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Why and to what extent have conservatives supported tradition?

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Introduction

Why and to what extent have conservatives supported tradition? Traditional conservatives place an emphasis on tradition as they believe, according to Edmund Burke that traditional customs and practices in society is 'God given'. Burke thus believed that society was shaped by the 'law of the Creator', or what he called the 'natural law'. If human beings tamper the world they are challenging the will of God. Burke further described tradition as a partnership between 'those who are living, those who are dead and those who are to be born'. Tradition is also revered as it could be argued to proven to work as it has been 'tested by time', and should therefore be preserved for the benefit of the living and for generations to come. Tradition reflects a Darwinian belief that those institutions and customs that have survived have only done so because they have worked and been found to be of value. They have been endorsed by a process of 'natural selection' and demonstrated their fitness to survive. Conservatives also respect tradition because it generates, for both society and the individual, a sense of identity. Established customs and practices are ones that individuals can recognize; they are familiar and reassuring.

Middle

Harold Macmillan explained it in 'The Middle Way' and he promoted 'planned capitalism', which he described as 'a mixed system which combines state ownership, regulation or control of certain aspects of economic activity with the drive and initiative of private enterprise'. The purpose of one-nationism is to consolidate hierarchy rather than to remove it, and its wish to improve conditions of the less well-off is limited to the desire to ensure that the poor no longer pose a threat to established order-tradition. The Christian Democrats are also examples of conservatives supporting tradition. Christian democracy is a political ideology that seeks to apply Christian principles to public policy. It emerged in 19th century Europe under the influence of conservatism and Catholic social teaching. The new form of conservatism was committed to political democracy and was influenced by the paternalistic social traditions of Catholicism. There are Conservatives who have challenged tradition, namely, the New Right Recently, it has begun to have a much more complex ideological basis. The New Right was in the 1970s/1980s a movement personified by Ronald Reagan in the USA and Margaret Thatcher in Britain. Its key threads are the free market economics of Milton Friedman and F.A.Hayek, a commitment to individualism and personal responsibility, and a staunchly authoritarian stance on crime and other moral issues.

Conclusion

Edmund Burke, seen as the founder of traditional conservatism was also a keen supporter of the economic liberalism of Adam Smith. Burke believed the free market is efficient and fair, but it is also, as Burke believed, natural and necessary. The laws of the market are 'natural laws'. Burke further accepted that working conditions dictated by the market are, for many, 'degrading, unseemly, unmanly and often most unwholesome', but insisted that they would suffer further if the 'natural course of things' were disturbed. The capitalist free market could thus be defended on the grounds on tradition, just like the monarchy and the church. However, libertarian conservatives are not consistent liberals and they have a more pessimistic view of human nature, and hence, they support the traditional conservative view on tradition here. A strong state is required to maintain public order and ensure that authority is respected. Some libertarian conservatives are attracted to free-market theories because they promise to maintain and secure social order. In conclusion, one could argue that overall conservatives do support tradition. Different strands of conservatives may find opportunities to disagree with aspects of traditional conservative ideology, however, it must be said that in every strand of conservatism, from traditional conservatives to the New Right to libertarian conservatives tradition is supported in some form, whilst it may not be wholly supported, it is still supported.

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