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02/03/2013

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There is more in this article than I thought at first glance. Of course, I am not too well acquainted with the author's conservative perspective and derivatively his concepts and language. However, when I try to challenge him, I productively discover deeper layers in his argument, and not necessarily ones that he has consciously put into it.

I would consider David Hume a more reliable "founding father" of classical liberalism than the highly fickle Mill, whose "Utilitariansim" is hardly compatible with his "On Liberty", the former espousing a totalitarian ideology according the which the individual is to be subjected to "the taste of the tasteful", while the latter and his work in general fail to advance a comprehensive liberal theory.

In this way, however, Nisbet reminds me how fragmentary and incomplete the origins of classical liberalism are, which seems to attain its fullest expression as late as in the work of F.A.Hayek, starting with his 1945 "Road to Serfdom" to be further detailed in countless (little known) articles, his "The Constitution of Liberty", "Law, Legislation and Liberty" and "The Fatal Conceit".

I find much conservatism in Hayek, who admired Burke hugely, along the lines of Nisbet's following reasoning:

"Which leads me to a second major difference between the two groups. The conservative philosophy of liberty proceeds from the conservative philosophy of authority. It is the existence of authority in the social order that staves off encroachments of power from the political sphere. Conservatism, from Burke on, has perceived society as a plurality of authorities. There is the authority of parent over the small child, of the priest over the communicant, the teacher over the pupil, the master over the apprentice, and so on. Society as we actually observe it, is a network or tissue of such authorities; they are really numberless when we think of the kinds of authority which lie within even the smallest and human groups and relationships. Such authority may be loose, gentle, protective, and designed to produce individuality, but it is authority nevertheless. For the conservative, individual freedom lies in the interstices of social and moral authority. Only because of the restraining and guiding effects of such authority does it become possible for human beings to sustain so liberal a political government as that which the Founding Fathers designed in this country and which flourished in England from the late seventeenth century on."

Here is another quote worth pondering:

"I am convinced that there is a much larger egoist-hormone in libertarian physiology than there is in conservative. More and more, one has the impression that for libertarians today, as for natural law theorists in the seventeenth century, individuals are alone real; institutions are but their shadows. I believe a state of mind is developing among libertarians in which the coercions of family, church, local community, and school will seem almost as inimical to freedom as those of the political government."

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