It takes a nation to protect the nation
Great thinkers from von Mises to Hayek have highlighted weaknesses of the Conservative tradition. This forum is to collect articles on that theme.
Hayek in "Why I am not a conservative" (PDF attached) said, echoing a theme started by Von Mises, that conservatism is doomed, if it only ever tries to act as a restraining nfluence against progressivism, collectivism and socialism. To win, conservatism has to stand for something, and that's not such an easy stance to define.
Well, its a bit confusing to read from a leading light of conservatism, why they are not one! I think Hayek's essay, though it served a useful purpose in highlighting the weakness of conservatism against gradual erosion by its enemies, confused the issue somewhat. The position is clarified by Madsen Pirie in "Why Hayek is a Conservative" (PDF attached).
This is an excellent overview of his thinking, referencing Frames in a way reminiscent of Heidegger. Summarising his book, "The Fatal Conceit" he says:
The fatal conceit is this belief that man's individual mind is wiser than the collective mind of his society over the centuries. The latter not only holds more information, it has the advantage of having been tested by time. ... 'The new manners of conduct were not adopted because anybody thought they were better. They were adopted because somebody who acted on them profited from it and his group gained from it.'
Hayek makes what must be, for the left, a disturbing inversion of their world view of values. They view modern 'scientific' socialism as a rejection of man's primitive past, and the imposition upon his world of the products of rational insight. Not so, says Hayek. 'Our innate moral emotions and instincts were acquired in the hundreds of thousand years — probably half a million years — in which Homo Sapiens lived in small hunting and gathering groups.'
Hayek remains firmly committed to freedom. People must be allowed to make choices, and the overall outcome must be the result of those individual decisions. Hayek now treats society as a process just as he treats the economy as a process.