Thinking and studying (once again) a lot these days about one topic that always drew my attention in my academic years: POWER.
Russell Kirk is deemed to be the Father of American Conservatism. His brilliant legacies are treasures hidden from Americans for decades now. Not even conservatives read him anymore, which is a sad and painful reality.
Kirk dedicated much of his profuse academic and political career to correct the pathway his contemporary countrymen had decided to track regarding how much ground governments (powers) should gain into our individual rights, liberties and freedoms.
He believed that the first principles of the conservative persuasion were derived from what leading conservative writers professed during the past two centuries. At a certain point of his academic life, he decided to list what he called "Ten Conservative Principles".
The 9th has specifically to do with my point in this post.
Here's Kirk's 9th principle:
"The conservative perceives the need for prudent restraints upon power and upon human passions."
For Kirk, power was the ability to do as one likes, regardless of the wills of anybody else. He pointed out the dangers of power whenever an individual or a small group of people were able to dominate the wills of their fellow countrymen without any check. The true conservative, he would add, will always endeavor to so limit political powers in such a way that neither anarchy nor tyranny could arise.
He explained that, in every age, men and women have always been and will always be tempted to overthrow the restrictions upon their power, for the sake of some "fancied temporary advantage". Kirk never believed that leaders would be strong enough to keep a healthy distance from power, especially when using it as "a force for good". He was quite aware that, in the name of liberty, the French and Russian revolutionaries absolutely abolished all restraints upon their power and literally massacred their people in the name of "good". He concludes by saying that the power which those revolutionaries considered as oppressive in the hands of the old regime (monarchy and church) became many times more tyrannical in the hands of the "radical new masters of the state."
As such, Kirk ends his 9th principle by affirming that the true conservative will never put his trust in the benevolence of government. He points out that the only forces capable of being instruments of freedom and order against the wild will and unlimited appetite of governments for power were constitutional restrictions, political checks and balances, and the adequate enforcement of laws.
Here's his final thought on the 9th conservative principle:
"A just government is the one that maintains a healthy tension between its claims of authority and the people's claims of liberty."
The coronavirus just unveiled to us all the dramatic reality of how far from the tree "conservative" Americans are right now.
ELIEL ROSA has built a solid career in the urban planning and public policy arenas in Brazil, Latin American countries, Portuguese-speaking African nations, Spain and in the US for the past 20 years. However, instead of keeping a long list of professional credentials and accomplishments, there is a special, top feature he would want you to retain: he is a diehard America-loving legal immigrant!