HOME | Contact Editor | Add Comment | Forum | Directory | Search | Advertise | Tell-a-Friend
October 25, 2006 | South Carolina Headlines


Join us in
South Carolina Headlines

Sign up today to take part in the forums, interact with the content, receive South Carolina Headlines newsletters, display current weather conditions in your area, and more.

Already a member?



Support South Carolina Headlines - visit our advertisers


Author (last 7 days)


 :: Jonathan Pait
 :: Benj Buck

 :: Jimmy Moore
Press Releases

 :: List All

Want to be a columnist? Contact the editor to learn how.

Conservatism: A Question
Jonathan Pait
July 18, 2002

Conservative. What is a conservative? The question has also been asked, "What is a 'true conservative?'" Ralph Bristol gave his take on that question in his article, "There is no true conservative."

Before we begin to label people as conservative or liberal, it would be a good thing for us to stop and understand what the words mean. We need a handle, not only on the dictionary meaning but also how these labels have been used historically and within the particular context we are considering.

Even looking for the answer in the dictionary can be confusing. According to the Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary the primary definition for conservative is "preservative." As usual the dictionary points us to another word to find the root of the meaning. In this case we take a look at conservatism; "a disposition in politics to preserve what is established."

When we consider this definition of political conservatism, which is consistent with other usage of the word (conservative dress, conservative religion, etc.), it turns our application of the term upside down. Consider; though school choice is typically considered a conservative issue, those who are advocates of school choice are not truly conservative according to this definition. Webster tells us conservatives are people who are "tending to or disposed to maintain existing views, conditions, or institutions." So, in this case, those opposed to school choice are conservatives!

We must conclude that Webster only gives us a start to understanding conservatism. History gives us insight. One of the primary lessons we learn from the past is that even those who claim the label "conservative" come in various stripes.

Pick up any book on the topic or peruse essays on the Internet and you will read of classical conservatives, neoconservatives, paleoconservatives and even an animal called a neopaleoconservative. Some trace their views of conservatism to the writings of Edmund Burke. Others will point to Rockwell and any other number of philosophers and political scientists.

In the end, what we learn from the history of American conservatism is there has never been a cohesive platform for conservatism. Unlike England there is no viable American political party with its own platform of issues known as the Conservative Party.

That brings us to today. History continues into the present. Conservatism is more of an adjective than a noun. There is no complete list of issues that makes a person conservative. That is why we see people labeled as "social conservatives" and "fiscal conservatives." Both of these labels fall under the umbrella of political conservatism.

Still, none of this explains WHAT a conservative is. It doesn't answer the question, "What is a 'true' conservative?" This article will begin a series of articles by various proponents of the movement. Somehow I don't believe we all agree on an answer, but perhaps we can better understand the mosaic that makes up American conservatism.

Next week look for an original article by Jim Kalb as he takes a stab at answering the question.

Post a comment for this column

You must be logged in to participate. You may use the MyVoice! area at the top of this page to log in, or you may set up a new account.


Use the partisanometer to put this columnist in his place - liberal or conservative? Just click left or right. First, you'll need to sign on.

Join in the fun! Sign on and give your rating on the partisanometer.


Join in the fun! Sign on and give this article a thumbs down or a thumbs up.


Refer Column

Refer this column to a friend. Highlight the fields below, fill them out and press "Send."



Send your comment to the author of this column.


This column has no comments. If you would like to make a comment, go here.

Site Stuff

Sessions: 814828
Members: 829

  South Carolina Headlines
Made possible by The Worthwhile Company, Inc.