Fourth, conservatives are guided by their principle of prudence. Burke agrees with Plato that in the statesman, prudence is chief among virtues. Any public measure ought to be judged by its probable long-run consequences, not merely by temporary advantage or popularity. Liberals and radicals, the conservative says, are imprudent: for they dash at their objectives without giving much heed to the risk of new abuses worse than the evils they hope to sweep away. As John Randolph of Roanoke put it, Providence moves slowly, but the devil always hurries. Human society being complex, remedies cannot be simple if they are to be efficacious. The conservative declares that he acts only after sufficient reflection, having weighed the consequences. Sudden and slashing reforms are as perilous as sudden and slashing surgery.--Russell Kirk, Ten Conservative Principles (1993).
Sunday, January 24, 2016
Kirk's fourth conservative principle: slow and incremental reform
After a brief break, considering that we are in the political season for both parties, now on the cusp of the Iowa caucuses, let's take up again the late Russell Kirk's ten conservative principles. Below is his fourth principle on the conservative approach to politics, a short statement on how conservatives approach government action and reform. As Kirk concisely explains, conservatism is not opposed to reform, nor is it oppose in principle to government action within its proper sphere. But conservatism does insist that government policy be guided by prudence, and above all else that it not be undertaken impulsively: