Sun, 20 April 2014
Until recent times, it wasn't that hard to trace philosophical principles of conservatism going back hundreds of years.
American conservatism continued to hold Edmund Burke to heart long after British conservatives moved on. Perhaps it was because Burke was able to oppose the French revolution, but supported American independence.
There were other differences. Adam Smith, with his economic model of capitalistic self-regulation, the invisible hand, was more enthusiastically embraced in England, at first. Americans liked Smith, but with reservations. Hard to believe now.
The clearest separation between British and American conservatives eventually came over slavery. Conservatives in Britain became suspicious, then hostile, to the proposition that one human could own another. American conservatism has evolved, but has always been way behind the British curve.
There were other influences. David Hume went toward pragmatism, John Locke to personal rights. In more modern times, William F. Buckley became a guiding light. He shepherded American conservatism back to Burke and Hume.
Today, the intellectual moorings of American conservatism have changed to fit the times. The most vibrant of conservatives have little use for philosophical constructs from past centuries, or even past decades.