As it has become increasingly obvious that many self identifying “conservatives” do not understand what “conservatism” is trying to conserve, we have no choice but to go back to school on fundamental conservative ideology. Even if it sounds dogmatic, these core liberal values of Life, Liberty, and Property, as well as the Rule of Law, are absolutely nonnegotiable, and anyone that does not hold these core principles simply cannot be considered a “conservative“.
Consider this: if not the liberal values of the Enlightenment Era and founding of our nation, then what exactly are you trying to conserve? The anti-liberal pro-Slavery values of the Antebellum South? The anti-liberal Segregationist values of the Jim Crow Era? The anti-liberal Progressive values of the late 19th Century? The anti-liberal crony corporatism of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries? The anti-liberal socialist values of the early 20th Century? The anti-liberal collectivist radicalism of the mid-20th Century?
Clearly, only the Enlightenment Era values of liberality and individual freedom are worthy to be the cornerstone of “conservatism“. Having inspired both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of our Republic, these values are the bedrock of our national cultural identity. Where the political power rests in the aggregate authority of the People, being a nation of equals, all entitled to Natural Rights and subject only to the Rule of Law.
The next few essays will be dedicated to each of the core liberal virtues that undergird conservative ideology: the Natural Rights (Life, Liberty, and Property) and the Rule of Law. Each of the Natural Rights will be discussed on its own, with connections to modern applications and conservative political positions.
“Whoever sheds human blood,
by humans shall their blood be shed;
for in the image of God
has God made mankind.“
Life is the first of the Enlightenment liberal principles core to conservative thought, and it is the most important as it is the foundation for all of the principles. Put simply, the Right to Life is the principle that an individual has a Natural Right to life, health, and livelihood to his or her own maximum potential. The Right to Life also implies that the individual owns both his physical body and his labor and is entitled to act as is necessary to secure his life, health, and livelihood to his fullest potential.
Because everyone is entitled to the same rights of life, health, and livelihood, the Right to Life imposes a duty (via the social contract) upon the individual to respect the Right to Life of others, and vice versa. The individual is expected to avoid behaviors that endanger the life, health, and livelihoods of others.
This concept of reciprocal rights is the basis for everything from criminal laws prohibiting murder, physical assault, and reckless endangerment to civil tort law penalizing negligent behavior that results in the accidental death or injury of others. It is why liberal societies avoid killing the innocent even in the conduct of war, and why capital punishment is reserved only for those proven guilty beyond any reasonable doubt of heinous murder who also pose a significant risk to others.
Life is precious and is the fundamental value upon which all other liberal rights and liberties are based, because the Right to Life necessitates the other rights and liberties. If an individual is not given rights to speak or to arm themselves, their Right to Life depends entirely on the good behavior of others. Should a dictator rise to power or even so much as a criminal gang form in the individual’s neighborhood, the individual soon finds himself at the mercy of these bad actors.
If an individual is denied rights to own property or retain ownership of the profit of their labors, then they are denied the ability to secure their livelihood to their maximum potential. It would reduce them back to a meager state of subsistence living, where the future cannot be invested in with any certainty, as any external force, either the state or a criminal actor with state power, can seize their property and profit without recourse. Even if the individual is compensated for the “fair market value” of their property and even the financial expense of moving, the loss of community and emotional disruption the individual may suffer can be beyond compensation.
These arguments are self evident, only because the principle of Right to Life. If an individual lives only at the pleasure of the King (or the State), then no other rights apply.
“A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic.“
Attributed to Joseph Stalin
The Right to Life exists because of the Judaeo-Christian culture of western civilization, only from which could the Enlightenment have been possible. From the moment the tradition that bore Socrates, Plato, and Sophocles found its answer in the Biblical tradition, society began to bubble in a cauldron of faith and wisdom that resulted in the natural conclusion that all Life has value because it “is endowed by its Creator“. Without the endowment of supernatural worth, we become no different than the beasts of the field. Like the beasts of the field, our individual value is wholly subsumed within the collective herd.
Should it become necessary to sacrifice a few of the weak or the old for the collective good, then that is what will happen. There is no difference whether these deaths are decided by predators or by government officials imposing their benevolent tyranny from above. This is why only in the collectivist state utopias was systematic barbarism able to murder millions of souls. In these illiberal societies, human life was only valuable as long as the collective state authority deemed it so.
Without the Right to Life, the other Natural Rights become meaningless, and the conservative position becomes nothing more than a quaint diversion opposing the monolith of state utilitarianism of the collectivists. Embracing the Right to Life, the conservative position becomes an absolute against which no other ideological stance can find purchase, because they require transgression against these Natural Rights.
Conservatism is not merely an opinion or a quaint diversion. It is a moral and ideological imperative that the Founding Fathers were willing to lay their lives on the line for. Are you?
Next Article: Right to Liberty.
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