Monday, December 12, 2011

Why conservative?

Magna Carta founding document of conservatism
I believe in limited government.  One can trace the origin of conservatism straight back to King John's seal on the Magna Carta at Runnymede in 1215.  The Barons compelled the King to recognise that his absolute powers must be limited.  One can also trace a direct conservative line from Reagan to Magna Carta.

King John signing the Magna Carta
Absolutism gives all the powers of the state to the King or Emperor.  Patronage is dispensed to the "friends" of the royal court.  The only upward path lies through the gates of the palace.  Social evils can only be redressed or ameliorated if the King recognises their existence and chooses to do something about them.  A royal hospital may be founded, a royal park may be set aside.  All these good works depend on the will of the King.

At Runnymede by the banks of Thames the Barrons sought to end the King's monopoly on power.  They recognised that no none individual has perfect knowledge or insight into society's needs.  Some rulers have, of course been virtuous, gifted and well intentioned on behalf of their subjects.  Marcus Aurelius, the Philosopher Emperor of Rome, springs to mind.  Yet Marcus Aurelius's reign would be succeeded by Commodus a beastly and inhumane ruler.  A king would always attempt to expand his powers and extend his reign into perpetuity through hereditary succession.  The results would often prove horrific.

England was the birthplace of the conservative movement.  Magna Carta was the start of checks and balances so beloved of US constitutionalists.

No comments: