Edmund Burke on the Free Market

by Corey Robin on March 20, 2013

In the Huffington Post, Alex Zakaras, a political theorist at the University of Vermont, levels a familiar charge at today’s GOP: they’re not real conservatives.

Over the last several decades, the party has abandoned political conservatism and embraced its opposite: an agenda of radical, experimental reform.


I’ve addressed this argument many times, including in a book now out in paperback that’s selling for $16, so there is no need for me to rehearse my position here.

What drew my attention to Zakaras’s piece is this claim:

As of the 2013 Congress, fortified by libertarian ideological purists, the Republican Party can no longer claim this [conservative] tradition as its own….The dominant faction—among the elites who fund and speak for the party—is now driven by a very different ideology. It believes that the size and scope of government should be vastly reduced, that public services should whenever possible be privatized, and that market principles should be extended into ever more areas of human life—from education to retirement savings to prisons. Whatever the merits of this ideology, it is simply a mistake to call it conservative.



Why, then, should true conservatives remain infatuated with unregulated—or minimally regulated—markets?


I thought about composing a long reply, showing how deeply rooted in conservative principles the right’s embrace of free-market capitalism truly is, but a version of that long reply is forthcoming in a piece in the Nation. So I’ll leave that for another day.

Instead, I’ll simply allow someone I trust we all consider to be a true conservative to speak for the team:

The value of money must be judged, like every thing else, from it’s rate at market. To force that market, or any market, is of all things the most dangerous.

Let Government protect and encourage industry, secure property, repress violence, and discountenance fraud, it is all that they have to do. In other respects, the less they meddle in these affairs the better.

Of all things, an indiscreet tampering with the trade of provisions is the most dangerous.


Laws prescribing, or magistrates exercising, a very stiff, and often inapplicable rule, or a blind and rash discretion, never can provide the just proportions between earning and salary on the one hand, and nutriment on the other: whereas interest, habit, and the tacit convention, that arise from a thousand nameless circumstances, produces a tact that regulates without difficulty, what laws and magistrates cannot regulate at all.

The balance between consumption and production makes price. The market settles, and alone can settle, that price. Market is the meeting and conference of the consumer and producer, when they mutually discover each other’s wants. Nobody, I believe, has observed with any reflection what market is, without being astonished at the truth, the correctness, the celerity, the general equity, with which the balance of wants is settled. They who wish the destruction of that balance, and would fain by arbitrary regulation decree, that defective production should not be compensated by encreased price, directly lay their axe to the root of production itself.


The last three of these statements are from Burke’s Thoughts and Details on Scarcity, which he wrote in response to a scheme adopted by the magistrates of Berkshire in 1795 to supplement the earnings of farm laborers with government payments so that they could earn a living wage. The supplement would depend upon a variety of factors: the price of corn, the size of the laborer’s family, the cost of bread. Readers of Karl Polanyi will recognize this plan as the Speenhamland system.

Berkshire was merely the next county over from where Burke lived, and the plan freaked him out. He saw it, among other things, as a portent of the kind of legitimation crisis twentieth-century conservatives would later espy in the welfare state: Extending its commitments to the poor, the state generated expectations and demands it could never meet. The over-extension of the pre-revolutionary French state, Burke argued, generated similar demands and expectations among the poor; that led, in part, to the French Revolution. Or, as Burke put it in his Letters on a Regicide Peace:

This affected pity only tends to dissatisfy them with their condition, and to teach them to seek resources where no resources are to be found—in something else than their own industry, and frugality, and sobriety.


So why should true conservatives remain infatuated with unregulated—or minimally regulated—markets? Because a great many of them always have been.

{ 35 comments }

1

Patrick S. O'Donnell 03.20.13 at 5:37 am

Not for nothing did Ted Honderich title one of his books, Conservatism: Burke, Nozick, Bush, Blair (2nd ed., Pluto Press, 2005).

2

Jacob McM 03.20.13 at 8:39 am

Corey, are you familiar with this Polanyi essay? I posted it in another thread. He makes a brief reference to the “Mises school of economics” in the last section, noting that it shares Fascism’s belief that capitalism is incompatible with democracy.

http://www.voiceoftheturtle.org/library/essence_of_fascism.php

This comment about Fascism’s radicalism also sticks out:

Thus Fascist philosophy is an effort to produce a vision of the world in which society is not a relationship of persons. A society, in fact, in which there are either no conscious human beings or their consciousness has no reference to the existence and functioning of society. Anything less leads back to the Christian truth about society. But that is indivisible. It is the achievement of Fascism to have discovered its whole scope. It rightly asserts the correlatedness of the ideas of Individualism, Democracy and Socialism. It knows that either Christianity or Fascism must perish in the struggle.

At first sight it seems almost inconceivable that Fascism should have undertaken a task which to our conventional minds seems so utterly hopeless. And yet it has. That its assertions and propositions are more startling than anything which Radicals of the Left have ever produced ought, however, not to surprise us. Revolutionary Socialism is but a different formulation and a stricter interpretation of truths generally accepted in Western Europe for almost two thousand years. Fascism is their denial.

3

Jacob McM 03.20.13 at 8:40 am

(Ack, I really wish there were a “Preview Post” option here. I mess up HTML codes often.)

Corey, are you familiar with this Polanyi essay? I posted it in another thread. He makes a brief reference to the “Mises school of economics” in the last section, noting that it shares Fascism’s belief that capitalism is incompatible with democracy.

http://www.voiceoftheturtle.org/library/essence_of_fascism.php

This comment about Fascism’s radicalism also sticks out:

Thus Fascist philosophy is an effort to produce a vision of the world in which society is not a relationship of persons. A society, in fact, in which there are either no conscious human beings or their consciousness has no reference to the existence and functioning of society. Anything less leads back to the Christian truth about society. But that is indivisible. It is the achievement of Fascism to have discovered its whole scope. It rightly asserts the correlatedness of the ideas of Individualism, Democracy and Socialism. It knows that either Christianity or Fascism must perish in the struggle.

At first sight it seems almost inconceivable that Fascism should have undertaken a task which to our conventional minds seems so utterly hopeless. And yet it has. That its assertions and propositions are more startling than anything which Radicals of the Left have ever produced ought, however, not to surprise us. Revolutionary Socialism is but a different formulation and a stricter interpretation of truths generally accepted in Western Europe for almost two thousand years. Fascism is their denial.

4

Jacob McM 03.20.13 at 8:42 am

Why won’t it italicize the last paragraph? Oh well. That last paragraph should be italicized.

5

Guano 03.20.13 at 9:11 am

Conservatives don’t perceive what their policies as a radical experiment. They perceive them as putting back society to its natural state. And they believe that, even if the process leads to chaos, all will be right in the end because society will have been returned to its natural state.

6

Collin Street 03.20.13 at 9:30 am

Because in a market people vote with their dollars.

7

pedant 03.20.13 at 10:54 am

Your last link, associated with the words “The balance between consumption and production,” is a bad link, leading to a CT 404 page.

8

Corey Robin 03.20.13 at 11:54 am

Pedant at 7: Thanks, fixed.

9

gordon 03.20.13 at 11:55 am

So, in the US, conservatives clamour for abolition of all subsidies to farmers, to manufacturers, to the nuclear and defense industries; conservative doctors unceasingly demand the free admission of foreign-trained doctors to practice in the US; conservatives daily demand the abolition of artificial restrictions on trade with Iran, and bitterly regret the imposition of such restrictions in the past on Russia, China, Iraq and other countries; and of course conservatives demand the immediate bankruptcy of all insolvent banks, and immediate prosecution of all bankers who have offended the laws, no matter what specious defense of consequent damage to the National welfare they pretend to make.

Well, not really. Not the people usually referred to as “conservatives”, anyway.

That of course raises the question of who are the “true conservatives” of whom Corey Robin speaks. There is no doubt that the term is used (especially by the media) with disgraceful laxity; but the cat is out of the bag, as I hope the examples above show. It might now be more sensible to use a different term (“Burkeans”?) to refer to the “true conservatives” who are the dedicated followers of E. Burke and devotees of free trade, non-intervention by Govt., sanctity of property, liberty and the rule of law.

10

Corey Robin 03.20.13 at 11:56 am

Jacob at 3: Thanks, I had never seen that before. Will take a look.

11

Jacob McM 03.20.13 at 12:48 pm

I think it’s also interesting to note that Othmar Spann, whom Polanyi treats in detail in that essay, was also one of Friedrich Hayek’s professors, though I do not know to what extent he influenced Hayek, if at all.

