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Kirk's Six Canons of Conservative Thought
Townhall.com's Hall of Fame ^ | 1953 | Russell Kirk

Posted on 05/08/2003 8:07:01 AM PDT by William McKinley

Edited on 05/12/2003 4:31:12 PM PDT by Admin Moderator. [history]

Kirk's Six Canons of Conservative Thought


  1. "Belief in a transcendent order, or body of natural law, which rules society as well as conscience."

  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;"

  3. "Conviction that civilized society requires orders and classes, as against the notion of a 'classless society'."

  4. "Persuasion that freedom and property are closely linked: separate property from private possession, and the Leviathan becomes master of all."

  5. "Faith in prescription and distrust of 'sophisters, calculators, and economists' who would reconstruct society upon abstract designs."

  6. "Recognition that change may not be salutary reform: hasty innovation may be a devouring conflagration, rather than a torch of progress."

From the Seventh Edition of the Conservative Mind.


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism
KEYWORDS: conservatism; kirk
I am sure a lot of today's conservatives haven't familiarized themselves with Kirk's work. Occasionally I have posted some excerpts. Here's a small bit more.
1 posted on 05/08/2003 8:07:01 AM PDT by William McKinley
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To: William McKinley
Excellent post! Thanks!

PS -- At first, I thought this was a STAR TREK post...
2 posted on 05/08/2003 8:11:05 AM PDT by B-Chan (Catholic. Monarchist. Texan. Any questions?)
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To: William McKinley
Kirk?

(OK, now I'll actually read the article...)

3 posted on 05/08/2003 8:13:00 AM PDT by RosieCotton
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To: RosieCotton
Some music for you while you read :-)

http://www.farpointstation.org/files/sounds/shatner/transformed_man/William_Shatner_-_Mr._Tambourine_Man.mp3
4 posted on 05/08/2003 8:14:02 AM PDT by William McKinley (And the Crimson Dynamo just couldn't cut it no more...)
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To: William McKinley
If it really were James Tiberius Kirk and he really had "six canons"...

He'd fire them all!

5 posted on 05/08/2003 8:15:42 AM PDT by Cincinatus (Omnia relinquit servare Republicam)
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To: B-Chan
I think I will have to post each of the linked essays individually over the next few days.
6 posted on 05/08/2003 8:16:20 AM PDT by William McKinley (And the Crimson Dynamo just couldn't cut it no more...)
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To: William McKinley
Some music for you while you read :-)

Ha...nice try, but my brother already sent me a tape of this a year or so back. I refuse to click the link!

7 posted on 05/08/2003 8:17:22 AM PDT by RosieCotton
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To: William McKinley
He says in one essay: "Yet don't I believe in equality of opportunity? No, friends, I do not. The thing is not possible. First of all, genetic differences cannot be surmounted between individual and individual; Thomas Jefferson and the whole school of "created free and equal" knew nothing whatsoever of human genetics, a science of the late nineteenth and the twentieth centuries. Second, opportunity depends greatly upon family background and nurturing; and unless it is proposed to sweep away the family altogether, as in Jacquetta Hawkes's fable, the rising generation of one stock will differ greatly in opportunity from the rising generation of a different family. For instance, I read every evening to my four little daughters, or told them stories; while my neighbors did not so instruct and converse with their children; accordingly, my children have enjoyed superior opportunities in life. It would be outrageously unjust to try somehow to wipe out these advantages of genetic inheritance or familial instruction."

Yet he is not defining "opportunity" here the way most people do. Which is a problem, in that to have a rational discourse everyone must at least agree on the terms of debate, and agree on common assumptions, else there is just meaningless argument. Most people define "equal opportunity" as "having a consistent set of criteria for all applicants for a position" -- whether that is for a job, a spot on a sports team, or a role in a volunteer organization. Of course he is saying "equality of opportunity", not "equal opportunity". Yet his point that everyone is not genetically the same, or from the same background, is obvious and no one argues with that. So he is either being disingenuous or merely stating the obvious.

8 posted on 05/08/2003 8:24:32 AM PDT by dark_lord (The Statue of Liberty now holds a baseball bat and she's yelling 'You want a piece of me?')
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To: dark_lord
It is obvious, to me and perhaps to you. However, I disagree wholeheartedly with your assertion that 'no one argues with that'. I think it is an untenable assertion.

