Saturday, February 7, 2009

the reformer

Chesterton: "It is futile to discuss reform," he says, "without reference to form." He complains of "the modern and morbid habit of always sacrificing the normal to the abnormal."

We can paraphrase Chesterton's remark about reforming without reference to form by saying it is futile to criticize without first appreciating. The conservative is bewildered by the comprehensive dissatisfaction of people who are always heedlong about "reform" (as they conceive it) or are even eager to "build a new society." What, exactly, is wrong with society as it is already? This isn't just a defiant rhetorical question; it needs an answer. We don't have the power to change everything, and it may not be such a bright idea to try; there are plenty of things that deserve the effort (and it is an effort) of preserving, and the undistinguishing mania for "change" doesn't do them justice--isn't even concerned with doing them justice. What we really ought to ask the liberal, before we even begin addressing his agenda, is this: In what kind of society would he be a conservative?

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