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But which life?

19 Oct 10 | Re: Cons, Rads and Reacs

Writing in this week’s Spectator, James Forsyth quotes a favourite saying of Margaret Thatcher’s: “The facts of life are Conservative.”

Well of course they are. That’s what a conservative is: someone who looks at society, understands it to the best of his (or her) judgement, and then tries to use what wisdom he has to make that society work in a smooth and orderly way.

But a radical sees a little further. The radical understands that society need not always be the same - the facts of life may be Conservative now, but they are also negotiable. Rather than accept the existing situation as immutable, the radical questions it and asks whether the framework of society can be changed to make things work better than they ever could under the current system.

So yes, conservatives have the right idea if you want to accept unquestioningly (relatively sane conservatives) or actively defend (reactionaries) the status quo. If you want to change it - if you think humanity can do a bit better - you need a radical. Of course, radicals are right since (1) history already tells us that multiple kinds of society can exist, ergo the status quo can be changed and (2) it would be both arrogant and defeatist to suppose that what we have now is the best society possible. But I don’t take the unkind view that all conservatives are acting out of self-interest: some are merely lacking the capacity for creative thought.

(NB Under these definitions, members of today’s Conservative Party may well be radicals, and Labour people may well be conservative. But that is only because the names of today’s parties have become meaningless, often cruelly so.)

Posted by LION-O at 19:42

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