Take, for example, the Michigan affirmative action case. It is one of great importance, and there is significant disagreement over it. And the University is not by any stretch of the imagination arguing for "having a consistent set of criteria for all applicants for a position". Quite the opposite; just the color of the skin gives one candidate a certain number of points advantage on the scoring system they want to use.

What you say 'no one argues over' is actually one of the biggest arguments raging between the right and the left.

9 posted on 05/08/2003 8:31:32 AM PDT by William McKinley (And the Crimson Dynamo just couldn't cut it no more...)
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To: William McKinley
The university is in fact chosing to not have a consistent set of entry criteria -- eg. the same criteria for all. They are arguing to have different entry criteria for different people. Thus the university is not providing "equal opportunity". Quite the opposite.
10 posted on 05/08/2003 8:35:07 AM PDT by dark_lord (The Statue of Liberty now holds a baseball bat and she's yelling 'You want a piece of me?')
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To: dark_lord
And Kirk's point is that this is wrong, and it is unjust, and it is a canon of conservative thought to realize it is wrong and unjust.
11 posted on 05/08/2003 8:37:47 AM PDT by William McKinley (And the Crimson Dynamo just couldn't cut it no more...)
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To: dark_lord
So he is either being disingenuous or merely stating the obvious.

What Kirk says here is correct and self-evident. But in the bad old days I used to hear the same arguments used to justify segregation and discrimination, which is why I get hinky anytime I hear someone trot out these discussions.

I don't disagree, but I can't help it if I am left waiting for evidence as to which way he (not necessarily Kirk, but anyone engaged in this discussion) is going with it. Is his point to reject discrimination based on ethnic or genetic considerations, or is he another die-hard who is going to defend the old order as being somehow just?

To younger folks this is a conversation that has no connotations other than the obvious, surface ones. To the older among us, it reminds us of the old circular discussions of another era. Those days are mostly gone, and I thank God for it.

12 posted on 05/08/2003 8:38:27 AM PDT by marron
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To: William McKinley
Captain James T. Kirk's Six Canons of Command


1. Belief in the rightness of one's cause -- and damn the risks! Risk is our business!

2. Affection for the proliferating variety and mystery of human existence, especially the chicks. No matter what color they are or how many appendages they have, women are great.

3. Conviction that civilized society requires orders and classes. If said society has no order or classes, it's okay to impose yours at phaser point, and to hell with their papiér-mâche lizard-head cave god.

4. Persuasion that freedom and property are closely linked, especially on planets where the badly-garbled Preamble to the U.S. Constution is the basis of society

5. Faith in overwhelming firepower and distrust of Klingons, Romulans, and fat, effeminate space traders with Tribbles to sell.

6. Recognition that a phaser and a smirk will get you farther than a smirk alone.

7. Disdain for dumb rules put together by a pack of Starfleet Command paper-pushers who obviously have no idea what things are like in out here in the REAL galaxy. Prime Directive? Right, yeah, whatever.

8. Appreciation of the Two-handed Space Karate Chop, the Starfleet Shoulder Roll, and the Federation Flying Leg Kick.

9. I... am... Kirok! KIIIIIRRRROKKKKKKK!

10. Always send the guy in the red shirt in first.

13 posted on 05/08/2003 8:38:39 AM PDT by B-Chan (Catholic. Monarchist. Texan. Any questions?)
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To: William McKinley
And Kirk's point is that this is wrong, and it is unjust, and it is a canon of conservative thought to realize it is wrong and unjust.

No. That is not his point. Which is what I pointed out in my original post to you. He is not actually addressing this point at all -- he is rather saying "equality of opportunity" is not a real world outcome. I think he is directing his point at the Marxists. But he is not discussing the "equal opportunity" issue at all. Which was my point, which is why I said he is either being disingenuous or stating the obvious. I retract that statement -- if he was addressing the Marxist philosophy, and I suspect he was, then he was not being disingenuous, but he was stating what (to us, but not to the Marxists) was and is obvious.

See the difference?

