Historic Views on Government – Kirk

Honest opinion about government from Russell Kirk:

Conservatism is not a fixed and immutable body of dogma, and conservatives inherit from Burke a talent for re-expressing their convictions to fit the time. As a working premise, nevertheless, one can observe here that the essence of social conservatism is preservation of the ancient moral traditions of humanity. Conservatives respect the wisdom of their ancestors (this phrase was Strafford's, and Hooker's, before Burke illuminated it); they are dubious of wholesale alteration. They think society is a spiritual reality, possessing an eternal life but a delicate constitution: it cannot be scrapped and recast as if it were a machine. "What is conservatism?" Abraham Lincoln inquired once. "Is it not adherence to the old and tried, against the new and untried?" It is that, but it is more. Professor Hearnshaw, in his Conservatism in England, lists a dozen principles of conservatives, but possibly these may be comprehended in a briefer catalogue. I think that there are six canons of conservative thought�
   (1) Belief in a transcendent order, or body of natural law, which rules society as well as conscience. Political problems, at bottom, are religious and moral problems. A narrow rationality, what Coleridge called the Understanding, cannot of itself satisfy human needs. "Every Tory is a realist," says Keith Feiling: "he knows that there are great forces in heaven and earth that man's philosophy cannot plumb or fathom." True politics is the art of apprehending and applying the Justice which ought to prevail in a community of souls.
   (2) Affection for the proliferating variety and mystery of human existence, as opposed to the narrowing uniformity, egalitarianism, and utilitarian aims of most radical systems; conservatives resist what Robert Graves calls "Logicalism" in society. This prejudice has been called "the conservatism of enjoyment"�a sense that life is worth living, according to Walter Bagehot "the proper source of an animated Conservatism."
   (3) Conviction that civilized society requires orders and classes, as against the notion of a "classless society." With reason, conservatives often have been called "the party of order." If natural distinctions are effaced among men, oligarchs fill the vacuum. Ultimate equality in the judgment of God, and equality before courts of law, are recognized by conservatives; but equality of condition, they think, means equality in servitude and boredom.
   (4) Persuasion that freedom and property are closely linked: separate property from private possession, and Leviathan becomes master of all. Economic levelling, they maintain, is not economic progress.
   (5) Faith in prescription and distrust of "sophisters, calculators, and economists" who would reconstruct society upon abstract designs. Tradition, sound prejudice, and old prescription are checks both upon man's anarchic impulse and upon the innovator's lust for power.
   (6) Recognition that change may not be salutary reform: hasty innovation may be a devouring conflagration, rather than a torch of progress. Society must alter, for prudent change is the means of social preservation; but a statesman must take Providence into his calculations, and a statesman's chief virtue, according to Plato and Burke, is prudence.
   Various deviations from this system of ideas have occurred, and there are numerous appendages to it; but in general conservatives have adhered to these articles of belief with a consistency rare in political history.
   The Conservative Mind, 1953

One of the most influential conservatives of the twentieth century, Russell Kirk earned a D.Litt. at St. Andrews University in Scotland and has received numerous awards, including the Ingersoll prize for scholarly writing (1984), the Presidential Citizen's Medal (1989), and the Salvatori prize for historical writing (1991). A distinguished fellow of the Heritage Foundation, Kirk has written and edited numerous books, including The Conservative Mind (1953), A Program for Conservatives (1954), Academic Freedom (1955), Confessions of a Bohemian Tory (1963), Edmund Burke (1967), Decadence and Renewal in Higher Learning (1978), Portable Conservative Reader (1982), The Conservative Constitution (1990), The Politics of Prudence (1993), and America's British Culture (1993).

Quotation and short bio from The Quotable Conservative: The Giants of Conservatism on Liberty, Freedom, Individual Responsibility, and Traditional Values. Rod L. Evans and Irwin M. Berent, editors. Holbrook, Mass.: Adams Publishing, 1996.

Historic Views on Government – Bork

Honest opinion about government from Robert Bork:

In a constitutional democracy the moral content of law must be given by the morality of the framer or legislator, never by the morality of the judge.
   American Enterprise Institute, 1984

Those who made and endorsed our Constitution knew man's nature, and it is to their ideas, rather than to the temptations of utopia, that we must ask that our judges adhere.
   The Tempting of America, 1991

[W]hen a judge goes beyond [his or her proper function], and reads entirely new values into the Constitution, values the framers and ratifiers did not put there, he deprives the people of their liberty. That liberty, which the Constitution clearly envisions, is the liberty of the people to set their own social agenda through the process of democracy.

Lawyer, former federal judge, and Reagan Supreme Court nominee, Robert Bork is known for his vast scholarship and his judicial philosophy, which is that of strict constructionism, in which judges are to evaluate laws in relation to the original intent of the Constitution. He taught at Yale Law School, was a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and wrote The Anti-Trust Paradox (1978) and The Tempting of America (1990), in which he explains, among other things, his judicial philosophy.

Quotation and short bio from The Quotable Conservative: The Giants of Conservatism on Liberty, Freedom, Individual Responsibility, and Traditional Values. Rod L. Evans and Irwin M. Berent, editors. Holbrook, Mass.: Adams Publishing, 1996.