12

Glen Tomkins 03.20.13 at 1:26 pm

“The over-extension of the pre-revolutionary French state, Burke argued, generated similar demands and expectations among the poor; that led, in part, to the French Revolution.”

Yet another connection Burke has with his intellectual heirs, is his tendency to manufacture his own “facts”. Though it is true that France had been, 150 years earlier, under Louis XIV, a pioneer in statist expansion, by Burke’s time, France’s governmental machinery had been largely privatized. French govt in the waning days of the ancien regime was massively inefficient because the original statist vision had been sold out to crony capitalists. GB by that time had much better public infrastructure — roads and bridges and bureaucracies — precisely because these hadn’t been privatized as they had in France.

France got rid of the crony capitalists (many more war profiteers than titled nobility went to the guillotine), started taxing wealth, and its fiscal pseudo-crisis disappeared overnight. Overnight it became capable of financing a military machine that, despite having to built largely from scratch because the ancien regime’s military establishment largely deserted or defected, was able to defeat the rest of old Europe combined.

Statism worked really well for France and GB. Crony capitalism proved to be abysmally inefficient. Conservatives of the time systematically hallucinated their “facts” to allow misattribution of cause and effect.

Tout ca change, tout c’est la meme chose.

13

phosphorious 03.20.13 at 2:09 pm

It’s a metaphysical oddity, one that would give Alexius Meinong a headache, that “real” conservatives don’t exist, while the conservatives that exist. . . why, they’re just not “real.”

14

Corey Robin 03.20.13 at 2:38 pm

Phosphorious at 13: Precisely. You might find this of interest. http://coreyrobin.com/2011/12/01/reality-bites-andrew-sullivans-utopian-conservatism/

15

John Malone 03.20.13 at 3:41 pm

Corey, thanks for raising these intriguing (and important) points.

There is a question lingering here, however: Should the example of Burke lead us to say that conservatism is not incompatible with capitalism, or, alternatively, that Burke was not really a conservative?

Both questions have an air of paradox, but Burke’s seamless absorption into the conservative tradition has always presented difficulties. He was, after all, a Whig, one who supported the principle of American independence and (as you indicate above) the market economics of Adam Smith. His animus against the philosophes and regicides seems to have been misinterpreted by some reactionaries, who saddled him with their own rejection of political modernity. His real concern, however, was not to argue for a traditionalist politics but to critique a particular form of political reason. This puts him at odds with thinkers such as Carlyle and Ruskin, who really did reject modernism in politics, and who, therefore, would seem to be the proper source of such “conservatism” as we actually have.

Alternatively, one might argue that “conservatism” and “liberalism,” as we know them anyway, are both arguments within the world created by capitalism and democracy. What conservatives want to “conserve” is simply a pure liberal order, one unsullied by any concessions to political or social exigencies. This view might support Burke’s enlistment as a conservative, though it would be resisted by today’s true traditionalists, including certain factions of the religious right and the Confederate rump that controls the Republican Party.

I’m not endorsing either argument, but they do suggest some fascinating alternative histories….

16

Trader Joe 03.20.13 at 3:43 pm

It’s Burke’s parochialism that makes his views both attractive and which most severely undermine him. I suspect that conservatives are drawn, in some sense, to the sheer simplicity of it without adequate consideration of the consequence.

For example in the Burke world an employer would contract for labor at a fair rate and they would both benefit from the bargain – the landholder gets his wheat cut, the laborer gets a couple shillings and a share that’s a win-win. He assumes an honest employer, willing labor and fair taxation and courts.

Burke doesn’t contemplate a world of union mandated job descriptions, pension obligations, minimum workers compensation insurance, mandated health-care coverage…the list goes on. Conservatives have long mistrusted these different “barriers” to the free contracting of labor/trade and regardless of your political bent they all have their pros and cons depending on context.

Stated as the OP does, Burke’s ideas about the value of money, encouraging industry and protecting value etc. all sound reasonable enough until they are carried to the unfortunate extremes of say the stripping of natural resources by a nearly indentured labor force, price fixing or cartels.

I’ll posit a question – Is there a place for “reduced government” in the sense of more efficient regulation, less “red tape,” and clearer or standards without immediately leaping to the leftist conclusion that “all conservatives” want to, say, do away with all workplaces safety laws and pay subsistence wages with no government interference or must regulation constantly expand with ever greater complexity to address all of the possible ways people/companies try to circumvent it?