14 posted on 05/08/2003 8:46:54 AM PDT by dark_lord (The Statue of Liberty now holds a baseball bat and she's yelling 'You want a piece of me?')
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To: William McKinley
Good post. Thanks. A few thoughts.

"Conviction that civilized society requires orders and classes, as against the notion of a 'classless society'."

I'd state that differently. I'm not so sure that "orders and classes" are "required" as much as the imposition of a "classless society" must be resisted. I believe that "orders and classes" are the natural and usual state of things -- which is fine, as long as there are no artificial barriers to an individual, through their effort, being able to enter a higher class -- but if a classless society should somehow spontaneously develop (unlikely, but remotely possible), there is nothing inherently wrong with that.

Indeed, the only truly classless society would arise spontaneously. Any such imposed society would, if nothing else, have the class of people who enforce the classless society, as opposed to the class of people who merely live in it.

"Faith in prescription and distrust of 'sophisters, calculators, and economists' who would reconstruct society upon abstract designs."

I'm not sure how Kirk is using "prescription" here. It seems to me that these "abstract designs" are prescriptions, however wrong. Indeed, it seems to me that "prescription" is something planned and imposed, but I think I'm misreading this.

"Recognition that change may not be salutary reform: hasty innovation may be a devouring conflagration, rather than a torch of progress."

Yeah... but resisting such change can be equally devouring.... and I guess this is my strongest break with traditional conservatism. I find that it's rarely possible to stand against change and innovation. It's more practical to mold it -- or, if that's not possible, surf above it.

15 posted on 05/08/2003 8:49:18 AM PDT by Celtjew Libertarian
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To: dark_lord
I am not satisfied with my replies there, and I think it led to you not understanding what I was trying to get out with my comment about the University of Michigan case. So let me rewind to your post:

He says in one essay: "Yet don't I believe in equality of opportunity? No, friends, I do not. The thing is not possible. First of all, genetic differences cannot be surmounted between individual and individual; Thomas Jefferson and the whole school of "created free and equal" knew nothing whatsoever of human genetics, a science of the late nineteenth and the twentieth centuries. Second, opportunity depends greatly upon family background and nurturing; and unless it is proposed to sweep away the family altogether, as in Jacquetta Hawkes's fable, the rising generation of one stock will differ greatly in opportunity from the rising generation of a different family. For instance, I read every evening to my four little daughters, or told them stories; while my neighbors did not so instruct and converse with their children; accordingly, my children have enjoyed superior opportunities in life. It would be outrageously unjust to try somehow to wipe out these advantages of genetic inheritance or familial instruction."

Yet he is not defining "opportunity" here the way most people do. Which is a problem, in that to have a rational discourse everyone must at least agree on the terms of debate, and agree on common assumptions, else there is just meaningless argument. Most people define "equal opportunity" as "having a consistent set of criteria for all applicants for a position" -- whether that is for a job, a spot on a sports team, or a role in a volunteer organization. Of course he is saying "equality of opportunity", not "equal opportunity". Yet his point that everyone is not genetically the same, or from the same background, is obvious and no one argues with that. So he is either being disingenuous or merely stating the obvious.

I said I agree it is obvious that not everyone is the same. I am not sure I agree with you that no one argues with it. Further, I am 100% certain that there is not unanimity over if it should be accepted as a natural condition that men should try to overturn. And that is the crux of Kirk's point.

He isn't just saying that there is inequality, he is saying that if we try to craft society in a manner that levels existing inequality, the result will be inherently unjust. The University of Michigan case is a prime example of that. The University wants to give, essentially, preference based on skin color to compensate for the fact that if they went strictly on merit, they would not get the desired ethnic mix, presumably because in the inner city schools and inner city families the children have not had the same opportunities to develop into achieving students. The University wants to compensate for this. Kirk's argument, made generations before the University crafted their plan, is that this is unjust.

Further, Kirk talks about how one of the most obvious differences in opportunity that exists for people is the family. Is it fair that George Bush had a much easier path to the Presidency than someone not from a famous family? Kirk says it is a false question; that if we try to impose leveling of opportunity, one target must be the family, because family background is very important to the opportunities one has.

Is it any surprise that cultural Marxists often take aim at the family, and is it any surprise that conservatives by natural tendency oppose anything that weakens the family?

