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Conservatism FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions about Conservatism

This FAQ about Conservatism was compiled and written by Jim Kalb kalb@aya.yale.edu with numerous contributions by others.

This FAQ, posted monthly, attempts to deal with questions and objections regarding conservatism. Additional questions and comments are welcome. The conservatism discussed is traditionalist American conservatism; other varieties are touched on in section 6, and their adherents are urged to draft additional FAQs. For further discussion and relevant links, see the Traditionalist Conservatism Page, http://turnabout.ath.cx:8000/node/7

-1.1 What is distinctive about conservatism as a political view?
-1.2 Why is tradition a source of greater wisdom?
-1.3 Why isn't it better to reason things out from the beginning?
-1.4 What's the difference between following tradition and refusing to think?
-1.5 Why can't tradition be an accumulation of ignorance, error and vice as easily as of wisdom?
-1.6 There are lots of conflicting traditions. How can anyone know his own is the right one?
-1.7 But what about truth?
-1.8 There are conflicting traditions even within a single society. Which gets treated as "ours?"
-2.1 Society has always changed, for the better in some ways and for the worse in others. Tradition itself is an accumulation of changes. So why not accept change, especially if everything is so complicated and hard to figure out?
-2.2 Isn't conservatism simply another way of saying that people who currently have wealth and power should keep it?
-2.3 Wouldn't we still have slavery if conservatives had always been running the show?
-3.1 What are family values and what is so great about them?
-3.2 Why can't conservatives just accept that people's personal values differ?
-3.3 Why are conservatives such theocrats?
-3.4 Why do conservatives always want to force their values on everybody else?
-3.5 What role do conservatives think government should play in enforcing moral values?
-3.6 Aren't conservatives racist sexist homophobes?
-3.7 What happens to feminists, homosexuals, racial minorities and others marginalized in a conservative society?
-3.8 What about freedom?
-3.9 And justice?
-4.1 Why do conservatives say they favor virtue and community but in fact favor laissez-faire capitalism? Doesn't laissez- faire capitalism promote the opposite?
-4.2 Why don't conservatives care about what happens to the poor, weak, discouraged, and outcast?
-4.3 What about people for whom the usual support networks don't work? Shouldn't the government do something for them?
-4.4 What about welfare for the middle classes, like social security, medicare, the home mortgage interest deduction, and so on?
-4.5 If conserving is a good thing, why isn't ecology a conservative cause?
-5.1 Why do conservatives talk as if the sky is about to fall and all good things are in the past? People have been bemoaning the present for a long time but things don't seem so bad today.
-5.2 Isn't conservatism essentially nostalgia for a past that never was and can't be restored?
-5.3 What's all this stuff about community and tradition? The groups that matter these days are groups like yuppies, gays, and senior citizens that people join as individuals based on interests and perspectives rather than tradition.
-5.4 If conservatism is so great, why are most people seriously involved in studying and dealing with social issues liberals?
-5.5 How can tradition do anything but endorse the way things happen to be--which at present means established liberalism?
-5.6 Shouldn't modern conservatives at least favor things that are as well-established as the welfare state and steady expansion of the scope of the civil rights laws?
-5.7 I was raised a liberal. Doesn't that mean that to be conservative I should stay true to liberalism?
-6.1 How do libertarians differ from conservatives?
-6.2 What are mainstream conservatives?
-6.3 What are neoconservatives?
-6.4 What are paleoconservatives?
-6.5 What are paleolibertarians?
-6.6 What are Frankfurt School Neopaleoconservatives?
-6.7 Where do the pro-life movement and religious right fit into all this?
-6.8 What are the differences between American conservatism and that of other countries?
-6.9 What do all these things called "conservatism" have in common?

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