There are places where a free(er) market has undoubtedly benefitted many people– telecom regulation is possibly one example (and to pre-empt, I know this is far from flawless too, its just a for-instance most can relate to). Obviously there are also places where regulation (or its lack) have been sorely abused such as banking and extractive industries.

Cory asks: So why should true conservatives remain infatuated with unregulated—or minimally regulated—markets?

The answer is what’s not to like – provided you are an 18th century landowner or modern day equivalent. Everyone loves simplicity until simplicity is abused and in commerce and politics simplicity will always be abused.

17

Bruce Wilder 03.20.13 at 6:17 pm

Jacob McM: Why won’t it italicize the last paragraph?

I think you can file this under, “It’s a feature, not a bug.” Interpretation of HTML code is set up to close tags with paragraphs, so that a careless commenter, forgetting to close, say an italics tag, does not accidentally italicize all subsequent paragraphs and comments.

As published, the first of the two paragraphs begins with a paragraph tag and an italicize tag and ends with a close paragraph tag and a close italicize tag. The second paragraph has only paragraph tags.

18

Bruce Wilder 03.20.13 at 6:28 pm

Trader Joe @ 16

Isn’t it possible that a “conservative” actually wants to dominate the subordinates, from whom he derives by extraction, the surplus of production that stuffs luxury into his life?

Why isn’t the natural conservative a social dominator, who prefers his thuggish bullying unobstructed by government serving popular welfare and un-slandered by prevailing social philosophy?

To me, “conservative” usually means a defense of social, political and economic domination.

19

Jerry Vinokurov 03.20.13 at 6:28 pm

CT used to have a nice little preview feature below the comment box. Any hope of getting that back?

20

Substance McGravitas 03.20.13 at 6:36 pm

It wasn’t really a nice preview box. It did HTML as you’d expect while the comment did not.

21

Trader Joe 03.20.13 at 7:13 pm

Bruce @18
While there are no doubt some conservatives who meet your definition of conservative (and maybe these are the ‘true’ conservatives CR refers to), its been my experience that a lot of people who answer to the description of “conservative”, and embrace the notions of smaller government and less regulation refered to in the OP are at least a bit more subtle if not in fact a bit more gentle than your definition.

Indeed more than a few self styled liberals become downright “conservative” by your definition when its suggested that their particular slant on an economic, social or political topic may not be quite as good for everyone as they might imagine.

22

Marc 03.20.13 at 7:41 pm

There is clearly a tension between social conservatism and market conservatism. Think of blue laws on Sunday, or contraception. The interests of market forces don’t need to align with the interests of religious devotees. We even see this in the current extended Republican tantrum in the US – the rejection of government programs that would profit wealthy interests because they are ideologically unacceptable. The current Republican turmoil appears to be the alarm that the market fundamentalists are losing control of the beast.

It is a nice catch that worship of the market has a long history in conservatism. It’s just not the only strain.

23

Bruce Wilder 03.20.13 at 7:45 pm

Glen Tomkins @ 12

French infrastructure was not particularly bad. French roads were maintained by corvée, a system of unfree, unpaid labor imposed on those of lower social status. It was oppressive and deeply resented, and transmuting this feudal obligation into a money tax was frequently among the objects of reform, but, if the criteria is the quality of road maintenance, it seems to have worked. English travellers to the Île-de-France in the years leading up to the Revolution remarked on the good condition of roads, compared to England. The French revived corvée a couple of times in the course of the 19th century; it didn’t finally go down for good and all, I believe, until the advent of the Third Republic.

The American Revolution was won because the French Navy was superior at the time to the British Navy in every respect. When the French wanted to spend the money, they had no trouble achieving results, even through the decrepit apparatus of the French state, which was not, entirely, decrepit. The bureaucracy of Intendants, ruling their généralités, providing police and general services, under the supervision of the Comptroller, were understaffed, but vigorous.