16 posted on 05/08/2003 8:56:43 AM PDT by William McKinley (And the Crimson Dynamo just couldn't cut it no more...)
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To: dark_lord
See above.
17 posted on 05/08/2003 8:57:18 AM PDT by William McKinley (And the Crimson Dynamo just couldn't cut it no more...)
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To: William McKinley
You really, REALLY ought to be ashamed of yourself.

Posting a link to such....such......

What's next? Posting a link to Hildebeast's mating call??????

18 posted on 05/08/2003 9:01:04 AM PDT by Thumper1960
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To: Thumper1960
Isn't that what that is?
19 posted on 05/08/2003 9:01:38 AM PDT by William McKinley (And the Crimson Dynamo just couldn't cut it no more...)
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To: Celtjew Libertarian
I'd state that differently. I'm not so sure that "orders and classes" are "required" as much as the imposition of a "classless society" must be resisted. I believe that "orders and classes" are the natural and usual state of things -- which is fine, as long as there are no artificial barriers to an individual, through their effort, being able to enter a higher class -- but if a classless society should somehow spontaneously develop (unlikely, but remotely possible), there is nothing inherently wrong with that.

Indeed, the only truly classless society would arise spontaneously. Any such imposed society would, if nothing else, have the class of people who enforce the classless society, as opposed to the class of people who merely live in it.


Excellent reply. I was going to take issue with the "required classes", but you've already done so, and very eloquently.
20 posted on 05/08/2003 9:01:45 AM PDT by Belial
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To: William McKinley
Nah.....Hildebeast's mating call was included in her rant last week.

But, it's close.

Shatner was wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy out of his league with the "singing" career.

21 posted on 05/08/2003 9:03:40 AM PDT by Thumper1960
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To: Celtjew Libertarian
You may find it helpful to read this excerpt from The Conservative Mind chapter on Burke and the politics of prescription, in order to get a feel for the meaning he is attaching to the term 'prescription'.
22 posted on 05/08/2003 9:04:37 AM PDT by William McKinley (And the Crimson Dynamo just couldn't cut it no more...)
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To: William McKinley
The University wants to give, essentially, preference based on skin color to compensate for the fact that if they went strictly on merit, they would not get the desired ethnic mix, presumably because in the inner city schools and inner city families the children have not had the same opportunities to develop into achieving students.

And yet you can achieve the same outcome by offering scholarships based on economic need. If racial descrimination has resulted in poverty being heavier among one ethnic group or another, then scholarships based on economic need would tend to help one group more than another. But the criteria would be financial, not ethnic.

There is evidence that abandoning affirmative action for simple need-based scholarships has increased the numbers of "minority" students at university. So you have to wonder what is the source of the controversy.

23 posted on 05/08/2003 9:06:20 AM PDT by marron
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To: Belial; Celtjew Libertarian
I am guessing (since it is all we can do) that the reason he said 'required' is that he believes it to be a fact of nature-- where you, Celtjew, stated it is 'remotely possible', I gather from his writings that he believed it to be an impossibility.

Although in todays language, I agree that the phrasing 'required' makes it sound as if he is advocating men requiring it, rather than it being a natural phenomena that can never be breached.

24 posted on 05/08/2003 9:07:21 AM PDT by William McKinley (And the Crimson Dynamo just couldn't cut it no more...)
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To: William McKinley
Belief in a transcendent order, or body of natural law, which rules society as well as conscience.

I hear this idea bandied around a lot, by both conservatives and libertarians. I don't believe it's an orthodox Christian thought, but seems to be Christianity meeting neo-Platonism to create some perfect set of laws that exists in heaven, which our customs aspire toward or are derived from. It seems like a fairly mystical, primitive thought and I don't understand why so many subscribe to it.
25 posted on 05/08/2003 9:07:34 AM PDT by Belial
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To: Belial
It's just another way of saying a belief in an absolute moral law. Nothing that should be terribly controversial among conservatives.
26 posted on 05/08/2003 9:10:59 AM PDT by inquest
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To: Celtjew Libertarian
Burke said "Example is the school of mankind,
and they will learn at no other."

Experience shows clearly that there has always been change, and there will always be change.

