatism? Lee Edwards Offers a Fine Distillation

Having studied privately under the late Dr. Russell Kirk, author of the seminal work The Conservative Mind from Burke to Eliot (and many other books and thousands of articles that shaped the modern American conservative movement), I have often felt the difficulty of stating concisely and clearly what conservatism is, for it is not a simple ideology—indeed, it is not an ideology at all, but a complex and highly textured philosophy.

Lee Edwards, Distinguished Fellow in Conservative Thought at the Heritage Foundation, has condensed conservatism nicely in an article in which he draws from the founding document of Young American for Freedom, from Kirk’s “Six Canons of Conservatism,” from Barry Goldwater and Brent Bozell’s The Conscience of a Conservative, and from William F. Buckley’s Up from Liberalism. It would be hard to find a better introduction to conservative thought for those who are curious about it, or even for those who think themselves opposed to it (but who might be surprised to see it as it truly is). The whole article is worth reading, but this paragraph sums it up:

I end my definition of conservatism with an excerpt from Buckley’s Up from Liberalism, in which he lauds the conservative alternative based on “freedom, individuality, the sense of community, the sanctity of the family, the supremacy of the conscience, the spiritual view of life.” In just 21 words, Buckley provides a neat summation of conservatism’s first principles.

Tolle, lege; pick it up, read it.

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