The acute problem areas were French agriculture and French money and finance. French agriculture lagged visibly behind the British, where an agricultural revolution in the 18th century had fed unprecedented population growth. The poor harvests of the 1780s put the country on the verge of famine, and no one among the philosophes and physiocrats had any idea what to do. France did not have a central bank or a banking system or fiat money, or a competent fiscal regime to collect taxes. The judicial system was a mess, with a huge number of courts administering a complex set of traditional customs and privileges. (Ironically, the Revolution would be carried out by lawyers, of which France had huge numbers). Real property transactions were burdened by ancient feudal dues and obligations. Paris bankers were foreigners, Swiss or Dutch. Much of tax collection was privatized by a consortium, operating according to obnoxious methods. Financial expediences magnified the burden of debt service, but the generally poor quality of French banking and finance contributed the general dysfunction of the economy.

Britain, by contrast, had the Bank of England. The superior British banking and financial system did more than secure the state a much lower burden of debt service and eliminated the threat of public fiscal insolvency. It also motivated effective organization of British agriculture and the first canal boom and the beginnings of the industrial revolution.

24

Tim Wilkinson 03.20.13 at 8:09 pm

Is there a place for “reduced government” in the sense of more efficient regulation, less “red tape,” and clearer or standards without immediately leaping to the leftist conclusion that “all conservatives” want to, say, do away with all workplaces safety laws and pay subsistence wages with no government interference or must regulation constantly expand with ever greater complexity to address all of the possible ways people/companies try to circumvent it?

I give up – what’s the answer?

Also, what’s the question?

25

mclaren 03.20.13 at 10:13 pm

By far the most interesting failure of contemporary conservatism is its total inability to rein in abusive overregulation and buureactization that everyone agrees is completely over the top.

Example: no one, to my knowledge, defends the FDA’s rabbit inspectors — those guy who run around slapping fines on magicians who use live rabbits in their performances. Yet the Democrats have been as unable as the Republican to end this kind of craziness.

Another example: the TSA’s bureaucratic rules are so crazy and so universally recognized as pointless and self-destructive (pat-downs of 6-year-olds, pointless bans on liquids in amounts over 6 oz., ad infinitum) that both Democrats and Republicans agree the TSA’s regulations are completely counterproductive and time-wasting. Yet neither party can seem to shut down these crazy regulations.

In fact, conservatives today seem to love crazy regulations and byzantine bureaucracies — as long as they’re military or national-security based. The Pentagon has never passed an audit, although it’s required to by law. Oddly, this seems not to bother contemporary conservatives. Waste and crazy baroque regulations are wonderful…as long as they take place on the military/national security side of the fence.

26

Metatone 03.20.13 at 11:00 pm

The first problem (which we’re all aware of) is to treat any current political party as the embodiment of a philosophy. In fact they are loose coalitions of warring tribes, and the philosophy, such as it is, is just an overarching mythos. Important, but not definitive.

Of course, we make this mistake because as a society we’re encouraged to do so, a coherent philosophy lends authority to a political party – and also can usefully obscure the influence of sectional interests.

The second problem is to accept the notion that there is anything much coherent in the philosophy of “conservatism” over the waves of history. This is unlikely because each era was trying to conserve something different… Many conservative voters in the US would like to return to the 1950s. Many conservative donors in the US would actually rather return to the 1850s. (Sectional interests again.) Pretending this grab bag makes sense isn’t necessarily useful.

27

Bruce Wilder 03.21.13 at 12:04 am

Marc @ 22: There is clearly a tension between social conservatism and market conservatism.

One interpretation of this tension is that it is the natural dynamic that arises in a democratic coalition of a political leadership oriented to dominance (i.e. the market conservatives, in your terms) with those authoritarian followers, who are easily demagogued and who model conventional morality (i.e. the social conservatives).

This alliance, if you can call it that, is a response to a need to mobilize numbers approaching half the population. So, the conservative core, who want to dominate for their own gain, have to modify their doctrines and apologia to attract the loyalty of other, more numerous groups, and the easiest ones to appeal to, are usually the easily demagogued authoritarian followers. Mobilizing the authoritarian followers entails various kinds of appeals, which will be historically circumstantial.

It seems to me that the desire for social dominance is the constant core of conservative ideologies; it basically amounts to the desire to establish an hereditary aristocracy. The demagoguery, traditionalism and conventional morality, employed to bring along as supporters, people, whose political psychology inclines them to be authoritarian followers, vary with historical and cultural context.

28

novakant 03.21.13 at 12:37 am

You people just don’t get it: the devious conservative strategy was to turn unruly leftists into lukewarm, government-supporting centrists – and they seemed to have succeeded at least as far as the US is concerned.