Experience also shows clearly that change has generally been resisted. And the resistance to change acts to protect against a 'devouring conflagration' of 'hasty innovation'.

But stopping change is a fool's errand. Stopping change would be a radical depature from history. It is probably for this reason that the most fanatical tend to get pidgeonholed as conservative extremists; in reality they are trying to break from history (the history of perpetual change) rather than conserving the lessons of history, and as such may probably be better described as reactionary ideologues than conservatives.
27 posted on 05/08/2003 9:19:34 AM PDT by William McKinley (And the Crimson Dynamo just couldn't cut it no more...)
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To: William McKinley
Affection for the proliferating variety and mystery of human existence

As in diversity ?

Conviction that civilized society requires orders and classes

As in British royalty and India's caste system ? I thought that's what America was trying to escape from ?

First and foremost, conservatism is about independence and freedom. Everything else is secondary.


BUMP

28 posted on 05/08/2003 10:05:43 AM PDT by tm22721 (May the UN rest in peace)
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To: William McKinley
Captain Kirks canons of thought.

1) Always take the time to sleep with alien chicks (if they look good)

2) Never trust a Klingon

3) Arguing logic against Vulcans is futile

4) Set phasers to deep fry !

29 posted on 05/08/2003 10:09:03 AM PDT by Centurion2000 (We are crushing our enemies, seeing him driven before us and hearing the lamentations of the liberal)
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To: tm22721
Yes, diversity is conservative. As a matter of fact, in Barry Goldwater's famous nomination acceptance speech (the one with the famous lines "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice; moderation in the defense of liberty is no virtue.") he spent a few paragraphs on the importance of diversity and how it is a conservative and Republican ideal. The bland, force homogenity that liberals try to pass off as diversity is not to what either Kirk or Goldwater were referring.

And Kirk was not arguing for a caste system like India's so your second comment is a non sequitor.

30 posted on 05/08/2003 10:11:25 AM PDT by William McKinley (And the Crimson Dynamo just couldn't cut it no more...)
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To: tm22721
And because of this administration we are tonight a world divided. We are a nation becalmed. We have lost the brisk pace of diversity and the genius of individual creativity. We are plodding at a pace set by centralized planning, red tape, rules without responsibililty, and regimentation without recourse...

We Republicans see in our constitutional form of government the great framework which assures the orderly but dynamic fulfillment of the whole man as the great reason for instituting orderly government in the first place.

We see in private property and in economy based upon and fostering private property the one way to make government a durable ally of the whole man rather than his determined enemy. We see in the sanctity of private property the only durable foundation for constitutional government in a free society.

And beyond all that we see and cherish diversity of ways, diversity of thoughts, of motives, and accomplishments. We don't seek to live anyone's life for him. We only seek to secure his rights, guarantee him opportunity, guarantee him opportunity to strive, with government performing only those needed and constitutionally sanctioned tasks which cannot otherwise be performed.

We Republicans seek a government that attends to its inherent responsibilities of maintaining a stable monetary and fiscal climate, encouraging a free and a competitive economy, and enforcing law and order.

Thus do we seek inventiveness, diversity, and creative difference within a stable order, for we Republicans define government's role where needed at many, many levels - preferably, though, the one closest to the people involved: our towns and our cities, then our counties, then our states, then our regional contacts, and only then the national government...

Balance, diversity, creative differences - these are the elements of Republican equation.

So, yes, diversity. Affection for the proliferating variety and mystery of human existence.

31 posted on 05/08/2003 10:21:37 AM PDT by William McKinley (And the Crimson Dynamo just couldn't cut it no more...)
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To: William McKinley
BUMPmark
32 posted on 05/08/2003 6:13:20 PM PDT by Texas_Jarhead
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To: William McKinley
archive
33 posted on 05/08/2003 6:25:53 PM PDT by LiteKeeper
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To: B-Chan
Brilliant! If you made this up, it is great stuff.
On a similar note, as a Trek fan, I got to meet George Takei the other day-nice, well spoken guy. I would of liked to sit and have lunch with him.

Now back to the ponderous, but nonetheless informative Kirk....
34 posted on 05/14/2003 7:09:48 AM PDT by Tin-Legions
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