Quotations about   conservative

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Tradition: one of those words conservative people use as a shortcut to thinking.

Warren Ellis (b. 1968) English writer
Transmetropolitan, Vol. 4: The New Scum (2000)
Added on 3-Apr-18 | Last updated 3-Apr-18
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Men are conservatives when they are least vigorous, or when they are most luxurious. They are conservatives, after dinner, or before taking their rest; when they are sick, or aged: in the morning, or when their intellect or their conscience have been aroused, when they hear music, or when they read poetry, they are radicals.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“New England Reformers,” lecture, Church of the Disciples, Amory Hall, Boston (3 Mar 1844)
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Added on 22-Nov-17 | Last updated 22-Nov-17
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There is always a certain meanness in the argument of conservatism, joined with a certain superiority in its fact.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“The Conservative,” lecture, Masonic Temple, Boston (9 Dec 1841)
Added on 26-Dec-16 | Last updated 26-Dec-16
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To anger a conservative, lie to him. To anger a liberal, tell him the truth.

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) US President (1901-1909)
(Spurious)

Frequently attributed to Roosevelt but unsourced; first appears in the 2000s. See here for more discussion.
Added on 22-Nov-16 | Last updated 12-Mar-19
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I am not sure what it means when one says that he is a conservative in fiscal affairs and a liberal in human affairs. I assume what it means is that you will strongly recommend the building of a great many schools to accommodate the needs of our children, but not provide the money.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
News conference (Fall 1955)
Added on 8-Apr-16 | Last updated 8-Apr-16
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When you say “radical right” today, I think of these moneymaking ventures by fellows like Pat Robertson and others who are trying to take the Republican Party away from the Republican Party, and make a religious organization out of it. If that ever happens, kiss politics goodbye.

Barry Goldwater (1909-1998) American politician
“Barry Goldwater’s Left Turn,” The Washington Post (28 Jul 1994)
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Added on 14-Jan-16 | Last updated 14-Jan-16
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And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of “conservatism.”

Barry Goldwater (1909-1998) American politician
Speech, US Senate (16 Sep 1981)
Added on 7-Jan-16 | Last updated 7-Jan-16
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Today’s so-called “conservatives” don’t even know what the word means. They think I’ve turned liberal because I believe a woman has a right to an abortion. That’s a decision that’s up to the pregnant woman, not up to the pope or some do-gooders or the Religious Right. It’s not a conservative issue at all.

Barry Goldwater (1909-1998) American politician
Interview, Los Angeles Times (1994)
Added on 1-Oct-15 | Last updated 1-Oct-15
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In the manner of one who has just beheld a two-headed calf they repeated that they had “never heard such funny ideas!” They were staggered to learn that a real tangible person, living in Minnesota, and married to their own flesh-and-blood relation, could apparently believe that divorce may not always be immoral; that illegitimate children do not bear any special and guaranteed form of curse; that there are ethical authorities outside of the Hebrew Bible; that men have drunk wine yet not died in the gutter; that the capitalistic system of distribution and the Baptist wedding-ceremony were not known in the Garden of Eden; that mushrooms are as edible as corn-beef hash; that the word “dude” is no longer frequently used; that there are Ministers of the Gospel who accept evolution; that some persons of apparent intelligence and business ability do not always vote the Republican ticket straight; that it is not a universal custom to wear scratchy flannels next the skin in winter; that a violin is not inherently more immoral than a chapel organ; that some poets do not have long hair; and that Jews are not always pedlers or pants-makers.
    “Where does she get all them the’ries?” marveled Uncle Whittier Small; while Aunt Bessie inquired, “Do you suppose there’s many folks got notions like hers? My! If there are,” and her tone settled the fact that there were not, “I just don’t know what the world’s coming to!”

Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) American novelist, playwright
Main Street, ch. 20 (1920)
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Added on 22-Sep-15 | Last updated 22-Sep-15
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If you have always done it that way, it is probably wrong.

Charles F. Kettering (1876-1958) American inventor, engineer, researcher, businessman
(Attributed)
Added on 18-Sep-15 | Last updated 18-Sep-15
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People are very open-minded about new things — as long as they’re exactly like the old ones.

Charles F. Kettering (1876-1958) American inventor, engineer, researcher, businessman
(Attributed)
Added on 28-Aug-15 | Last updated 28-Aug-15
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I have tried to make it clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
Letter from Birmingham Jail (16 Apr 1963)
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Added on 31-Jul-15 | Last updated 31-Jul-15
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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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Clinging to the past is the problem. Embracing change is the answer.

Gloria Steinem (b. 1934) American feminist, journalist, activist
“Doing Sixty,” Moving Beyond Words (1994)
Added on 4-May-15 | Last updated 4-May-15
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Religion that seeks to be no more than a time capsule is likely to be claustrophobic.

Abdal Hakim Murad (b. 1960) British Muslim shaykh, researcher, writer, academic [b. Timothy John Winter]
“Contentions 2,” # 8
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Added on 17-Apr-15 | Last updated 17-Apr-15
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You ever look at their faces? “We’re pro-life.” Don’t they look it? Don’t they just exude joie de vivre?

Bill Hicks (1961-1994) American stand-up comedian, social critic, satirist, musician [William Melvin "Bill" Hicks]
Filling Up the Hump (1993)
Added on 27-Mar-15 | Last updated 27-Mar-15
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America — a conservative country without any conservative ideology — appears now before the world a naked and arbitrary power, as, in the name of realism, its men of decision enforce their often crackpot definitions upon world reality. The second-rate mind is in command of the ponderously spoken platitude. In the liberal rhetoric, vagueness, and in the conservative mood, irrationality, are raised to principle. Public relations and the official secret, the trivializing campaign and the terrible fact clumsily accomplished, are replacing the reasoned debate of political ideas in the privately incorporated economy, the military ascendancy, and the political vacuum of modern America.

