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Why is Conservatism?

Much has changed since I last wrote for this fine project. I hope you are all well and ready to delve into conservatism. My own biases against this movement and what it has become are well known, and this piece is not objective. Just a series of observations about how this side of politics acts. Enjoy

Before the last election, people used to ask ‘who is Anthony Albanese’. I have a better question: why is conservatism? What is the purpose of a group of wealthy, out-of-touch elitists who insist on their right to tell others what to do? Why are they still here? I want to look at an historical definition of the movement and use it to explain the existence of this frankly regressive ideology.

Defining the Movement: William F Buckley

In the 1950s, American William F Buckley said this about the conservative movement:

We will stand athwart history yelling stop.

There is so much contained in this delicious statement. First is the open acknowledgment that history, however slowly and however many twists, turns and roadblocks exist along the way, ultimately moves toward progress. The inexorable march of history toward improvement, progress and broadening the protections once reserved for the few, Buckley acknowledges.

The second part of the statement outlines the role of conservatives in this inexorable march of history: to stop it. The very purpose of the conservative is to prevent, or delay as long as possible, the inevitable progress that human society will make. The conservative is an agent of preservation. Keep things as they are. Hidden within this of course is the unspoken insidious garbage ‘because we are doing just fine’. That old quip about conservatism being selfishness manifested as a political ideology holds up for a reason.

The Definition in Action: The Horseless Carriage to Renewable Energy

Lest you think I am merely blowing off steam here, as George Carlin said, I got a little evidence to back up my claim. Here are some examples, from very different points in history, of conservatives yelling stop as history marched on.

The first example is the motor vehicle; the ‘horseless carriage’ as it was known. This ‘new-fangled’ piece of technology was a threat to the existing horse-and-buggy industry and the associated jobs. Think of all those employed shovelling sh*t. Ok seriously, it was said the car would never take off, and the conservatives opposed it. Even arguing with 20/20 hindsight, the motorcar was a serious leap forward and the conservatives opposed it because it was different.

Example two is slightly more recent, and cuts deeper: racial segregation. By the 1950s, society had, in many places, moved beyond the point where keeping blacks and whites separated was considered acceptable. But not conservatives. This is the way we’ve always done it. Separate but Equal. They want special rights to mix with us. Society will collapse. All the same trite crap made the rounds then as it does now.

Example three is more recent again, and concerns marriage equality. By 2012 in the United States, the Supreme Court reached the decision that homosexual couples’ right to marriage, with all the associated rights and protections, was in fact guaranteed under US law. Once again, the conservatives opposed the case even going to the Court. Marriage has always been between a man and a woman. They already have civil unions (separate but equal), they want special rights. Society will collapse.

Same Sh*t, Different Time: The Opposition Playbook

You may have noticed during examples two and three above that I did not have to change my description of the conservative ‘opposition’ much. This reveals, I think, something about conservative ‘opposition’ to social and political progress. It is never about the substance. At least not on the face of it. They seem to oppose change for the sake of preserving what is. Oh the conservatives of the various eras may not have liked marriage equality or racial integration as concepts, but I think their opposition was more about keeping ‘out groups’ on the out. Societal and legal protections had long been available to a restricted few, and those on the inside damn sure meant to defend those privileges.

As evidence for the argument, I advanced above, consider the fact that the ‘opposition’ lines are always the same: this violates tradition, [group] wants special rights, they already have [parallel yet inferior version of the right under debate]. It is as if they pick up the same script every time someone tries to introduce some scintilla of social progress. Almost as if it is not about the actual social progress. Almost as if conservatives are just relics of a bygone era yearning for the good old days when blacks knew their place and the little woman always had dinner and whiskey waiting for you when you got home.

Full Circle: Why is Conservatism?

To come full circle, I return to the question posed in the title: why is conservatism? The sole reason for their existence is to stymie, to delay, to be that annoying kid who asks, ‘but why’? If you had a member of a club who was always asking why the rules were ever changed for any reason (no matter the practical reason), what is their purpose?

The entire conservative movement is naught but a collective of miserly social regressives who reject change because it threatens their comfortable existence. They are the clergy and nobles of Ancien Regime France: preening dandies with incredible unearned social privileges who resent the idea of any change at all lest anyone come for their gold butt-scratcher.

Economically, conservatives serve the big end of town. Socially, they serve tradition. They do not seem to understand that arguing from tradition leads to some very dark places. Or perhaps they do know. It is unclear which is worse.

Much like the already rich arguing for Libertarian economics, only those already privileged could argue from tradition.

