Quotations about   conservatism

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What threatens our security is not change but the inability to change; what threatens progress is not revolution but stagnation; what threatens our survival is not novel or dangerous ideas but the absence of ideas.

Henry Steele Commager (1902-1998) American historian, writer, activist
“The University and the Community of Learning,” speech, Kent State University, Ohio (10 Apr 1971)
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Added on 29-Jun-22 | Last updated 29-Jun-22
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The task is to throw all those things on the exact same burn pile as the collected works of all the apologists for conservatism, and start fresh. The core proposition of anti-conservatism requires no supplementation and no exegesis. It is as sufficient as it is necessary. What you see is what you get:

The law cannot protect anyone unless it binds everyone; and it cannot bind anyone unless it protects everyone.

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Frank Wilhoit (contemp.) American composer and software architect
Crookedtimber.org, “The Travesty of Liberalism,” Comment #26 (22 Mar 2018)
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Added on 30-May-22 | Last updated 13-Jun-22
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There is no sin punished more implacably by nature than the sin of resistance to change. For change is the very essence of living matter. To resist change is to sin against life itself.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh (1906-2001) American writer, pilot
The Wave of the Future (1940)
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Added on 27-Apr-22 | Last updated 1-Jun-22
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Who among American heroes could meet their tests, who would be cleared by their committees? Not Washington, who was a rebel. Not Jefferson, who wrote that all men are created equal and whose motto was “rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.” Not Garrison, who publicly burned the Constitution; or Wendell Phillips, who spoke for the underprivileged everywhere and counted himself a philosophical anarchist; not Seward of the Higher Law or Sumner of racial equality. Not Lincoln, who admonished us to have malice toward none, charity for all; or Wilson, who warned that our flag was “a flag of liberty of opinion as well as of political liberty”; or Justice Holmes, who said that our Constitution is an experiment and that while that experiment is being made “we should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death.”

Henry Steele Commager (1902-1998) American historian, writer, activist
“Who Is Loyal to America?” Harper’s Magazine #1168 (Sep 1947)
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Reprinted in Freedom, Loyalty, Dissent (1954)
Added on 29-Dec-21 | Last updated 22-Jun-22
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What is the new loyalty? It is, above all, conformity. It is the uncritical and unquestioning acceptance of America as it is — the political institutions, the social relationships, the economic practices. It rejects inquiry into the race question or socialized medicine, or public housing, or into the wisdom or validity of our foreign policy. It regards as particularly heinous any challenge to what is called “the system of private enterprise,” identifying that system with Americanism. It abandons evolution, repudiates the once popular concept of progress, and regards America as a finished product, perfect and complete.

Henry Steele Commager (1902-1998) American historian, writer, activist
“Who Is Loyal to America?” Harper’s Magazine #1168 (Sep 1947)
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Reprinted in Freedom, Loyalty, Dissent (1954)
Added on 22-Dec-21 | Last updated 22-Jun-22
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Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) English journalist and writer
Orthodoxy, ch. 4 “The Ethics of Elfland” (1908)
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Added on 21-Dec-21 | Last updated 21-Dec-21
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Success makes men rigid and they tend to exalt stability over all the other virtues; tired of the effort of willing they become fanatics about conservatism.

Lippmann - Success makes men rigid exalt stability fanatics about conservatism - wist.info quote

Walter Lippmann (1889-1974) American journalist and author
A Preface to Politics, ch. 1 (1914)
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Added on 20-Dec-21 | Last updated 20-Dec-21
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More strategies fail because they are overripe than because they are premature.

Kenichi Ohmae
Kenichi Ohmae (b. 1943) Japanese management consultant, writer
The Mind of the Strategist (1982)
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Added on 1-Dec-21 | Last updated 1-Dec-21
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Conservatives know the world is a dark and forbidding place where most new knowledge is false, most improvements for the worse, the battle is not to the strong, nor riches to men of understanding, and an unscrupulous Providence consigns innocents to suffering.

George Will (b. 1941) American political commentator
“The Cubs and Conservatism” (21 Mar 1974), Bunts (1998)
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Will is, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, describing the origin of his conservatism in his being a fan of the Chicago Cubs baseball team.
Added on 10-Feb-21 | Last updated 10-Feb-21
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Every now and then, in the course of great events, the elements of tradition and innovation ally themselves and each one’s weakness supplements the other and together they achieve the perfect debacle.

Murray Kempton (1917-1997) American journalist.
“The Genius of Mussolini,” New York Review of Books (7 Oct 1982)
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Reprinted in Rebellions, Perversities, and Main Events (1994).
Added on 29-Apr-20 | Last updated 29-Apr-20
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Lead the ideas of your time and they will accompany and support you; fall behind them and they drag you along with them; oppose them and they will overwhelm you.

