"Why You Should Be a Conservative"
An essay of the title was authored by David Stove, Philosopher, about whom I blogged yesterday — An Atheist Takes on Darwinism. The essay is not available online, but I found it excepted in an article by his American admirer Roger Kimball, who said, "If he wasn't the greatest philosopher of the century, Stove was certainly the funniest and most dazzling defender of common sense" — Conservative Gloominess:
- A primitive society is being devastated by a disease, so you bring modern medicine to bear, and wipe out the disease, only to find that by doing so you have brought on a population explosion. You introduce contraception to control population, and find that you have dismantled a whole culture. At home you legislate to relieve the distress of unmarried mothers, and find you have given a cash incentive to the production of illegitimate children. You guarantee a minimum wage, and find that you have extinguished, not only specific industries, but industry itself as a personal trait. You enable everyone to travel, and one result is, that there is nowhere left worth traveling to. And so on.
This is the oldest and the best argument for conservatism: the argument from the fact that our actions almost always have unforeseen and unwelcome consequences. It is an argument from so great and so mournful a fund of experience, that nothing can rationally outweigh it. Yet somehow, at any rate in societies like ours, this argument never is given its due weight. When what is called a "reform" proves to be, yet again, a cure worse than the disease, the assumption is always that what is needed is still more, and still more drastic, "reform."