C. Wright Mills (1916-1962) American sociologist, academic, author [Charles Wright Mills]
The Power Elite, ch. 14 “The Conservative Mood” (1956)
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Added on 21-Jan-15 | Last updated 21-Jan-15
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Stupidity … is nature’s favorite resource for preserving steadiness of conduct and consistency of opinion.

Walter Bagehot (1826-1877) British businessman, essayist, journalist
Letter to London Inquirer (1851)
Added on 20-Nov-14 | Last updated 20-Nov-14
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They lied to you. The Devil is not the Prince of Matter; the Devil is the arrogance of the spirit, faith without smile, truth that is never seized by doubt. The Devil is grim because he knows where he is going, and, in moving, he always returns whence he came.

Umberto Eco (b. 1932) Italian semiotician, essayist, philosopher, novelist
The Name of the Rose (1980)
Added on 2-Sep-14 | Last updated 2-Sep-14
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Generally speaking, everybody is reactionary on the subjects he knows about.

Robert Conquest (b. 1917) Anglo-American historian, diplomat, poet
“Conquest’s Law”

Attributed in Kingsley Amis, Memoirs (1991)

Variant: "Everyone is a reactionary about subjects he understands."

Added on 20-Aug-14 | Last updated 20-Aug-14
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People who insist that the sacredness of Scripture depends on belief in creation in a literal six days seem never to insist on a literal reading of “to him who asks, give,” or “sell what you have and give the money to the poor.” In fact, their politics and economics align themselves quite precisely with those of their adversaries, who yearn to disburden themselves of the weak, and to unshackle the great creative forces of competition. The defenders of “religion” have made religion seem foolish while rendering it mute in the face of a prolonged and highly effective assault on the poor.

Marilynne Robinson (b. 1943) American novelist and essayist
“Darwinism,” The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought (1998)
Added on 15-May-14 | Last updated 15-May-14
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When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
(Misttributed)
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Often attributed directly to King, he prefaced it, in Why We Can't Wait (1964), with "Someone once wrote ..."
Added on 10-Aug-12 | Last updated 7-Dec-15
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The modern conservative is not even especially modern. He is engaged, on the contrary, in one of man’s oldest, best financed, most applauded, and, on the whole, least successful exercises in moral philosophy. That is the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. It is an exercise which always involves a certain number of internal contradictions and even a few absurdities. The conspicuously wealthy turn up urging the character-building value of privation for the poor. The man who has struck it rich in minerals, oil, or other bounties of nature is found explaining the debilitating effect of unearned income from the state. The corporate executive who is a superlative success as an organization man weighs in on the evils of bureaucracy. Federal aid to education is feared by those who live in suburbs that could easily forgo this danger, and by people whose children are in public schools. Socialized medicine is condemned by men emerging from Walter Reed Hospital. Social Security is viewed with alarm by those who have the comfortable cushion of an inherited income. Those who are immediately threatened by public efforts to meet their needs — whether widows, small farmers, hospitalized veterans, or the unemployed — are almost always oblivious to the danger.

Galbraith - selfishness - wist_info

John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006) Canadian-American economist, diplomat, author
“Wealth and Poverty,” speech, National Policy Committee on Pockets of Poverty (13 Dec 1963)

Galbraith used variations on this quote over the years.
  • The above quotation was from a speech given, that was then entered into the Congressional Record, Vol. 109, Senate (18 Dec 1963).
  • This material was reworked into an article "Let us begin: An invitation to action on poverty," in Harper's (March 1964), which was in turn again entered into the Congressional Record, Vol. 110 (1964).
  • One of the last is most often cited: "The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy, that is the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. It is an exercise which always involves a certain number of internal contradictions and even a few absurdities. The conspicuously wealthy turn up urging the character-building value of privation for the poor." ["Stop the Madness," Interview with Rupert Cornwell, Toronto Globe and Mail (6 Jul 2002)]
Added on 19-May-09 | Last updated 20-Nov-15
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Conservatism stands on man’s incontestable limitations; reform on his indisputable infinitiude.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“The Conservative,” lecture, Masonic Temple, Boston (9 Dec 1841)
Added on 14-Apr-09 | Last updated 26-Dec-16
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The radical of one century is the conservative of the next. The radical invents the views. When he has worn them out, the conservative adopts them.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Mark Twain’s Notebook, 1898 [ed. Paine (1935)]
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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I did not mean that Conservatives are generally stupid; I meant, that stupid persons are generally Conservative. I believe that to be so obvious and undeniable a fact that I hardly think any honorable Gentleman will question it.

John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) English philosopher and economist
Debate in Parliament with John Pakington (31 May 1866)

Often paraphrased "Although it is not true that all conservatives are stupid people, it is true that most stupid people are conservative."Misquoted in Courtney, Life of John Stuart Mill (1889) as "I never meant to say that the Conservatives are generally stupid. I meant to say that stupid people are generally Conservative. I believe that is so obviously and universally admitted a principle that I hardly think any gentleman will deny it."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 11-Dec-15
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Habit with him was all the test of truth,
“It must be right: I’ve done it from my youth.”

George Crabbe (1754-1832) English poet, writer, surgeon, clergyman
The Borough, Letter 3 “The Vicar,” l. 138 (1810)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 7-Sep-17
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