Scratch a conservative and you will find an onanist every time. Here is David Brooks in a high dudgeon over the supposed collapse of conservativism due to what he calls America's "creedal" nature. By creedal he means ideological but implies--probably unintentionally--a nearer truth: that since the founding of their nation Americans have been unique among peoples of the world in their willingness and ability to swallow snake oil, stretch their meaty arms, and proclaim themselves (all evidence to the contrary) well and fully cured. Anyway, Brooks:
Modern conservatism begins with Edmund Burke. What Burke articulated was not an ideology or a creed, but a disposition, a reverence for tradition, a suspicion of radical change.Well that's not quite it, is it? Burke was perfectly content with the American revolution, yet heaped opprobium on the French revolution in Reflections on the Revolution in France, a shoddy and inaccurate tract if there ever was one. Why? Because the American revolution preserved the privilege of land-ownership, and the French revolution did not. Bada-bing, bada-boom.
Conservativism from the Roman Senate to the Brits to Brooks has at its heart this economic prerogative, which it occasionally dresses in the modest attire of Tradition. These Arcadian pretensions are totally phony. Conservatives do not dream of Eden, but of manor homes and a rentier economy.
Protecting the privilege of ownership isn't a crazy philosophy, and it's certainly true--to give Burke due credit for betting on a winning horse--that in the final analysis, the American revolution was prefereble in many ways to the French. (Though were they so different, after all? The French got Napoleon and we got Manifest Destiny. The French got the Terror, and we got the slave trade. In the end, we all got Vietnam.) Washington, Jefferson, and even that bastard monarchist Hamilton were patrician by inclination, and the American constitution, prior to the post-Bill-of-Rights amendments, is certainly a conservative political document. Certainly much-lauded "stability" is served by vesting the power of governance in the landowning classes.
The world is too complex, the Burkean conservative believes, for rapid reform. Existing arrangements contain latent functions that can be neither seen nor replaced by the reformer. The temperamental conservative prizes epistemological modesty, the awareness of the limitations on what we do and can know, what we can and cannot plan."Existing arrangements." That, friends, is a euphemism. The tempermental conservative doesn't prize "epistemological modesty," whatever on earth that's supposed to be. He prizes his acreage. Plenty of so-called tempermental conservatives were perfectly happy to see the British gobble up the world for their empire. More acres! There is no more "rapid reform," than conquest, nor any more radical revision of "existing arrangements."
This, of course, is why so many tempermental conservatives went balls-out for the Iraq invasion. Not because they are revolutionaries. Because there was money to be made.