If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” –Isaac Newton
Newton noted his own contributions to science were made possible by studying, learning and knowing the works of those before him. His sentiment is echoed by conservatives who study, learn and maintain the belief that moral order is not a progressive evolution, nor a situational moment. Unlike progressives, conservatives know mankind is not progressing to a better and better condition. Conservatives know to try to re-invent, re-categorize, re-systematize humans will not work. Note: (Not all liberals are progressive, but all progressives are liberal. Progressives can be either Democrats or Republican.)
Russell Kirk wrote in one of his essays
“Conservatives argue that we are unlikely, we moderns, to make any brave new discoveries in morals or politics or taste. It is perilous to weigh every passing issue on the basis of private judgment and private rationality. Order and justice and freedom, they believe, are the artificial products of a long social experience, the result of centuries of trial and reflection and sacrifice.”
Therefore, conservatives among all political classes are the most teachable. (The corollary to this is that if you’re not teachable, you’re probably not a conservative.) Those who ignore the lessons of giants of the past are egotistical, arrogant and unlearned. C. S. Lewis called it “chronological snobbery,” valuing only the present era upholding it as the ultimate standard and possessor of truth. This is the “feels good — do it” or the situational ethics crowd. Those guilty of chronological snobbery believe failed economic policies of the past will work this time. They believe more money poured in to America’s education bureaucracy will eventually produce better and brighter results. They believe redistributing wealth will work better now than it did for Hitler, Stalin or Khrushchev. They believe the same fiscal policy that broke Greece and Spain will not happen here.
You don’t need to look to Russia or even modern day liberals to see the progressive agenda fail repeatedly as progressives (liberals, radicals) tried to revolutionize America. We saw it in the Free Love movement of the 60’s when people revolted against traditional morals and standards and conditions did not improve. Unplanned pregnancies, abortion, a dramatic rise in STDs and even the spread of a new virus Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) were the result. Free lovers, feminists and the Abbie Hoffmans and Jerry Rubins of the day failed to create a new age of freedom and equality.
Conservatives believe in order. They believe it is one of the historic lessons from the past that can be applied to today. The harder progressives try to set aside long-held standards, norms, morals, ethics, and values, the more chaos results and freedom is lost. Situational ethics produces chaos not freedom. Conservatives abhor situational ethics.
Progressives attempt to mount a false argument that conservatives resist change, want to return to the horse and buggy days. That’s a straw man argument. They throw insults at conservatives saying that conservatives believe in keeping women barefoot and pregnant. (Tell that to some of the heroes of the modern conservative movement: Peggy Noonan, Dana Perino, Megyn Kelly, Ann Coulter or Nikki Haley.)
Conservatives do not resist change. They resist the effort to create new values, morals, ethics and standards that historically have failed or have cost an entire Empire such as Alexander’s. True conservatives embrace different subcultures but stick to conservative truths of property rights, Constitutional foundations, human rights, and the pursuit of classless societies. True conservatives know from what they’ve learned while standing on giant’s shoulders that a society must maintain those things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. There is no progressing past that.