Western Conservatives must read Yoram Hazony’s “Conservatism: a Rediscovery”

In the Spectator magazine on 27th August 2022, the UK’s former finance minister, Rishi Sunak, confirmed that politicians abdicated their role during the Covid crisis and let scientists dictate official policy. Sunak reveals complete failure of essential norms like accountability, transparency, impartiality and basic risk assessment modelling. Our fundamental freedoms and dignity were dismissed on the basis of erroneous, partisan thinking. Conservative politicians have patently lost the plot.

The UK’s Conservative government has repeatedly demonstrated its failure to uphold the English foundations of freedom in the Anglosphere: those foundations lie in the Magna Carta of the 13th century, the 1689 Bill of Rights and other developments during the reign of William and Mary.

The British Conservative party has abandoned the Christian religious tradition of England and even abandoned the national flag and anthem at their annual Party gatherings.  It should be no surprise therefore when a Conservative government resorts to a measure like the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Act 2021 to tackle serious crime.  To combat crime, the 2021 Act licences government agents to commit crimes ! This is how we believe we should counter endemic lawlessness in the age of Rights Fundamentalism …

The resort to such measures of arbitrary government demonstrates the persistent failure of the Right to counter decades of moral breakdown born of hyper-liberal individualism and the systematic exclusion of Christianity in politics, academia and media.

The British government’s latest attempt at a Bill of Rights fails to lay the axe to the root of the tree of Rights Fundamentalism. Instead it grafts common sense and public reason onto the corrupt root stock of Rights Fundamentalism. It won’t work, believe me ! In previous blogs, I have called for the eradication of the European Union decreed Human Rights Act 1998 along with all its progeny. Such measures have actually eradicated the historically successful and effective English constitutional, legal and cultural tradition of liberty.

The emerging crisis across western economies – not just the British – is the direct consequence of western policies, partly over Covid but especially over Ukraine.  Conservative Boris Johnson actually said at Ukraine’s recent Independence day celebrations that the people of the UK and western nations must pay exorbitant energy prices to support Ukraine against Russia. What this actually means is that ordinary people are having to pay for the stupidity of politicians posturing their superior Moral credentials while actually serving the ulterior agenda of mammon worshipping western plutocrats …

What sort of government allows an overnight 80% uplift in the energy price cap as recently announced in the UK? Just how would they react if workers demanded 80% pay rises ? That is the reality of the situation we must address if we are to reach a realistic solution and avoid social, even political, catastrophe.

We are about to slide into the sort of chaos Europe experienced in the 1920s as a result of the utterly foolish First World War – a war persisted in by politicians convinced of their own moral rectitude. They persisted in stupidity even though faced with the mounting results of massacre year after year !

It is high time Conservative politicians took stock of their philosophical roots. They really must read and inwardly digest Yoram Hazony’s new book “Conservatism: a Rediscovery”.

Hazony’s essay is the 21st century equivalent of Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France – it’s that important ! Hazony is clear, scholarly, perceptive, comprehensive and coherent in laying out Conservative philosophy and practice.

He analyses the history and the philosophy of both Conservative thinking and the triumphant Liberalism of the Enlightenment. And he points out the appalling consequences of what Edmund Burke called atheistical fanaticism.

His Essay is a must-read, but some explanations will help British readers.

Firstly, Hazony is an American writing from an American perspective – so his use of the terms Nationalism and Conservatism must be understood from that standpoint. He is also a devout, practising Jew and this lies at the heart of his philosophy. Now, I regard spiritual regeneration as vital too, and have made it clear on this blogsite – but I know that some may find that difficult.

Secondly, Hazony defines the word Conservatism from an American perspective. Americans use Conservative for Right wing, and the word Liberal for Left wing or Progressive. And of course the American political tradition since 1789 revolves around a single Constitutional document.

Thirdly, Hazony puts the American Constitution and the pre Second World War “Christian Democracy” culture at the heart of his philosophy. He seeks to restore the interpretation of the American Constitution as understood prior to the arrival of the “Liberal Democracy” paradigm. That paradigm imposed itself in the 1960s and gave the USA the sort of unconstitutional nonsense evident in decisions like Roe vs Wade in 1973.

Hazony explains the thinking behind what we now call ‘culture wars’. The clash of the triumphant, universalist Liberalism of the Enlightenment with the former Christian culture which permeated a diversity of nations and traditions.

Hazony clearly seeks a restoration of the cultural, constitutional and legal order which existed prior to the 1960s liberalisation – explaining that the mindset of prejudice against “African Americans” contradicted the mentality of the Conservative writers of the 1789 Constitution.

In contrast to Yoram Hazony’s professionalism and brilliance, this blog is simply a campaign written from an English and British perspective.  On this blogsite, I have identified 3 distinctive strands of Right wing thinking – strands which Hazony does not distinguish as separate. I characterise those distinctive strands as:

  • Restoration of or Reversion to a previous state of affairs now gone
  • Reaction meaning resistant to any change at all – which must depend on where you find yourself in the course of history…
  • Reformation –  prepared to accommodate change in order to preserve the overall institutional and cultural tradition – what I term “Conservative”

Now this last characterises the historic practice of the English Conservative Party. In the 19th century, the Conservatives accommodated the Repeal of the Corn Laws – protectionist laws which had insulated the landed Aristocracy against competition from cheaper imports –  imports vital to help feed the growing urban masses. The Conservative party also extended the franchise to workingmen during the 19th century.

In the 20th century, British Conservatives accepted the Liberal measures of the Asquith government in the years before the First World war, as well as the extension of the vote to women in 1918 and 1928.

I  agree with all those accommodations, including the later 1967 de-criminalisation of homosexuality. To me, any law persecuting any minority is un-justifiable nonsense which contradicts the open, tolerant and traditional English culture. 

I don’t want to return to life in 18th century England, but I do think that the principles espoused by Edmund Burke in his 1790 Reflections on the Revolution in France are far more worthy than the abstract conceptions of progressive ideologies.

Now, I mention all this because Hazony’s thesis exposes the problem for the Conservative in the English/British tradition. Namely, that continual compromise with change has led to the denial and loss of the very essence of Conservatism. The tactic of accommodation has undermined the strategic purpose of Conservation. That is why we now suffer under extremist progressive Idealism – extremism which imposes intolerance, confrontation and social breakdown, both within nations and between nations.

Hazony’s Essay is a wake-up call to face the reality of where we now are, especially in vew of the tidal wave of neo-Marxist Critical Theory. Accommodation of Progressive Ideology has gone way too far !

We must now eradicate the dominant strategic assumption of Progressives which says – “What must be changed next to bring in the reign of our Ideal state of society?”

That must be systematically replaced with a Conservative political mentality which says: “What are the proven roots, principles and culture of traditional liberty and government – and how can we ensure that they are passed on intact to future generations ?”

With Brexit, British Conservatives must now face up to this historic challenge:

What should we be transmitting to our grandchildren from past experience ?


Graham R. Catlin

~~~ References ~~~

Sunak’s Covid revelations in the Spectator

Boris Johnson’s energy price comments in Kiev

Yoram Hazony’s website and book