Advancing a Free Society

Conservatism and the Spirit of Reform

Saturday, June 19, 2010

In 1955, in the first issue of National Review, William F. Buckley Jr. exuberantly proclaimed that the task for conservatives was "to stand athwart history, yelling stop."

In these tumultuous times, it still is. But for those devoted to conserving individual freedom, preserving what's positive from the past can never be their only task. Conserving freedom always also requires reforming existing institutions and practices.

Conservatives tend to be suspicious of reform and distrustful of the impulse to improve, seeing in both perennial threats to freedom. This is exacerbated by the common tendency, on the right and the left, to equate reform and improvement with the progressive aspiration to remake society. Conservatives warn—with a good deal of dismal political history on their side—that owing to ineradicable human arrogance, ignorance and error, big plans to centrally regulate human affairs are bound to go awry.

Continue reading Peter Berkowitz in the Wall Street Journal