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) French emperor, military leader
(Attributed)
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Quoted, unsourced, in Jules Bertaut, Napoleon: In His Own Words [Virilités, maximes et pensées de Napoléon Bonaparte], ch. 4 (1916) [tr. Law and Rhodes].
Added on 10-Apr-20 | Last updated 13-Apr-20
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Taft explained that the great issue in this campaign is “creeping socialism.” Now that is the patented trademark of the special interest lobbies.

Socialism is a scare word they have hurled a every advance the people have made in the last twenty years. Socialism is what they called public power. Socialism is what they called Social Security. Socialism is what they called farm prices supports. Socialism is what they called bank deposit insurance. Socialism is what they called the growth of free and independent labor organizations. Socialism is their name for almost anything that helps all the people.

Harry S Truman (1884-1972) US President (1945-1953)
Speech, Syracuse, New York (10 Oct 1952)
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Added on 16-Aug-19 | Last updated 10-Aug-21
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As has been pointed out so often, it is characteristic of mankind to make as little adjustment as possible in customary ways in the face of new conditions; the process of social change is epitomized in the fact that the first Packard car body delivered to the manufacturers had a whipstock on the dashboard.

Robert Lynd (1892-1970) American sociologist [Robert Slaughton Lynd]
Middletown, ch. 29 (1929) [with Helen Lynd]
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Added on 30-Jun-17 | Last updated 30-Jun-17
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The process which, if not checked, will abolish Man goes on apace among Communists and Democrats no less than among Fascists. The methods may (at first) differ in brutality. But many a mild-eyed scientist in pince-nez, many a popular dramatist, many an amateur philosopher in our midst, means in the long run just the same as the Nazi rulers of Germany: ‘Traditional values are to be debunked’ and mankind to be cut out into some fresh shape at the will (which must, by hypothesis, be an arbitrary will) of some few lucky people in one lucky generation which has learned how to do it.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
The Abolition of Man (1943)
Added on 29-Mar-17 | Last updated 29-Mar-17
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We, or at least I, can have no conception of human life and human thought in a hundred years or fifty years. Perhaps my greatest wisdom is the knowledge that I do not know. The sad ones are those who waste their energy in trying to hold it back, for they can only feel bitterness in loss and no joy in gain.

John Steinbeck (1902-1968) American writer
Travels With Charley: In Search of America, Part 2 (1962)
Added on 23-Feb-17 | Last updated 23-Feb-17
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Slavery was contrary to all the moral principles advocated by Plato and Aristotle, yet neither of them saw this because to renounce slavery would have meant the collapse of the life they were living.

Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) Russian novelist and moral philosopher
The Kingdom of God Is Within You, ch. 6 (1893) [tr. Maude (1936)]
Added on 18-Jun-15 | Last updated 18-Jun-15
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Change based on principle is progress. Constant change without principle becomes chaos.

Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969) American general, US President (1953-61)
Speech, Republican National Convention, accepting the presidential nomination (23 Aug 1956)
Added on 4-Jun-15 | Last updated 4-Jun-15
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It is the business of the future to be dangerous.

Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947) English mathematician and philosopher
Science and the Modern World (1925)
Added on 21-Apr-15 | Last updated 21-Apr-15
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The rule of ideas is only powerful in a world that does not change. Ideas are inherently conservative. They yield not to the attack of other ideas but to the massive onslaught of circumstance with which they cannot contend.

John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006) Canadian-American economist, diplomat, author
The Affluent Society, ch. 2, sec. 6 (1958)
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Added on 27-Apr-12 | Last updated 14-Jan-20
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Nothing has more retarded the advancement of learning than the disposition of vulgar minds to ridicule and vilify what they cannot comprehend.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
The Rambler, #117 (30 Apr 1751)
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Presented as a letter from "Hypertatus"
Added on 5-Jul-11 | Last updated 26-Jun-22
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Often, the less there is to justify a traditional custom, the harder it is to get rid of it.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, ch. 5 (1876)
Added on 31-Aug-09 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status.

Lawrence J Peter
Lawrence J. Peter (1919-1990) American educator, management theorist
Peter’s Quotations: Ideas for Our Time (1977)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 3-Apr-20
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If in the last few years you haven’t discarded a major opinion or acquired a new one, check your pulse. You may be dead.

Gelett Burgess (1866-1951) American humorist and illustrator
(Attributed)

Common paraphrase. In Look Eleven Years Younger (1937), Burgess gives two versions of the quotation:
  • "When you find you haven’t discarded a major opinion for years, or acquired a new one, you should stop and investigate to see if you’re not growing senile."
  • "If in the last few years you haven’t discarded a major opinion or acquired a new one investigate and see if you’re not growing senile."
See for more discussion.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 4-Apr-16
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