Friday, January 25, 2013

Thought for the Day: On Conservatism and Monarchy

Conservatism (whether a good thing in general or not) can be coherent only in a country that is either a monarchy, or a republic that was founded as a republic (e.g. Switzerland, the United States): that is, in a country that since independence has preserved its basic constitutional order, whatever other political, social, and cultural developments (and they may be profound and substantial without rendering conservatism irrelevant) have occurred within that structure.  Once a country's monarchy is abolished and a republic is firmly established, genuine political conservatism (for what is the point of conservatism without continuity?) is effectively abolished as well, though cultural and religious conservatism may persist.

If conservatives (as is their unfortunate tendency) eventually accept and defend the new republican order (sadly, no longer so new in most cases), they have broken with at least some of the fundamental values of their nation as it existed for decades or even centuries prior to the fall of the monarchy, and would not be recognized as kindred spirits by conservatives of that time.  They perpetuate a regime whose foundation is intrinsically revolutionary (having sought to abolish the old order of things and build a new one, the essence of leftism) and under which those who identify emotionally with the pre-revolutionary past must always be strangers.  But if on the other hand conservatives advocate the restoration of the Monarchy, and therefore undermine (even peacefully) the existing constitutional settlement, they are no longer behaving as conservatives.

In other words, if one lives in a republic that used to be a monarchy, either one can act in a conservative manner, or be true to traditional conservative principles, but not both.  So while we may speak of British conservatives, Spanish conservatives, Swiss conservatives, or even American conservatives (though I am not one), there are today no such creatures as German conservatives, or Austrian conservatives, or Portuguese conservatives, but only varying degrees of liberals.  Anyone in such a country who would not be a liberal must identify as reactionary or counterrevolutionary, or eschew ideological labeling entirely, longing for the Return of the King.

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