29

Collin Street 03.21.13 at 12:53 am

@22: Generally, though, the tensions between the market-conservatives and the social-conservatives are found in times and places where the making of cash money through trade was a bit, you know, bourgeois. So you get, say, sumptuary laws, to keep those upstart merchant bankers and venture capitalists in their place.

[or, conservatives are always socially conservative, it's just that sometimes the society they're conserving is based on market practices and sometimes it isn't.]

30

Jacob McM 03.21.13 at 4:25 am

A consistently reactionary position against modernity does seem to entail the rejection of both political and economic liberalism, and this has not been lost on certain factions throughout the years. Again I’ll quote that useful Polanyi essay:

In spite of Hegel, Spann contends, Marx remained thoroughly individualist. In his theory of the State he is individualistic to the point of anarchist Utopianism. “That in Marxism the ‘State dies off’ is the outcome of its inherent Individualism which regards society as being, essentially, lack of domination of human beings by human beings, a ‘free association’ of individuals.” The Socialist ideal is definitely the “Statefree” society. Historically, it is by way of Democracy and Liberalism that Individualism leads to Bolshevism. The “barbaric, brutal, and bloody” rule of Liberal Capitalism, as Spann himself terms it, prepares the way for a Socialist organisation of economic life, a transition for which representative Democracy supplies the political machinery. Once we allow the universalist principle of medieval society to be finally destroyed by the individualistic virus, no other outcome is possible.

But within the party system, the mainstream left and right both rely heavily on the funding and support of their most powerful constituencies and cannot afford to offend them too greatly. In a society where bourgeois industrialists dominate the ruling class, a mainstream right-wing party is not going to have much choice but to pay lip service to their sustaining ideology, which is economic liberalism. This doesn’t mean that the more anti-market factions are insincere, but the nature of the beast prevents them from having much influence under normal circumstances.

31

reason 03.21.13 at 9:17 am

Jacob McM
” Historically, it is by way of Democracy and Liberalism that Individualism leads to Bolshevism. “

It is remarkable how often history is ahistorically invoked.

32

Squirrel Nutkin 03.21.13 at 2:41 pm

This problem is clearly too taxing, perhaps you should make like the economists: put the problem to one side and focus on a simpler theoretical model. So, about these True Scotsmen …

33

Harold 03.21.13 at 3:02 pm

@31 Teach people to read the Bible for themselves and next thing you know they become liberal parliamentarians and from there it is a slippery slope to Bolshevism.

34

Silly Wabbit 03.21.13 at 5:24 pm

I think it’s more useful to think of conservatives as united by common ethic, cultural, geographic, identity and “style of life” bonds. These are situated in emergent social orders and embedded in streams of action and history. Given this it’s not surprising that what it means to be conservative changes so much from time to time and place to place.

Conservative as a description of a particular world-view is only partly useful. Conservative as a description of a particular set of policy views is even less useful. From 2000-2008 self-attributed conservatives favored 1) large deficits 2) increased federal spending 3) a larger welfare state (at least for some-Medicare pt. D) 4) roll-backs of civil liberties 5) drone strikes 6) etc. etc.. By the time the last network called the 2008 election results, what it meant to be a conservative had changed completely and conservatives, with some exceptions, believed almost the opposite of their previous beliefs.

This wasn’t a gradual change representing a multi-year political alignment, it happened nearly instantaneously. We should stop pretending that being “conservative” refers to a set of personallly-held beliefs about policy. Instead, we should conceptualize “conservative” as a self-attributed term of individuals held together by social bonds that extend across ethnic, cultural, geographic and style of life bonds. Its more about identity for both groups and individuals than it is any coherent ideas about policy or the role of government.

I’m not sure if the same could be said for the term “liberal”. Maybe similar observations could be drawn, but my sense is that “liberal” as a unifying identity for a body of people is not nearly as salient as “conservative”.

35

kharris 03.22.13 at 2:06 pm

As is often the case, debates over what “true” conservatism is grow out of there being no single definition. A conservative who sticks to a set of principles is a different creature than one who resists rapid change to established norms and institutions. Norms and institutions in the post-WWII industrialized west are not conservative in the first sense, but sharply altering established norms and institutions is not conservative in the second sense. That is essentially how a post like this one can end up being written. In Burke’s day, it was possible for both definitions of conservatism to be embodied on a single political position. Today, it is not possible in most western democracies.

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