Come the Revolution…

by Don Boudreaux on October 11, 2011

in Civil Society, Hubris and humility, Myths and Fallacies

Here’s a letter to the New York Times Book Review:

Sheri Berman relates that Corey Robin defines conservatism as “an inherently elitist and hierarchical ideology, whose essence is the defense of elite privileges against challenges from below” (“The Conservative as Elitist,” Oct. 9).  Ms. Berman rightly ridicules this straw-man definition of conservatism, pointing out that it describes the ideology neither of Edmund Burke nor of Sarah Palin.

True.  But that Mr. Robin’s description is a sham is best revealed by the fact that much of what today is called “conservatism” (and much of what Mr. Robin loathes) was originally in Britain and America, and is still in many non-English-speaking countries, called liberalism.  It’s a philosophy that champions the right of individuals – regardless of rank or creed or color – to be free of the choking grip of enforced traditionalism, free of the stupidity of superstition (including the hyper-lethal superstition that is nationalism), and free of the arbitrary will of their ‘betters.’

Classical liberals (and many “conservatives”) champion free markets and private property rights, therefore, not to defend “elite privileges against challenges from below” but out of a sincere conviction that markets and property are necessary for maximum possible freedom and for astonishing material abundance – both of which, were Mr. Robin to get his way, would be crushed by the unbearable weight of what he elsewhere Orwellianly describes as the “far greater, and more robust, freedom of choice” served up as diktats, decrees, favors, extractions, and sanctions issued by the ever-oh-so-well-intentioned state.

Donald J. Boudreaux


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