Sunday, September 12, 2021

Conservatives: The Inheritors of the Empire

The conservatives didn’t build the modern West. They inherited it from their imperialist ancestors. Being born and bred in an empire that has already achieved a certain standard of living, the conservatives are used to an easy life. They have developed a sense of entitlement and they regard themselves as the sole guardians of their culture. They can be pompously verbose while talking about the virtues of their civilization but they are lousy political fighters since they are incapable of making sacrifices, suffering discomfort, and taking risks. Most conservatives are pro-war when their nation is winning, and when their nation is losing, they turn anti-war. 

The conservative doctrine evolved in England and America in the nineteenth century, at a time when the Age of Imperialism was at its peak and Western power had already taken the world in a vice-like grip.

Before the Age of Imperialism, Western power did not exist outside Europe. Even within Europe there were serious rivals to Western power. The Age of Imperialism was the factory in which the modern West was built. The Catholic Monarchs of Spain, Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon, were not conservatives. They were revolutionaries and religious zealots. They were prepared to risk everything in savage wars for propagating their faith, acquiring new territories, and gaining access to gold, silver, slaves, and other resources. The next monarchs of Spain, Charles I and his son Philip II, had a similar mindset. The English Protestant Queen, Elizabeth I, was not a conservative either. She was a conqueror like the Spanish monarchs.

Europe’s Age of Imperialism began under the leadership of Isabella I, Ferdinand II, Philip II, Elizabeth I, and the leaders of Portugal and the Dutch Republic. The conquistadors of Spain, the privateers of England, and the merciless generals and warriors of Portugal and the Dutch Republic were the builders of the imperialist empires. By the nineteenth century, when conservatism began to evolve into a movement, imperialism had already transformed the West into a prosperous world power. The conservatives had no role in creating the West. After the conservative movements became popular in Europe (around 1850), imperialism started to decline. Conservatism was at its peak in 1945, when the Age of Imperialism came to an end. 

William Pitt the Younger was the first conservative Prime Minister of England. He became the Prime Minister at the age of 24 and is often credited with saving England from a French Revolution kind of bloody civil war. But Pitt saved England from a bloody revolution by sacrificing civil liberties. During the two phases of his rule (1783 to 1801; 1804 to 1806), there was a massive loss of civil liberties in England. Marxist historians E.P. Thompson and Eric Evans have castigated Pitt for unleashing a “reign of terror” in England—this is certainly an exaggeration but under Pitt there was a great expansion in the powers of the law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and many people who held politically undesirable views were persecuted.

Misusing the law enforcement machinery of the government to suppress dissent, and misusing the military to exploit other countries has always been the conservative way. The conservatives impose restrictions on their own people and they wage wars on other nations. Under conservative regimes, there is generally an expansion in government’s size, expenditure, and power. The conservatives empower the law enforcement and intelligence agencies at the cost of civil liberties. They increase taxes. They wage unnecessary wars. The conservatives do everything that they accuse the leftists of doing. Those who expect the conservatives to improve civil liberties, reduce taxes, and avoid unnecessary wars are ignorant of the performance of the conservative governments since the nineteenth century.

The conservatives differ from the communists in one respect—communism leads to a quick demise of the nation while conservatism leads to a slow demise. A slow demise is more cruel since it prolongs the agony.

No comments: