G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis, that is. It puzzles me that these two – both of whom I somewhat admire – have been adopted by the conservatives. Neither was at all on the ‘right’ in his own time nor are their ideas particularly in sync with modern conservatism.
G.K. Chesterton, for that matter, claimed to be in favor of liberalism but only to have a problem with liberals. He had a problem with both sides, it would seem, and punctured the ideas of both liberal and conservative equally. He was, perhaps, ‘socially conservative’ as we would say today. A better description would be ‘old-fashioned’ or ‘traditional.’
I like a respect for tradition. As Chesterton put it, “Tradition is only democracy extended through time.” Why should only the living have a voice? Let our ancestors weigh in as well – they had just as good ideas as we do.
One thing is for certain, the man was no libertarian. Neither was C.S. Lewis.
Lewis was pretty much a moderate liberal in his own time, both politically and theologically. Certainly a good deal more liberal than his buddy, J.R.R. Tolkien (Whose views are often rather close to those of Chesterton, albeit expressed rather differently. That is a subject for another time.). He was certainly no fundamentalist, no denier of science.
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I suppose that I, myself, am somewhat conservative in my personal life. That, however, has nothing to do with politics, government, or economics.
When it comes to those, I would be more on the liberal side. This is actually somewhat the opposite of many of my acquaintances who label themselves conservative – they tend to be libertarian, socially liberal and economically...well, liberal in the 19th Century sense. I’m closer to a traditional blue-collar union-member liberal or Mid-western progressive farmer.
So I do choose to call myself ‘old-fashioned,’ not conservative.
At the same time, I am not exactly a ‘big government’ liberal. I tend to be against big anything, public or private. I believe in doing things as locally as possible, and preferably through co-ops, unions and such rather than government – not that government doesn’t have its place.
This is essentially the concept of ‘subsidiarity,’ the idea that no larger unit should perform a function that can be accomplished by a smaller one. Bigger is not better.
I feel that our greatest concern should be the accumulation of power by those ‘big’ entities. And by power, I mean economic power. That is the only true power. The ownership of productive property, be it land, factories, natural resources, is too concentrated.
Whether it be federalism or feudalism, there needs to be a balance between the centralized power and the local. There also need to be safeguards against large impersonal entities gathering too much property and wealth to themselves.
G.K. would approve of that, I’m sure. Maybe C.S. as well (not to mention J.R.R.).