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Portal:Conservatism

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Conservatism is a political and social philosophy promoting traditional social institutions in the context of culture and civilization. The central tenets of conservatism include tradition, human imperfection, organic society, hierarchy and authority and property rights. Conservatives seek to preserve a range of institutions such as monarchy, religion, parliamentary government and property rights with the aim of emphasizing social stability and continuity while the more extreme elements called reactionaries oppose modernism and seek a return to "the way things were".

The first established use of the term in a political context originated in 1818 with François-René de Chateaubriand during the period of Bourbon Restoration that sought to roll back the policies of the French Revolution. Historically associated with right-wing politics, the term has since been used to describe a wide range of views. There is no single set of policies regarded as conservative because the meaning of conservatism depends on what is considered traditional in a given place and time. Thus conservatives from different parts of the world—each upholding their respective traditions—may disagree on a wide range of issues. Edmund Burke, an 18th-century politician who opposed the French Revolution but supported the American Revolution, is credited as one of the main theorists of conservatism in Great Britain in the 1790s.

According to Quintin Hogg, the chairman of the British Conservative Party in 1959: "Conservatism is not so much a philosophy as an attitude, a constant force, performing a timeless function in the development of a free society, and corresponding to a deep and permanent requirement of human nature itself". In contrast to the tradition-based definition of conservatism, political theorists such as Corey Robin define conservatism primarily in terms of a general defense of social and economic inequality. From this perspective, conservatism is less an attempt to uphold traditional institutions as a valuing of competition itself, "a meditation on — and theoretical rendition of — the felt experience of having power, seeing it threatened, and trying to win it back".

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Churchill HU 90973.jpg
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, (1874 – 1965) was an English statesman known for his leadership of Britain during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the great wartime leaders. He served as Prime Minister twice (1940–45 and 195155). A noted statesman and orator, Churchill was also an officer in the British Army, a historian, and a writer. In his days as a Liberal Party leader (about 1910), he helped create the British welfare state.

During the 1930s, Churchill took the lead in warning about the danger from Hitler and in campaigning for rearmament. On the outbreak of World War II, he was again appointed First Lord of the Admiralty. On 10 May 1940, Churchill became Prime Minister in an all-party government. His steadfast refusal to consider defeat, surrender or a compromise peace helped inspire British resistance, especially during the difficult early days of the War when Britain stood alone in its active opposition to Hitler. Churchill was particularly noted for his speeches and radio broadcasts, which helped inspire the British people.

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Therefore I trace the peculiar unity of the everyday political philosophy of the nineteenth century to the success with which it harmonised diversified and warring schools and united all good things to a single end. Hume and Paley, Burke and Rousseau, Godwin and Malthus, Cobbett and Huskisson, Bentham and Coleridge, Darwin and the Bishop of Oxford, were all, it was discovered, preaching practically the same thing - individualism and laissez-faire. This was the Church of England and those her apostles, whilst the company of the economists were there to prove that the least deviation into impiety involved financial ruin.


These reasons and this atmosphere are the explanations, we know it or not - and most of us in these degenerate days are largely ignorant in the matter - why we feel such a strong bias in favour of laissez-faire, and why state action to regulate the value of money, or the course of investment, or the population, provokes such passionate suspicions in many upright breasts. We have not read these authors; we should consider their arguments preposterous if they were to fall into our hands. Nevertheless we should not, I fancy, think as we do, if Hobbes, Locke, Hume, Rousseau, Paley, Adam Smith, Bentham, and Miss Martineau had not thought and written as they did. A study of the history of opinion is a necessary preliminary to the emancipation of the mind. I do not know which makes a man more conservative - to know nothing but the present, or nothing but the past.

— John Maynard Keynes, The End of Laissez-Faire (1926)

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An economic downturn was beginning in Canada by 1958. By mid-1961, differences in monetary policy led to open conflict with Bank of Canada Governor Coyne, who adhered to a tight money policy. Negotiations between Minister of Finance Fleming and Coyne for the latter's resignation broke down, with the governor making the dispute public, and John Diefenbaker sought to dismiss Coyne by legislation. Once he had the opportunity to testify (denied him in the Commons), Coyne resigned, keeping his increased pension, and the government was extensively criticised in the press. By the time Diefenbaker called an election for June 18, 1962, the party had been damaged by loss of support in Quebec and in urban areas as voters grew disillusioned with Diefenbaker and the Tories. The PC campaign was hurt when the Bank of Canada was forced to devalue the Canadian dollar to 92½ US cents; it had previously hovered in the range from 95 cents to par with the United States dollar. Privately printed satirical "Diefenbucks" (pictured) swept the country.

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