Why is Conservatism? It is a millstone around the neck of humanity.


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  1. Julian P

    Thank you Dr. Jones for a splendidly forthright analysis.

    One remark in particular caught my attention.

    “The very purpose of the conservative is to prevent, or delay as long as possible, the inevitable progress that human society will make.”

    On this aspect I would like to offer the reader a slightly different perspective, one advanced by Dr. Alan Patience in a 2017 article published on the blog “Pearls and Irritations”.

    ALLAN PATIENCE. The failure of Australian conservatism.

    While the personalities mentioned are dated, the subject matter is not.

  2. Mark Shields

    Conservatism exists because intellectual, harmonious, loving humans are not able to love their neighbour! Neighbour represents opponent and alternative views: And all alternative views will always be seen as anti-Neighbour!

    Our only future is to ignore all religions and create a new society based on shared values of Love, Compatriotism and shared Harmony.

    Until we eradicate Religion, we Humans are destined to perpetual social/cultural infighting for decades to come!

  3. Mark Shields

    When Humans start seeing themselves as just another one of the species on this planet, maybe then we can come together and start rebuilding this planet as the only globe we all have to live on!

  4. Mark Shields

    Is anyone else so fed up with the dumb Corporate attitude towards the destruction of our planet? …

  5. Mark Shields

    Is anyone out there really concerned about the planet they live on?? OR IS IT JUST A CASE OF LIVING UNTIL YOU DIE?!!

  6. Canguro

    ‘The entire conservative movement is naught but a collective of miserly social regressives who reject change because it threatens their comfortable existence.’

    Hear hear! Well said.

    A scan across the landscape of conservatism in Australia confirms that observation. Examples: Dutton and his band of unmerry pranksters. Clive Palmer. So-called ‘journalists’ who who suck on the teat of Murdoch’s various media outlets. Many of the princes of major Australian businesses; the Rineharts, Pratts, Joyces, Packers, Smorgons.

    Churches, collectively; Catholic, Anglican, weird outliers like the Seventh-day Adventists, Divine Truth, Margaret Court’s Victory Life Centre.

    Various public institutions; Police forces, collectively. Judiciary. Right-wing politics. Country & National Party members & politicians. A large cohort of the citizenry who live outside of the major cities.

    Millstones around the neck of humanity, indeed.

  7. andy56

    Mark, they are admiral wants but it wont happen.
    we are animals with animal instincts. Until we face up to these instincts and acknowledge them in society, we are going nowhere.
    Its the search for a messiah to lead us, its in our ability to be lead by the nose, its our ability to always elect narcissists or idiots to lead us. Education was the great leveler but sorry, that hasnt gone too well. We want a good society but we always vote for the jungle. Go figure. we are 1/3 inquisitive, 1/3 angry and violent and 1/3 idiots. I dont know how you can reconcile that dilemma. We are programmed for survival of the species, a conglomerate of all species before us with all their natural traits. We are nature’s great experiment yet we are blind to our own foibles. I feel safer knowing we live in a jungle than planning for nirvana, lol.

  8. Kathryn

    Conservative regimes and their rigid policies end up devastating a country and inhibiting progress! If people look up the REAL meaning of CONSERVATIVE, it is: fear of progress and averse to change or innovation! That describes the regressive LNP to a tee. In order for our nation to grow and progress, it is essential that we vote for a foresightful, innovative government that isn’t afraid to try new ideas and move forward! THAT government can NEVER EVER be the LNP who are an ultra-conservative, rigidly conformist, regressive and corrupt regime that goes out of its way to inhibit progress whilst openly favouring the “status quo” and their corrupt supporters in the Top 1%!

  9. Terence Mills

    Who can forget that arch conservative disparaging progress and the advent of the electric vehicle :

    “[An electric vehicle] won’t tow your trailer. It’s not going to tow your boat. It’s not going to get you out to your favourite camping spot with your family.”………………….Scott Morrison posing as a prime minister


    Renewable energy won’t keep your lights on when the wind’s not blowing and the sun’s not shining………………….what’s wrong with whale oil cries Barnaby !!

  10. Zathras

    One definition I saw was that Conservatives hate the idea that somebody they consider inferior to themselves is getting something that aren’t or that such people are somehow becoming “more equal” to them.
    They need to maintain a significant gap that separates them from “the others”, whether it’s financial or social in nature and that’s why they typically support a class system. Somehow they have convinced the poor that they can also become as wealthy and powerful if they support conservative policies but there can never be a “level playing field” without affecting the social status of those in charge.

    There are many other definitions but from what I have seen it comes down to the “I’m alright Jack” notion (that was previously attributed to the Union Movement) and real or aspirational greed. Unfortunately yesterdays Conservatives have become today’s Neo-Conservatives who no longer resist change for its own sake but seek personal benefit above all and at any cost.

  11. paul walter

    They can’t cope with change facts and truth tha tmay contradict their nebulous self absorbed assertions. They seem to live in the fog of fear, reactionaries blindly lashing. out. A good example would be Insiders, were facts are reduced to smirk and truth an obscene threat- They still can’t include a discussion on something as grotesque as ROBOdebt.

    Why? Because ROBOdebt is a mirror held up and they can’t.tolerate.what they see, actually within themselves. They can’t admit an error, desperately try to conceal a possibility of a flaw. Blindly blame others and fear dislocates them from reality, else why would they deny something as liberating as the truth.

    Relax guys, no one is pure all the time and easier to face up than hide than look for scapegoats to draw attention away from it.

    Insiders? Three utter reactionaries in a last ditch attempt to hold a metaphorical Berlin against the massed divisions of consequence, or Macbeth alone fighting the entire Birnham Wood.

    Poor Murphy, a variant, valiant whiff of sanity, contesting a group of stooges so fearful they cant face the truth on robodebt.

    Two on one and a crock of an umpire as denialist as the other two. A decade now and see where this mentality has got the country.

    The sophists have sold their souls to oligarchdevils, only Murphy had the guts to think a little for herself.

  12. Florence

    Has one not noticed most conservatives are wealthy, often influential people, living in a world that suits them? People who are willing to fight for the death, for the privileges the people’s government give them,

    Why would one expect them to accept change?

  13. Terence Mills

    After his lame apology – something about a trauma when he was a copper – seems to be suggesting that he will come onboard with the Voice.

    Surely he wouldn’t shun the Voice and then have to apologize sometime in the future ?

  14. Canguro

    From this morning’s SMH, ‘CBD’s spies spotted shadow employment minister Michaelia Cash getting her nails done, while the senator pored over a copy of New Idea near Canberra Airport last week. The name of the salon in question? Gossip.’

    So reassuring to learn that the erstwhile senator and former Federal Attorney General isn’t one to waste her precious time reading anything that might be classed as ‘highbrow,’ instead choosing to keep herself informed of the issues of interest to the plebs of this country.

    The shrieking harpy who once wielded real power and capacity to do actual harm to people sprung getting the nails done with her head stuck in a trash mag. Gawd blimey!

  15. GL


    Her claws needed almost two hours work with an industrial strength diamond dust buffing machine followed by ten full bottles of polish.

  16. LambsFry Simplex.

    “New Idea”?
    Equals a Batman comic for discursive substance.
    “Dolly is a harpy like you”

  17. Clakka

    For goodness sake ….. on old saying of ordinary well intentioned folk. Now supplanted by the ubiquitous OMG (Oh my God), an expression brought on by the dopamine chasing startled dim-wits of the USA and their enfranchised crackpot evangelists post WWII. Personally, I couldn’t give a rats about their “God(s)”, to me it’s what’s in their hearts minds and souls that counts. When I was young, some 50-60 years ago, the ‘phenomenon’ of religion was of great interest to me, as I sought to unwind the relationships, meanings and philosophies of individuals vs the gangs and clubs, the sects of religion, cultural mores and idiosyncrasies and politics.

    It seems as the base, fundamentally it appears to be the relationship between fear and power. With the latter, aided by brutality (or militarism) being used to form the dominions, and the former being the fuel. All in a reciprocal dance to the death. Just like the behaviour of chimpanzees – those outside the ‘mob’ will be dealt with harshly or ‘eliminated’.

    Of course, one could attempt to bring science and epistemological rigours into it, but, what’s the point. These processes require selflessness and hard work, the outcome of which provide all the ‘advancements’ that have been achieved and now use (take for granted), mostly wantonly and willy-nilly. And sadly, more often than not, only as blunt and deadly weapons in the vain hope of reconciling the base ‘dance’ of the chimpanzees.

    It appears to be the leverage of these two aspects of existence that the powerful, the ‘elite’, the ‘privileged’, the masters of dominion wield to maintain their position (and wealth), and that leverage is called ‘conservatism’.

    It seems as a response to the ‘utopian’ onset of globalisation, we are now witnessing a backlash from those of ‘conservatism’ and the concomitant rise of barbarism and brutality …… fear, divide and conquer, where truth and science don’t matter. Surprise, surprise!

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